I wanted to explore a savory but slightly sweet version of roasted butternut squash. At first I tried pairing the squash with parsnip, but the results were disappointing. After making mrslarkin's wonderful caramel pears this weekend, I had some extra pears leftover. And this led to the pairing that worked out well for this new recipe! Pears are not as easy to switch up as apples, though, because they can break down so fast while baking. A crisp, firm pear will work best. The Barlett holds up well, though I sometimes prefer the flavors of other varieties more. Pears can vary tremendously even among their same varieties. If the pear does become mush, the taste will still be pretty delightful. But to avoid this plight altogether, I am suggesting a staggered roasting along with a careful eye. What I want to achieve here is a crunchy burst of flavor along the top and sides of the squash. Ground sumac lends a sour lemony, nutty crunch perfect for this. Demerara sugar and ground pink peppercorns further enhance this crunch. Maple syrup and cranberries finish off the sweet/sour layering. For a savory dessert you can increase the maple syrup and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche. —Sagegreen
coating of olive oil for baking dish
medium butternut squash
pears, a crisp variety for best results
or so of dried premium cranberries
ground pink peppercorns, less if you are using black or white
maple syrup (or more, to your taste)
healthy pinch of pink Himalayan or kosher salt
squeeze of lemon
or so of unsalted premium butter
fresh sprigs of lavender or rosemary for garnish
optional light drizzle of maple syrup for serving
optional squeeze of lemon for serving
for a dessert version, drizzle with more maple syrup and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche
Lop off the top and bottom minimal ends of the squash. Vigorously peel off all the skin. Along the vertical axis chop the squash down the middle. With conviction scoop out all of the seeds, as well as all the fuzziness from the cavity. I find a metal tablespoon best for this job because it can so precisely scrape out just the messy bits, while keeping the solid flesh in tact. Proceed to dice the squash into clean, crisp one inch or so generous chunks.
Pare the pair of pears (please indulge me here- I just had to employ all three homophones in at least one sentence). Cutting just shy of the core, dice the pears into bite size chunks.
Lightly coat a baking dish with olive oil. Layer in the squash chunks first. Judiciously distribute the cranberries next. Mix the sugar, sumac, pepper and salt (to taste) together; sprinkle this mix on top, liberally coating the squash, as illustrated in the photo. Feel free to make more mix to have on hand as a topping. Adjust how much you use to suit your own taste. If you don't want so much crunch, switch up the type of sugar. Squeeze a bit of lemon over the top. Metering the syrup, pour this over the top evenly. Finally, distribute curls of unsalted butter democratically across the top.
Roast in a preheated oven of 375 for about 20 minutes. Then sneak the pears in to the dish, as unobtrusively as possible; return to roasting for about 25-35 more minutes. When perfectly tender, let the dish rest for about 5 minutes.
Pop in a garnish of fresh herbal sprigs, delicately drizzle a tad of maple syrup if you have a sweet tooth, and squeeze a wedge of fresh lemon over each portion. Top with creme fraiche and more maple syrup for a savory dessert.