He rounded the corner in some sort of slow motion. Behind him — garish shades of blue and yellow. He had three VHS tapes tucked under his arm and below the flashing lights of the hanging television, he spoke to me for the very first time.
“How many of these videos do you think will fit on one shelf?” he asked.
It was the year 2000 and we both were working at a video store –– wearing ill-fitted polo shirts and name tags shaped like movie tickets. I did not know the answer to his question–nor did I really care–but I liked the way he asked it. I liked it so much, in fact, that I married him ten years later––just twenty miles away from those blue and yellow walls.
Falling in love is surprising.
So, too, is butternut squash. Think about it … when it’s raw, its hard and unpalatable. It’s also wreckless––oddly shaped and difficult to slice in half with even the sharpest, most aggressive chef’s knife. And don’t even get me started on the seeds––those little pellets––and the gooey strands that lurk inside that dark pocket of mischief.
But then … somehow … when sliced, thrown on a sheet pan and roasted for an hour, squash becomes sweet and caramelized––irresistible to even the vegetable unbelievers. And when this rich sauce is poured over the top –– thick with molasses, browned butter and warmed with chili powder, no thanksgiving patron can go home feeling loveless.
I think the reason this recipe works so well is because of the balance of sweetness and spice. That’s why the chili powder is so crucial –– it works against the molasses and the sugar. Pour the sauce over the raw squash on a sheet tray, pop it the oven and eat it with love.
Thanksgiving Roasted Butternut Squash with Molasses Butter
Serves 4 as a side
About 3 pounds butternut squash (preferably 1 large squash)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dark molasses
Kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbs chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Halve lengthwise, discard the seeds, then cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the stops foaming and has turned light brown, take the pan off the heat and add the sage, sugar, vinegar, molasses and all the spices. Mix well and let simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour the vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well, then transfer to a heavy rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold the squash in a single layer.
Place in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.