It is so satisfying to cook a dish you have learned by heart. A little know-how saves time, reduces stress, and frees you to be more creative. Whether you love to cook or just need to solve the dinner problem, this repertoire of how-tos gives you confidence to add personal style and hopefully makes life more tasty.
There are so many ways to prepare the same dish. These are recipes for dishes and drinks you’ll make again and again, pared down to the essential ingredients and steps. They include tips to take out guesswork, choose the best tools, answer the most common questions we hear, and amp up the qualities that make us love each food in this series: to make crispier, faster chicken; creamier, tastier beans; fearless squash, more pro-looking layer cake; cocktails you can memorize; and eggs, precisely how you like them, every time.
Let’s get cooking.
Cooking butternut squash can be intimidating. It’s kind of big, its density can make it hard to cut through, and it gets a little slippery when peeled.
Using the right tools — a sharp chef’s knife, a solid peeler, and a nonslip cutting board — will make things easier and safeguard your hands. Once you peel, cut, and roast butternut squash a few times, you will also have the know-how to roast other winter squashes, and, by extension, other hard, root vegetables like beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, yams, celery root, and sunchokes (with some variations in prepping and roasting time).
Or you can just customize butternut with your own flair and enjoy it many times before spring sets in. These tips will help you become a very confident squash handler and roaster:
Separate the Bulb and Neck
The hollow bulb and solid neck have two different shapes, and separating them helps you cut each one more evenly. Cut a line right at the shoulder of the bulb to reveal the seeds. Wedge the blade of a sharp chef’s knife into the squash and press down to slice off the bulb at the shoulder, exposing the seeds. Scoop them all out at once.
It may seem fussy at first, but try lining up your pieces evenly when you work. This habit will make your prep more pleasing.
Make It Yours
Adorn with optional extras such as a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a small clove of garlic grated into the oil, or a sprinkling of fennel seeds or curry powder.