Roasted honeynut squash with maple-cinnamon glaze. This tasty petite-sized winter squash makes for a perfectly portioned side dish, while the thin Hasselback-style slices make for a stunning presentation.
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Honeynut squash is about half the size of its counterpart, butternut squash. At just under a pound, it’s quick and easy to prepare. It looks very similar in appearance with its tan skin and orange flesh, but it’s much sweeter, with delightful caramel notes on the inside.
I cut thin slices into the seeded and peeled flesh for a gourmet appearance with minimal effort to create a beautiful fan-like design. Brushing the squash with a spiced maple syrup mixture adds a sticky glaze as it roasts in the oven. It’s a festive side dish that looks fancy, but it’s straightforward to cook.
What is honeynut squash?
Is it just a tiny butternut squash? Yes, and no. It has a similarly smooth and starchy texture, but much sweeter, like buttercup squash. You may have spotted this mini squash at the grocery store or farmers market. It’s available from fall until the end of december. It’s grown mainly in the Northeast, although you can store it away for a few months.
Honeynut squash has only been commercially available in just the past few years. The small 6-inch stature has its culinary advantages. The flavor is more concentrated as it contains less moisture, which makes it bursts with caramel-like flavor when cooked. You don’t need to peel the skin because it’s so thin, and that deep orange skin contains three times more beta carotene [source].
Prepare the squash for roasting
The squash needs to be prepared similar to roasting whole butternut squash. Trim off the stem and root end, cut the squash in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds. I use a Y-peeler to remove the outside skin until I can see the orange flesh.
Easy trick for hasselback design
Here is an easy hack to create the super-thin cuts without going all the way through the squash. Use chopsticks! Place the peeled squash cut-side down on the cutting board with the chopsticks (or spoon handles) on each side. Slowly cut into the flesh, making ⅛-inch thick slices. The first use of this handy technique is my Hasselback potato recipe.
Cooking the squash
The squash roast cut-side down on a sheet pan brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and black pepper. This gives the cell walls in the plant a kickstart in cooking in the dry heat of a 400-degree oven. Roast until fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
Add a spiced maple glaze
I like to deepen the honey flavor even further with a butter and maple syrup glaze. The mixture is brushed on two times, allowing for the moisture to evaporate and sugars to caramelize and coat the slices. The addition of bold spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, add wonderful warm, baked aromas.
The glaze should get sticky so that once you sprinkle on the chopped walnuts, it sticks right onto the surface. I like to also add some chopped thyme on top right before serving for herbaceous notes.
A little history
The genius plant breeder behind this gourd’s creation is Cornell University’s Michael Mazourek. He had been testing smaller winter squashes but was challenged by Chef Dan Barber to breed a variety smaller in size but mighty in flavor. They partnered from a science and culinary standpoint to determine which plant would taste delicious with little extra seasoning. The best way to coax out the natural sweetness is with dry heat roasting.
What to serve this with
Hasselback cuts offer cooking advantages
Not only is the fan design pretty, but it exposes more of the flesh to the oven’s dry heat, which cooks the squash a bit quicker. It also allows the glaze and seasonings to drip in between the slices, adding more flavor to each piece.
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Roasted Honeynut Squash
- 2 honeynut squash, about 14 to 16 ounces each
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing
- kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
- Black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
- Set the oven rack to the center position and preheat to 400ºF (204ºC).
- Wash and thoroughly dry the honeynut squash. Place the squash on a sturdy cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to trim the stem and bottom.
- Starting at the larger side of the squash, carefully cut in half lengthwise, using small rocking motions. Use a spoon to remove the seeds. Peel the skin off of each squash half.
- Place the squash cut-side down on the cutting board. Place two chopsticks or spoon handles on each side. Carefully cut ⅛-inch thick slices down the squash's length, making sure not to cut all the way through. This process creates a Hasselback appearance. Repeat with the remaining squash.
- Line a large baking sheet with foil. Lightly grease the foil with olive oil, use a paper towel to spread evenly.
- Place the squash cut-side down on the sheet pan. Evenly brush the flesh with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven.
- In a small bowl, melt the butter. Whisk in the maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Gently brush about half of the mixture over each squash. Bake for 5 minutes.
- Brush the squash with the remaining mixture. Roast until squash is fork-tender, and the glaze sticks to the surface, about 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped walnuts and thyme.
- The squash can be roasted without the maple glaze. Follow all the prep steps, brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the slices are fork-tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.
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