Bon Appetit (November 2012)
Without a doubt, this Winter Squash with Spiced Butter was the most beautiful dish we previewed for this year's Thanksgiving.
The scalloped edges of the squash, the different colors, the gorgeous little jewels of pomegranate seeds -- it's truly a work of art.
Would such a stunningly gorgeous dish translate into deliciousness? Or is beauty in the stomach of the beholder?
Such is the life of The Bitten Word Boys. We swear, other than deciding that we wanted to make this Winter Squash with Spiced Butter, we hadn't discussed how or where we might procure the rose petals it calls for.
We never could find the rose petals, but that was just one reason we'd wanted to try this dish. It's got a whole host of spices and flavors you don't typically find on the Thanksgiving table -- coriander, cumin, cardamom, lime. We loved the thought of all those great Middle Eastern flavors paired with winter squash.
So, back to our original question: Does this taste as good as it looks?
Answer: Sadly, no. For all the spices packed into that spice butter, we thought the final product seriously lacked flavor. And even though we like pomegranate seeds, we found them an odd pairing with the squash.
One mistake we'll cop to: We were concerned about overcooking this into a mushy mess, so we erred a bit too far in undercooking it. The squash wasn't as melt-in-your-mouth soft as it should have been, and steaming it just slightly longer would have been better. But we doubt it would have helped bring out much more flavor. In the end, our squash -- a mix of acorn, delicata and kabocha -- were pretty bland on their own.
One of the problems, we think, lies in the fact that the spiced butter is poured over the platter of squash, so the squash doesn't really soak up any of the spiced butter. Much of it is left on the platter beneath the squash. It might be preferable to serve the spiced butter on the side, so that guests can give their squash an ample dose of flavor.
But really, we're not sure that would solve the problems here, which is a shame. This is the kind of dish that people "ooo" and "ahh" over when it's brought to the table. Unfortunately, that wasn't the same reaction it elicited when our guests took a bite.
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Spiced butter1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon crushed dried rose petals (optional)
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Squash4 pounds assorted small winter squash (such as acorn, kabocha, or delicata)
3/4 cups pomegranate seeds
Spiced butterMix all ingredients except salt in a small bowl until lime juice is incorporated. Season with salt. Cover; keep in a cool place. DO AHEAD Spiced butter can be made 1 week ahead. Roll into logs, wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.
Fill a large wide pot with water to a depth of 1/2-inch and add a pinch of salt; bring to a boil. Add squash slices; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and steam, adding more water as needed to maintain 1/2-inch of water at bottom of pot, until squash is tender but not falling apart, 20-25 minutes.
Carefully transfer squash slices to a large platter (some squash at bottom of pot may be too soft; save for another purpose4) and season with salt.
Reduce water in pot over high heat (or add hot water) to measure 3/4 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in spiced butter, 1 tablespoonful at a time, to form a rich, glossy sauce. Season to taste with salt. Drizzle spiced butter over squash. Top with pomegranate seeds.