I know it’s still pretty hot in some parts of the country, but here in northeast Ohio the hot weather is (mostly) gone; some of the trees have even begun to lose their leaves. The farmers markets are starting to burst at the seams with the beginnings of the fall harvest, and there are all sorts of goodies available, including a variety of winter squashes.
I never ate winter squashes growing up – my mother never bought or prepared them. I’m not sure if she was intimidated by them (I know I was the first time I cooked one), or if she simply never had the opportunity to cook one. Thinking back, I don’t remember seeing many of them in the grocery stores in Dallas so, like me, she it may just never have occurred to her that they might be worthy of feeding her family.
It wasn’t until I’d met Beloved that I came face-to-face with my first winter squash – an acorn squash that I simply halved, seeded and baked with a touch of butter and brown sugar. I loved it, but it wasn’t until we moved to Podunk that I began cooking and consuming winter squashes with any regularity; they are as ubiquitous here as okra and black-eye peas are down South.
We picked up several varieties of winter squashes on Saturday – acorn, butternut, delicata and spaghetti, plus a couple that I’ve forgotten the names of – and made this dish Friday night. It is pretty easy as souffles go, had a light yet creamy texture and was absolutely delicious. It’s going in the regular dinner rotation this fall and winter, along with another squash recipe I’ll post later this week. It would also be an excellent addition to a holiday meal; I’m tempted to serve it with the standing rib roast I will serve for Christmas dinner. You can bake it in six 6-ounce individual souffle dishes for a nicer presentation.
Note: Winter squashes are a bit carbier than summer varieties, so I used a little maple flavoring (found with the extracts in the spice aisle of your grocery store) in this dish to boost the flavor of the small amount of maple syrup used. You can leave it out and include a full 1/4 cup of maple syrup if you’d like it sweeter.
This reheats really well the next day.
Maple Butternut Squash Souffle
2 pounds butternut squash
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, separated and at room temperature
Preheat oven to 375º F; butter a 2 quart souffle dish.
Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place cut sides down on a microwavable plate and cook on high for 10 to 12 minutes, or until soft. When cool enough to handle, carefully scoop out pulp and place in a large mixing bowl with the butter, maple syrup, maple flavoring and nutmeg; mash with a potato masher until well-blended.
With a hand mixer, beat the egg yolks until thick and lemon colored; stir beaten yolks into squash mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry and gently fold into the squash mixture. Spoon into the souffle dish and bake 20 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.