I love to turn people on to a vegetable that they’ve never tried before, and Delicata squash is fabulous! These capsule-shaped, gourd-like squash that boast beautiful beige-to-orange skins that are usually streaked with yellow or green stripes, have a unique texture and flavor that’s a cross between Acorn squash and a creamy sweet potato. Although Delicata squash has a limited season (late September through December), it’s by far my favorite variety. When basted, outside and in, with melted butter and maple syrup and baked until meltingly tender, the skin, unlike most winter squashes, is totally edible, delectable and a great source of fiber.
Although this recipe can be used with Acorn or Sweet Dumpling squash, I’m always saddened when the brief Delicata season comes to an end. When purchasing these gems, look for squash that are deeply colored. The stem end should be completely dry and the size should be between seven and nine inches long with a diameter of about three inches. If you plan to store them, they should feel quite firm. Store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, as you would potatoes. For a great color contrast, many times, I’ll fill the cooked squash halves with cooked green peas.
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Scrub and dry each squash and slice in half lengthwise using a sharp chef's knife. Scoop out the seeds and strings, using a spoon. Brush all sides of the squash first with melted butter and then with some syrup. (Reserve any leftover butter and syrup for later.) Sprinkle both sides lightly with salt. Arrange the squash halves (cut side down) in a large roasting pan, in a single layer, and cover the pan (dull side up) with aluminum foil. (If using acorn squash, which has a pointy end on one side, cut the point off so it can sit flat in the pan, after being turned over when cooking. If using Sweet Dumpling squash, slice the top ¼ of off the top. Season the bottom, as directed, for Delicata squash. One serving will be the bottom. Feel free to season and bake the tops, though (seasoned side down), and serve the tops along with the bottoms.)
Preheat the oven to 375oF. Poke a few holes in the foil and bake the squash for 30 minutes. Uncover, baste with more syrup, and turn the squash halves over. Baste the exposed, cut sides of squash with more maple syrup and melted butter. Continue to bake until the flesh is very tender and creamy, and the edges are caramelizing nicely, about 30 to 40 minutes. Since Sweet Dumpling squash are smaller, they will need a bit less cooking time; check after 45 minutes. On the other hand, the thicker skinned Acorn squash might need to cook 15 minutes longer.
Allow a full half of Delicata squash per adult (sometimes more!). Serve hot. If desired, fill the cooked squash with cooked, drained and buttered frozen peas. Remember, the skins are edible and a good source of fiber!
The squash can be fully assembled early in the day and baked just before serving.
The squash can be fully assembled a day ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator. Don’t perforate the foil, though, until right before baking and try to bring the squash back to room temperature, or lengthen the cooking time, as needed.