The butternut squash battle

An indeterminate amount of time ago, my aunt gave me a big butternut squash from her garden. I thanked her and acted excited like any good niece should, but I was a little nervous. Not only had I never cooked butternut squash before, but I wasn’t even sure that I liked it. I hemmed and hawed about it for awhile, sort of hoping that it would go bad. Unfortunately, squashes are pretty age-resistant and after more time than I care to admit, it was still looking fresh. I decided to go for it.

Since I wasn’t sure that I would like the squash by itself, I looked for a soup recipe. With some trepidation, I chose a recipe for roasted butternut squash and shallot soup that reviewers said turned out creamy without having to use any cream. There was a lot to be wary of. 1) Shallots. I had a sneaking fear that they were onions, but having never really seen one, I had no idea. I read some reviews that they were sweeter than onions, so I decided to brave them. They’d end up pureed, anyway. 2) Ginger. I’d seen my mother cook with ginger before, but I had no idea how to handle it. 3) The squash itself. The recipe called for peeling, cubing, and roasting it. I had no idea how I was going to accomplish any of those three things.

One night, I got out a pen and paper for my grocery list, and started Googling. How to peel squash, how to peel ginger, how to roast squash, exactly how much squash is 4 cups, etc. etc. The volume of tabs I had open on my browser made me anxious. My courage failed me, and I ended up with Froot Loops for dinner.

A few days later, I decided to really tackle it, after reading all my tabs and coming up with a game plan. I didn’t want to spend too long on the recipe, since roasting the squash alone took almost an hour. A few of the reviews on the recipe recommended cutting the squash in half without peeling it, and placing the chopped shallots and ginger in the cavity. I decided I was going to do that, to avoid having to peel the squash until it was roasted and would slide out of its skin easily.

I went to the grocery store to get everything, and realized I’d forgotten to Google one thing: shallots. I still had no idea what they were, and there was no way I was going to ask the staff. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, and the last time I asked someone there about a (not very) obscure ingredient (baby corn), the man raised his eyebrows and said, “Like… uh… baby food?” So I decided to wander around the produce section looking for signs.

halved squash Thankfully, they were on the end of one of the stands, and they sure looked a lot like onions. I decided on the spot to halve the number of shallots and add a little garlic instead, since I’d read in my research that shallots go well with garlic. Back in my house, I started the task of cutting and gutting the squash. After wrestling the knife through, I was glad I hadn’t decided to cube it. It would have taken me hours.

Then, I prepared the ginger and the shallots just like I’d seen on the internet. After that, I sliced some garlic and added everything to the squash cavities. Both halves went into a roasting pan. I set the timer for 50 minutes, and waited.

Shallots, ginger, & squash After a while, the kitchen smelled like heaven. When the 50 minutes was up, I pulled the squash out of the stove. I let it cool for a bit, then used a spoon to scrape the squash out of its skin. I had some misgivings that it wasn’t cooked quite enough, because it wasn’t as squishy as I thought it should be. But I figured it was all going into the blender, so I didn’t worry too much about it. All I had to do was add half of the squash mixture into the blender with chicken broth, blend, pour into a saucepan, then repeat. I started working, adding just a touch of olive oil each time (the recipe had called for it to be tossed with the cubed squash, so I wanted some for flavor).

Finished soup When I was done blending, it didn’t look right. It managed to be very watery, while also looking grainy. It didn’t look anything like the picture on the recipe. I returned it to the blender, and blended more. That helped, but not much. I cooked the mixture on the stovetop for a little longer, hoping it would thicken up. I knew I could’ve added flour or even a little half and half, but there was another problem when I took a bite: it tasted like onions. All you “shallots aren’t like onions” people LIED. And I trusted you. And because the soup was grainy, I had the pleasure of crunching down on those slimy, crunchy shallots.

I ate it anyway. I didn’t want to be wasteful. I ate it with far too many crackers, to try and override the taste and texture. I’m not quite sure what went wrong, although I think it may be that the squash needed to roast longer, since it wasn’t cubed. Next time, I might go the lazy route and buy pre-cubed squash at the grocery store. And avoid shallots at all costs.

A week later, I threw the rest out, and bought this at the store. Two minutes in the microwave? I consider that a victory. And, I now know that I do like butternut squash.

Readers, is there anything you’d like me to attempt to cook? It could go well or it could go horribly. IT’S UP TO YOU.

4 Responses to “The butternut squash battle”
  1. ana says:

    looks goooood!

  2. Gavin Craig says:

    We’re actually making butternut squash soup tonight. I think that you’re right that the squash wasn’t quite done, and shallots are definitely very onion-y. We blend our squash with cream cheese, and it’s just heavenly.

    I tend to find that new recipes often don’t work until the second attempt. I’d be interested to hear how things go on a second attempt.

    But if you want ideas, I think you should definitely make cinnamon rolls. Yeast! It’s a whole other world!

  3. Lauren says:

    I vote you make beef bourguignon, because you writing about food reminds me of Julie & Julia. :)

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