Update: The beautiful bisque I made with this squash is now up for viewing!
I grew up with parents who thought a can of Pringles was dinner. Fresh vegetables were unheard of, and as a child, I thought soup always came from a can! The first time I chopped a bell pepper was when I had moved away from home, and it took me forty-five minutes. Each vegetable I have peeled, chopped, puréed, diced, and minced since then has represented another stage of personal growth: Spiritual blossoming through kitchen prepwork.
I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about making butternut squash bisque for months now (stubborn bee), and so I set out to learn how to prepare butternut squash. It seemed so much more ambitious than a simple bell pepper: The rind on that oddly-shaped fruit is dauntingly hard, a mocking challenge to a pusillanimous knife-wielder like me. But people far and wide manage to do it anyway – rumor has it that Oprah chops squash as a hobby – and being able to confidently prepare a butternut squash, that squat-based member of the genus Cucurbita, would put me ever further away from my childhood meals of Little Debbie snack cakes, Pringles, and Campbell’s soup.
I mention my prep-less upbringing to illustrate that even if you’re new to the kitchen, you can do this! One of my favorite quotes says, in part, “Remember the magic of boldness.” Seize that butternut squash (or any vegetable you’ve been eyeing) and attack! Attack without mercy!
I attacked without mercy, and I document below the process of preparing a butternut squash. It’s surprisingly simple, easily done in minutes by those with a practised hand. My hand isn’t practised, but it took me under fifteen minutes from start to finish. I’ve broken it down into steps for those who, like me, prefer a methodical approach to their investigations of something new.
You will need:
1 butternut squash
1 very sharp knife
1 cutting board
1 vegetable peeler
The sort of determination that powers political upheavals (I kid, I kid)
Step 1. Wash the squash and dry it. (I have never bothered rhyming anything with the word ‘squash’ before, and here I have rhymed ‘wash’ and ‘squash’ without even trying to do so! Life is a banquet.)
Step 2. Slice about 1/2″ off the narrow end of the squash:
Step 3. Slice about 1″ – 1.5″ off the wide end of the squash. This end contains a hollow compartment, which in turn contains the squash’s seeds – its progeny! Slicing off the end allows an element of stability while you peel the squash (more on that later). Make sure your knife is well-sharpened (inexpensive sharpeners are available on Amazon – mine cost $5, and works like a champ). The rind of the squash is tough, and you’ll need to proceed with caution. Some bloggers recommend getting the knife started through the squash, and then hammering it with a mallet. I didn’t feel the need to do that, but like Chris Rock, I understand.
Slicing off this end of the squash will reveal a compartment that I, having never prepped squash before, was startled to find!
Step 4. Scoop out the innards of the squash’s little hidden compartment. I used a normal spoon, though apparently a melon baller or ice cream scoop would also work. The flesh is surprisingly pliable, very similar to the inside of a pumpkin. Scraping out the flesh and seeds is easy.
You can clean and dry the seeds, and then bake them on a pan (line pan with aluminum foil) for 15 minutes at 275°F (or until they pop). Baked winter squash seeds are a Thing which I have never tried, though they seem as though they would be oddly satisfying.
Step 5. Peel the squash with a sturdy vegetable peeler. Other people recommend a peeler with a carbon steel blade, but that strikes me as driving Howitzer to the grocery store. My little garden-variety KitchenAid peeler performed swimmingly at this task.
Step 6. Slice the squash into 1/2″ – 3/4″ rounds along its length. The larger you slice it, the larger the eventual cubes will be, and the longer it will take to cook the squash. The rounds at the wide end will be hollow.
Step 7. Chop rounds into squares of roughly the same size.
And you will eventually wind up with this:
You can store the cubes in an airtight container in the refrigerator, to make prepping future dishes faster and easier. Go forth and do amazing things with your freshly prepped squash! 🙂