Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Squash I Squashed

I have learned sooo many new things today! One of them being that I really find pulling hair out of my tub drain distasteful. And my daughter always looks cute in a short bob (yes, she cut her hair again). The most . . . entertaining, perhaps, thing I have learned is that a jack-o-lantern is probably the closest I think I'll get to a whole, raw squash again.

Here's why:

Last week at Sammy's preschool, they had a whole passel of butternut squashes that they were giving away. Feeling slightly adventurous, as I get sometimes, I grabbed one. I figured, hey, if I can't figure out how to cook the thing, we can always paint it for Halloween decor, right?

It'd been sitting on the counter since then, and I've been contemplating it. I looked up a few recipes on Google, and found everything from soup to roasted squash to pureed squash. Lots of options. Now, I know that most squashes are naturally quite sweet. Hello, pumpkin pie anyone? They didn't arrive at that delectable treat without some kind of suggestion in the right direction. So I'm figuring that most of this squash will probably be going towards some kind of sweet dish. Worst case scenario, we have butternut pie, a la imitation pumpkin! Which, really, how is that a bad thing? And the rest of it can go towards a savory dish, say, a halved recipe of soup since I'm the only one that will eat this stuff anyway!

I've been meaning to cut the sucker up and get cooking since Saturday, however, I've also been battling a cold that has been flirting with me for over a week and settled in for a nice, long-term relationship around Friday. Suckage. Big time. So, poor squash just sat on the counter, waiting to hear its fate. And that cold, yeah, still hanging around. I've packed its luggage and put it outside, even left an eviction notice, but it's not taking the hint.

Anyway, I picked up the squash this afternoon while dinner was baking, and I didn't even have a chance to decide what to do with it before I felt a squishy, wet soft spot on it. Well, obviously, if this squash is going to start going bad, I need to do something about it pronto. And painting it to look like a cutesy-pootsie ghoulie is out of the question now.

So . . . the real question is . . . what the devil do I do with the thing?! I start looking around online. And it seems like every recipe I find calls for already cooked squash. And the most common way to do that? Cut it in half and bake it in the oven for a couple hours.

Er, problem there. Because, um, I kind of already went Sweeney Todd on the thing, and it it now in three pieces, and sans the whole part that was soft. Not exactly perfect roasting material now, huh? So I'm just gonna have to find a different way to cook it! Which brings us to recipes, because there is no easily accessible alternative out there for what to do with three big pieces of butternut squash.

I did, however, find a unanimous agreement that the squash needs to be peeled and cubed. Ok, peeled. Peeling a squash. Zucchini is easy peasy lemon squeezy, that stuff has a thin peel like a cucumber. However, I have never tried to peel a pumpkin, and that was pretty much what I was lookin' at right then. So, for kicks, I pull out a vegetable peeler like it says.

I would have been there until December, I kid you not. Because not only is it practically impossible to peel a concave-shaped vegetable, but I would need to go over this thing with my dinky little potato peeler about three times to get through to the lovely orange stuff underneath the tan skin and pale stuff under it. Think orange, here. No that texture, but that idea. You take a peeler to an orange, what do you get? That white stuff underneath that you don't wanna eat. Same concept, pale yellow flesh under the tan skin that I don't wanna eat. So, peeler is a no-go.

Next option, I'm gonna have to just cut the skin off with a knife. So, which knife. Let's play a game! You bring me a knife that you think would peel a pumpkin, and I'll tell you if it'll work. And do not even think about touching that butter knife, because I will snigger at you. Put the paring knife back. Fillet knife? Don't be funny. Long skinny knife. Ha. Butcher knife, no. You will cut off your finger before you skin a butternut, because a knife that big will be a joke.

Ok, I'll tell you. You want a knife about 6 inches long, half the blade width of a butcher knife. We have two at my house, and they're my favorite, especially because I sharpen them before each use. I tried the fillet knife, and started laughing because I got 3 inches into a cut and realized that this was a fail of epic proportions because have you every tried to cut a jack-o-lantern with a fillet knife? Yeah, it's like trying to carve an apple with a spaghetti noodle. You need a big, sturdy bad boy to cut into a super-firm thing like a squash. You need a slightly flexible, equally sturdy smaller bad boy to PEEL a squash.

Now, I finally got started peeling this thing. It was not pretty, to say the least, my squash looked more like an abstract sculpture than a vegetable (fruit? What category would this be in?) by the time I was done with it. By this point, I was sighing a sigh of relief, and then hurdling onto my next project in between checking on my dinner and two pots on the stove (dinner is baking and cooking, remember?). Now I need to cut this puppy up!

This worked pretty well, and for this job I used the biggest baddest knife I had, a super-long butcher knife. Butternuts are tough suckers, and it took a little muscle to get through the big pieces, but after that cubing the small stuff was nothing. Wanna know what I did next?

Um, sorta nothing. I put them in a ziploc bag, and now, some five hours later, they're still there. Sitting on the counter. Waiting. I don't know what to do with it! I checked for how to store the stuff, but I got nothing for raw, cubed squash! Don't refrigerate was a common one, but that was for WHOLE squash. Apparently the cold does bad things for the flavor. But letting a skinned, cubed squash out all night might be bad, right? Yes? No? I don't know!

So here I sit, polishing off the leftovers of some truly fabulous chicken and some cold french toast from the day before, dipped in powdered sugar. A worthy dinner, I assure you. But I'm still bothered by the incredible conundrum that is THAT STUPID SQUASH! Because it's after 11 at night. And most of these recipes I'm looking over take a minimum of an hour to make! I really don't want to be up until nearly one in the morning, but what do I do with my baggie of squash in the meantime? I'm so stymied.

I guess . . . I'll stick it in the fridge. And then, in the morning when I take Sammy to school, I'll take it out. That can't do it TOO much damage, can it? I have no idea. *Frustration*

Anyway . . . I'm going now. I'm going to go stare at that cubed squash in a most cheerful shade of orange, and I'm going to get some information out of it if kills me. And, worst case scenario . . . I'll have a go at that butternut pie!