Butternut squash is a popular winter squash with a sweet flavor. It is easier to prep than most other varieties of winter squash because of its smooth, relatively thin skin. Roasting and mashing butternut squash produces a comfort food somewhat similar to mashed potatoes, but lighter and sweeter. There are many options for seasoning roasted butternut squash, most of them quite simple.
You don't need to peel butternut squash in order to roast it because it will be easy to separate the peel from the flesh once it is fully cooked. You will need to cut off the stem, taking as little flesh with it as possible. The sharp end of a chef knife should easily penetrate the skin, and once you have made this initial cut you can gradually work the knife around to cut the squash in half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
Butternut squash will roast efficiently in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. You should arrange the halves on a baking sheet, with either the smooth side or the flat side facing up. If the flat side is facing up, brush it with a bit of vegetable oil to keep it from drying out. Adding an inch of water to the pan will keep the squash tender by steaming it as it roasts. It will take 45 minutes to an hour to become soft enough for mashing. Poke it with a fork to determine whether it is tender.
Peel the butternut squash before mashing it to avoid fibrous pieces in the finished dish. Either a vegetable peeler or a paring knife will easily separate the cooked squash from the peel. Alternatively, you can carefully scoop out the tender flesh with a spoon. Coarsely chop the flesh into chunks, place them in a large bowl, and mash them vigorously with a potato masher until they're smooth.
Savory seasonings that pair well with mashed butternut squash include salt and freshly ground black pepper. Adding butter will make it richer and creamier. You can also use fresh herbs such as parsley and chives for a classic comfort food, or roasted garlic for a more complex flavor. If you are preparing mashed butternut squash as an accompaniment to Italian or Mexican dishes, season it with complementary flavors such as chili powder, or basil and oregano.
For a sweeter indulgence reminiscent of Autumn, mash the freshly-prepared butternut squash with butter, a bit of cream, brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.
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