Roasted Winter Squash with Reduced Balsamic Vinegar for Drizzling Sauce and Glaze

roasted-winter-squash

By roasting the vegetable here, the squash, like Cinderella, is transformed. It becomes the centerpiece rather than a side dish.

Lidia's special, A Heartland Holiday Feast, shows her traveling cross-country, and meeting Americans with diverse heritages and culinary traditions.

Recipe from Lidia’s Family Table, published by Alfred A. Knopf

Total time: 5 Minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • To Prepare and Bake the Squash:
  • 3 pounds winter squash, such as butternut, buttercup or acorn squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter, for the baking sheet
  •  
  • To Serve: (optional)
  • 1/2 cup or so orange sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Balsamic reduction for drizzling
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  • Reduced Balsamic Vinegar for Drizzling Sauce and Glaze:
  • 1 pint (or a 500 ml bottle) good quality Balsamic Vinegar (commercial grade)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • One of the following (optional):
  • 4 whole cloves
  • Fresh rosemary: a tender branch with lots of needles
  • Fresh thyme: several small sprigs with lots of leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the squash in half through the stem and blossom ends. Scoop out all the seeds and fibers so the flesh is clean. Place each half cut side down and, with a sharp chef’s knife, cut straight across to trim the ends of the squash. Then cut the squash into even slices (cutting cross-wise) or wedges (cutting lengthwise)—all about 2-inches thick at the widest part.
  3. Remove the peel from the squash slices with a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife. (With acorn squash, strip off the peel just from the top of the ridges; this will help the pieces cook faster and creates a decorative striped look.)
  4. Pile the squash in a mixing bowl, drizzle the oil and sprinkle the salt over the pile and toss to coat the slices with the seasonings.
  5. Spread the butter on a large baking sheet (or line it with a non-stick silicon sheet.). Lay the slices flat on the sheet with plenty of space between them for even caramelization.
  6. Bake about 20 minutes then flip the pieces over; bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until they are tender all the way through (poke with a fork to check) and nicely caramelized on the edges.
  7. Serve hot, piling up the squash pieces on top of a pool of orange sauce; drizzle Balsamic reduction in thin streaks all over the top.
  8. The squash is also delicious with just one of the sauces or with only a final drizzle of good olive oil and another sprinkle of salt before serving by itself!
  9. To prepare the Reduced Balsamic Vinegar for Drizzling Sauce and Glaze: Pour the balsamic vinegar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and place over moderate heat. Stir in the honey, drop in the bay leaves and optional cloves or herbs and bring to a low boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and allow the vinegar to reduce slowly. After a half hour or so, when it has lost more than half of its original volume, the vinegar will start to appear syrupy, and you should watch it closely.
  10. To use as a glaze, cook the sauce to 1/3 of its original volume (when it will measure 2/3 cup). It should be the consistency of molasses, thick but still spreadable. Pour the syrup through a small strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Discard the bay leaves and seasonings. Brush on the glaze while warm.
  11. For use as a condiment and an elixir to drizzle over vegetables, reduce the vinegar even more, until it approaches one-quarter its original volume. Slow bubbles will rise from the syrup and it will take on the consistency of honey, leaving a thick coating on a spoon. Pour it through a small strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Use a heatproof spatula or spoon to clean out the saucepan before it sticks to the pot for good! Drizzle on the syrup while it is still warm.
  12. Store in the refrigerator, in a sealed container. It will congeal but keep indefinitely. To use, spoon the hard sauce into a bowl or heatproof measuring cup and heat it slowly in a pan of hot water or at low level in the microwave. For a thinner consistency, stir in drops of hot water.
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