Thursday, December 13, 2012

Maple Glazed Sweet Dumpling Squash

Maple Glazed Sweet Dumpling Squash in ornate bowl
My Sweet Dumpling

Recipe by Robin

A few years back I prepared some sweet dumpling squash, and they came out terrible. What did I know? They looked so cute in the market, and I thought “why not prepare them like butternut?” But, whereas butternut is solid and substantial in flavor and texture and plenty thick, sweet dumplings are subtle and delicate. And there’s just a thin layer of squash once the sweet dumpling’s seeds are removed. So it’s easy to overcook if baked upside down in a water bath (a method that works beautifully for butternut). Plus, the water leaches out some of its subtle flavor. So I came upon the idea of turning the squash right-side-up in the water bath. And I used my Mom’s idea for acorn squash: fill the cavity with sweet and salty stuff.

Two Whole Sweet Dumpling Squash in Basket
Irresistibly Cute
Sweet dumpling squash is quite like delicata squash in taste and texture, so I adapted the glaze from my Maple Glazed Delicata Squash. Both recipes are quite sweet, and go well with grains, greens, turkey, and other seasonal savory dishes. If you like them less sweet, you can reduce the amount of glaze, or increase the amount of squash. On the other hand, if you have a not-keen-on-winter-squash member of your family (like my husband), this recipe might convince him or her to come over into the sweet dumpling camp.

If you’re debating whether to make this recipe or Maple Glazed Delicata Squash, consider these points. The delicata can be cut into elegant-looking rings, but requires more finesse to glaze. Delicata rings need to be monitored so that the glaze that overflows onto the baking sheet between the squash doesn’t burn. But they make an impressive presentation and are easy to eat, so are great for company or potlucks. Maple glazed sweet dumplings are less demanding to prepare. They require basting for optimal results, but forgetting to baste won’t result in burning. They’re suited to more casual dining situations, because it’s easiest to eat them by scooping out the insides with a spoon. To do this you might need to hold the squash with your other hand (or a fork, if you insist). You could cut the whole thing up with a knife and scrape each piece off the skin, but you’d have to drain the sweet liquid onto your plate rather than scooping it up with every bite.

Silicon Brush Basting Squash
Closeup of Basting Process
The size and shape of the sweet dumplings make it a bit challenging to remove the seeds and fibers, especially if, like me, you’re not exactly patient by nature. You can do two things to make this easier. First, buy larger sized sweet dumplings, so you have more room inside to maneuver the spoon. This also gives you thicker, more succulent squash halves for easier and more satisfying scooping at the table. 

Second, instead of completely scraping out each half, scrape them in two stages. First, use a spoon to scrape out all of the seeds and as much of the icky-goopy-stringy stuff as you can easily on all the squash halves. Then go back and fine-tune, scraping out the rest of the fibers so the inside is smooth. This confines the ick-factor to the first scraping, and seems helpful in not getting the goopy stuff all over.

I’ve used just a bit of cinnamon and a hint of nutmeg so as not to overpower the subtle squash flavor, but you could double the amount if you’d like to taste more spice. You could also try this cooking method on acorn squash.

Individual Squash being eaten with spoon
Eat by Scooping
Maple Glazed Sweet Dumpling Squash
serves about 4 - 6

2 sweet dumpling squash, ~3.5 lbs. total
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. brown sugar
½  tsp. salt
½   cup maple syrup
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
2 pinches nutmeg

Wash squash. Cut each squash in half from top to bottom, by lining up a cleaver between two grooves to make two equal pieces. Tap the cleaver gently with a rubber mallet until the squash splits. You can use a large, sharp knife instead.

Scoop out seeds and fibers from inside of squash halves. Scrape inner surface with spoon until smooth and free of all dark orange fibers.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make glaze: Melt butter in small saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and salt. Add maple syrup. Heat over medium high, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, until slightly thickened.

Put squash halves into baking dish. Spoon about 1½ tablespoons of glaze into the cavity of each half. Reserve remaining glaze to baste squash. Fill baking dish about halfway (1 inch or less) with water.

Put squash into preheated oven on middle rack. Bake squash for total of about 1 hour, but set timer to baste squash every 10 minutes (5 times total). The squash will resist the glaze at first, but each time you baste the glaze will build up a little more.

To baste: Use silicon basting brush to brush remaining glaze onto top cut edges of squash as well as into cavity.

To test squash for doneness, poke a fork into the side of the squash cavity. Try not to poke all the way through the skin or the glaze will leak out. Squash is done when it’s soft, about 50 – 60 minutes.

Remove baking pan from oven and immediately remove squash from water onto serving plate with hefty slotted spoon, being careful not to spill glaze out of cavities. Let squash cool about 5 minutes.

Mix together cinnamon and nutmeg. Brush glaze onto cut surfaces of squash once more. Sprinkle with cinnamon-nutmeg mixture and serve.

Four Half Squash Ready to Eat on Platter
Platter o' Squash

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