The first year that I made Thanksgiving dinner, my then-boyfriend (he’s since been upgraded to husband) requested butternut squash. Frankly, my family doesn’t (or at least didn’t until then) eat squash. Not at all. And I had never had it before, let alone cooked it. So I did what any good girlfriend would do – I scoured the internet for a recipe. Having no frame of reference, I had no idea of what I was looking for though . . .
I ended up going with a recipe for southern butternut squash. Somehow, in my head, it seemed like butternut squash must be a southern-type dish so that seemed to be the perfect recipe. Turns out that the “southern” style of making butternut squash is essentially a super-sweet custard. To this day, my family references that particular side dish when we discuss Thanksgiving or squash or side dishes or any combination thereof. It was that, um, memorable.
After that, I devised a cooking method that involved roasting a whole butternut squash (cut in half) and mixing it with butter, maple syrup and brown sugar. When it was done roasting, I would scoop it out and mash it together. My husband liked it a lot (though it still wasn’t the butternut squash he was looking for) and that became the squash that graced the table for several years. The rest of the family, myself included, would tolerate a bite or two, but I kept making it for him.
This year, in the interest of simplifying, I decided to forgo the whole cutting a big ol’ squash in half and preparing it for baking and then burning my fingers while mashing the hot innards about 45 minutes later. I just wanted something a little simpler. Then I saw a recipe for roasted butternut squash chunks in Woman’s Day — a magazine I don’t regularly read. While the ingredients didn’t meet the flavor combination I was going for, I saw some big opportunity to spin the super simple recipe into a good dish that would be a lot easier to prepare (no burnt fingers!).
When my husband found out about the change in recipe, he brought up the damn custard and asked why I always have to change things . . .
Fortunately, on first taste, all I got were wows — and suggestions that this is THE recipe to repeat next year. Yay for that!
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 lbs butternut squash, cut into chunks
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, salt and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl. Add the butternut squash chunks and toss to coat well.
Spread the squash on a baking sheet (lined with aluminum foil for easy cleanup) in a single layer.
Cook 25-30 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Serve immediately.