Braised Butternut Squash

I love butternut squash, but it can be a bit bland and watery compared to other squashes. Braising it with spices really livens it up and creates a buttery-sweet-salty glaze that accentuates the natural earthiness of the gourd. The key to this recipe is to be vigilant — the water may evaporate on you before the squash is done. Just pay close attention and don't be afraid to add a little water to slow things down. Yields 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, preferably shorter to fit in a large pan
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 stalk rosemary
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2+ cups hot water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Large pan with tight-fitting lid

Instructions:

  1. Wash outside of squash, dry, then carefully split in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds (these can be roasted if you wish).
  2. Peel zest from lemon and cut into 3 or 4 pieces. Strip the needles from the rosemary.
  3. In large pan, place both halves cut-side down. Arrange star anise, cinnamon, rosemary, and butter around squash halves. Heat over medium and cook until butter browns and becomes nutty, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to burn the butter at this stage.
  4. Add 1 cup of water to the pan (careful, it will splatter), the drizzle the honey and sprinkle the salt around the squash. Add the strips of lemon zest. Shake the pan to move everything around, then cover and cook for 30 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Every so often, shake the pan to prevent sticking, and check to see if the squash is done. Insert a butter knife into the neck of the squash; if it slides through with no resistance, it's done. About 20 minutes in, the water will have mostly evaporated and will start to glaze the squash. If it's not done by this point, add a scant cup of hot water, cover, shake, and cook another 10 minutes.
  6. When done, either slice into half moons or serve whole and let guests scoop out portions.