Fine Cooking (September 2010)
In our book, there's really nothing that says "autumn" more that acorn squash. It's sweet and earthy and, we think, more flavorful than pumpkin.
When we cook with acorn squash, we keep things super simple: Split 'em across the middle, scoop out the seeds, shave off the top and bottom so the two halves can sit upright. Then slather each half with a little salt, add a pat of butter and a glug of maple syrup, and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
It's beyond easy, and it takes about 3 minutes of active time in the kitchen. And the taste is warm and wonderful on a dark autumn evening.
So we were eager to try this Acorn Squash with Rosemary and Brown Sugar. With white wine, rosemary, lemon and brown sugar, it sounded like somebody took our standard, go-to recipe and turned up the volume.
Unfortunately, we should have kept the volume right where it was.
We were intrigued by the idea that this dish is cooked in a sauté pan on the stovetop, rather than baked in the oven. And, as we said, we liked the notion of changing up our familiar acorn squash with some new flavors.
But cooking this on the stovetop really just proved to be a lot more work. The result wasn't as good as cooking squash in the oven: The flesh was seared in some places and close to rock-hard in others. Sure, maybe that was totally our fault; maybe we didn't cook it evenly enough. But what's the point in standing over a stovetop for a half hour, when the result you get still isn't as good as just throwing the whole thing in the oven?
And the flavors. Well, they just didn't work for us. The lemon and white wine were jarringly acerbic, and the rosemary didn't mesh well with the taste of the squash. We love rosemary for its great herbal flavor (it's almost medicinal at times, in a good way). But in this case it felt like it was fighting with the other flavors instead of enhancing them. It tasted like the squash had been washed with rosemary-scented soap.
So maybe it was user error, or maybe we just didn't like this recipe. Either way, we'll be going back to our stand-by recipe for acorn squash. Which is fine with us: We've got all autumn to enjoy it!
One 2-lb. acorn squash (unpeeled), halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 8 wedges
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a paring knife, score each wedge of squash lengthwise down the middle of the flesh. Heat the butter and oil in an 11- to 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Arrange the squash in the pan in a single layer and cook, flipping occasionally, until deep golden-brown on all cut sides, about 10 minutes.
Carefully pour the wine into the pan, then quickly scatter the brown sugar, rosemary, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper over the squash. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the squash is almost tender, about 10 minutes more.
Uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium. Flip the squash and cook until the liquid is thick and the squash is tender, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the squash to a platter, season with salt and pepper to taste, drizzle any remaining liquid over the top, and serve.