Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Candied Acorn Squash (It'll Convert All You Squash-Haters)

Remember at the end of 2011 when I converted you all to Brussels sprouts with Ina's Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe, and how you've all been eating these healthy little cabbages like good boys and girls ever since? Well, today we're lovin' another veggie that often gets a bad rap: squash.

Up until two months ago, candied acorn squash sounded like one of the last things I'd be interested in eating. I've never been a big gourd eater, and I don't like the idea of healthy things being "candied." It sounds tacky and gross, and I think, just eat candy and leave the good stuff alone! (Sometimes my thoughts are mean, huh? I'm working on it...)  Further, I've always been a bit perplexed over the idea of serving sweet things as part of a meal instead of following a meal, unless it's fruit or something. Just seems wrong! And really, that's still how I feel about it.

So, why, when my girlfriend Klysta brought over candied acorn squash, was I suddenly very excited to try it? 'Cause it looked like this:
Though the recipe doesn't call for them, I topped mine with dried cranberries for added color, flavor and texture. But don't be afraid to serve them as-is; they're absolutely delicious on their own.

How cool is that! The natural colors are rich and the shape, beautiful. The way that she served it, to me, paid homage to the vegetable. It didn't look like she had turned it into a dessert, it wasn't pummeled with mini marshmallows, and it didn't look like something I'd ultimately have to pry from my teeth. And when I tasted it... Oh, mama! I could still taste the squash flavor, but it had been deepened with the butter and complimented by the cinnamon. Yes, there's a fair amount of brown sugar as well, but for whatever reason it didn't read as super sweet and it just worked with the meal. I knew right away it was going to be the side dish to the Chicken Fricassee on my fancy dinner party menu.
Candied Acorn Squash
Yield: 2 servings

1 medium acorn squash
4 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds. Arrange the squash halves, cut side down, in a baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes.
Turn the squash halves cut side up.
In a small bowl, stir together sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture into each of the squash halves and around each rim. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool slightly until they're just cool enough to handle. With a fork, gently shred the insides of the squash and stir to combine with the mixture, being careful not to compromise the shape of the gourd. Serve while still hot.

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