Every time someone asks me how to cook any vegetable, my answer will 99% of the time be: roast it. Olive oil, salt, pepper, done. That’s all you need. I have discovered a new, refreshed love for so many vegetables by simply roasting them. Butternut squash is one that benefits from this cooking method more than most. As King of the Squash (a term I deemed it worthy) the butternut squash is more dense, less watery and has a deeper flavor than most squash. In the winter months, it’s the most perfect side dish for any meal, and since it can be pureed beautifully or left in small chunks, it is the perfect baby food for babies just starting out with solids, or graduating into finger foods.
I found the easiest way to cut up a butternut squash for this recipe is by cutting it into cross sections:
Once you scoop out all the seeds, begin cutting off the rind. The rind so tough, no amount of cooking will really make it edible. I mean, it is edible, but it wouldn’t be enjoyable.
Once you get all the rind off, cube up the squash into about 1/2″ cubes. It’s important to keep your cubes all the same size because when things are varying sizes, they cook at varying times, and it makes everything more difficult when trying to get dinner on the table to wait for a 1/3 of your squash to continue cooking. So. Be consistent in your chopping!
Now comes the easy part. Spread out all the squash on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toss 2 tablespoons of oil till completely coated, and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Roast at 400 for 45 min to an hour. I want to add that your baking sheet needs to be big enough so that your squash isn’t completely crowded and piled on top of each other. I’ve roasted it that way and the squash just steams and you don’t get those nice, charred bits that add to the texture and depth of flavor of this dish.
So you want to bake it kind of past the point where you think you should. I always wait till a few edge pieces look a little burnt.
When they’re out of the oven, immediately put them in a bowl to keep warm. They’ll cool off pretty quick on the pan. Now for the magic. Take a tablespoon of butter (be generous, verging on two tablespoons) and put it on the stove on medium heat in a stainless steel pan. Let the butter melt and swirl it around until the foam subsides. Then, when it starts to smell rich and nutty and there are butter solids forming at the bottom of the pan (this is why you use stainless – you can’t see this happening in a black, non-stick pan) remove the butter from the heat, pour over your bowl of squash and sprinkle with cinnamon, Chinese 5 Spice, pumpkin pie spice – whatever strikes your mood! My go-to is Vietnamese Cinnamon.
Let me tell you – this is magical stuff with the addition of the browned butter. I deeply believe that butter in moderation like this is not only fine, but life-giving. The richness of browned butter could make anyone feel like a king at the table. Cooking for your family is all about making them feel loved, warmed and nurtured. If you wanted to get creative, throw a sage leaf in with the butter while it’s browning. (By the way, that makes an amazing ravioli sauce) And yes, I realize I’m putting a recipe that has browned butter under the category of “healthy meals.” I’ll rant about that in another post, but let me just say that I think there’s a lot more to eating healthfully than counting calories. And 1-2 tablespoons of fat (okay 3 counting the olive oil) is about a tablespoon of fat per serving. We’re not going to kill anyone with those ratios. And we’ll have happy eaters!
When I cook for Olive, I don’t ever hold back on spices except for salt and extremely hot spice (and even then, I salt, just less than what I’d prefer, and I let her have a bit of something spicy to see if she likes it.) She happily ate these little nuggets the entire time we ate. So that meant a happy, quiet baby for nearly an hour of eating. Is THAT motivation enough to make this for your baby? If you have a baby who isn’t eating chunks yet, simply take about a half cup of the squash into a bowl, add a bit of low sodium chicken broth or water and puree with an immersion blender. Add a bit more cinnamon or butter and you have an amazing puree for your little 4-6 month old!
Enjoy! And don’t forget to let me know how it turns out. I know I just basically wrote out the recipe, but I hate blogs who do that and then don’t put a straight-forward version down below for me to copy/paste. So!
Roasted Butternut Squash with Browned Butter
1 butternut squash, 2-3 lbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Cinnamon or whatever spice you think sounds good!
Preheat your oven to 400.
Slice the butternut squash into 1″ cross sections. Scoop out the seeds (I use a metal measuring spoon – they have sharper edges for scraping) and cut into 1/2″ cubes.
Arrange the squash on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil until thoroughly coated and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast in the oven until some pieces begin to brown, about an hour. Check the cooking at 30 minutes and stir the squash around to ensure even baking. I know my oven has hot spots and I assume yours does, too.
Once the squash is done roasting, place it in a bowl to keep warm.
In a small saute pan, heat butter over medium heat until foam subsides and brown bits start to form on the bottom of the pan. You’ll want to swirl the pan a few times and really watch. There’s a HUGE difference between browned butter and burnt butter and you don’t want the latter. I think the whole process takes about 5 minutes, but it will vary so once you smell that intoxicating nuttiness, you’re done.
Pour butter over squash and adjust seasoning as you like.
Enjoy! Serves 4 as a side dish. Or package it all up into freezable portions for baby, if you can part with it.