I usually bake acorn squash, which takes more than an hour. How could I cook it more quickly and still get that lovely, baked taste and texture?
I checked out roasting (bascially baking at a higher temperature), but that also takes about 40-45 minutes. I’ve never been a fan of microwaving acorn squash for the same reason I don’t like microwaved potatoes. Cooked in a microwave, the skin does not crisp up, the inside texture gets too soft, and the taste seems blander and less interesting than if it is baked.
But if I’m in a rush and want a baked potato, I do resort to the microwave – for a headstart. Cooked for just 3 minutes (half the time to fully microwave it), and then transfered to the oven, a potato may not be perfect, but it is reasonable. With semi-crisp skin and decent texture and taste, the trade-off works for me in a pinch. I wondered whether the same trick would work for acorn squash. And would the results would be the same – better taste and texture than microwaving all the way but not as good as baking it the whole way?
I decided to try. Using only a simple glaze so the taste and texture of the squash would stand out, I microwaved two halves of acorn squash partway, then baked one of the halves at 350 degrees and roasted the other half at 500 degrees. My verdict? As expected, this method does save time. The partially baked squash took 40 minutes and the roasted one took 30 minutes. The trade-offs were about the same as for potatoes. In the end, I prefer the taste of fully baked or roasted squash if I can spare the time or save time some other way. (One time-saver would be to clean, cut and glaze the squash halves the night before, so they are ready to pop into the oven when I get home.) As between the baked and roasted versions, I thought the roasted one tasted better, but both were pretty good.
Servings – 2 as a side dish. Total cost – $2.50 per squash (with glaze)/$1.25 per serving
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- Cutting board
- Large knife (for cutting squash)
- Small knife for butter
- Measuring spoons
- Small spoon for glazing
- 2 small bowls (1 for seeds, other for glaze)
- Microwave-safe wax paper or plastic wrap
- Pan just large enough to hold the 2 halves
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees if baking or 500 degrees if roasting. (I’ve found recipes that called for temperatures in between 350 and 500 degrees too. The bottom line is that any temperature in the 350-500 degree range will work, as long as you watch the squash and make sure it gets fully cooked, but not burned.)
- Wash the squash and cut it in half. The outer part of the squash is hard, so be careful.
- Hollow the halves out, removing the seeds. (Don’t throw them away if you like roasted seeds. Clean off the membrane surrounding the seeds, dry them and roast them in on an oiled or non-stick pan in a 500 degree oven, drizzled with a bit of oil and salt and pepper for about 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally.)
- Cut each bottom to level it, so the halves can sit securely in a pan without tipping.
- Melt the butter and mix it with the lemon juice, and maple syrup. This glaze is light, not very sweet and slightly tangy.
- Divide the glaze between the halves, putting most of it in the hollowed-out middle and spreading a bit on the top and insides of each half.
- Cover the pan (or the acorn squash directly) with microwave-safe waxed paper or plastic wrap and cook the squash halves, hollow side up, on high for approximately 5-6 minutes. The exact timing depends on the wattage of your microwave. If your microwave does not have a turntable or if it is turned off, turn the squash halves around once, mid-way through microwaving. After the squash has cooked, let it sit for another 4-5 minutes, covered. Microwaved food left covered continues to cook and you will notice steam as you take off the cover.
- Put the squash, again hollow side up in the oven (uncovered), in a buttered or oiled pan.
- Bake or roast the halves, spooning the glaze over the top and sides once or twice while the squash is cooking. When done (approximately 30 minutes baked at 350 degrees or 20 minutes roasted at 500 degrees), add salt and pepper to taste.