Baked Butternut Squash

Now that spring is (supposed to be) here, our culinary thoughts turn to fresh, light dishes that feature leafy greens, citrus, and fruits. I made what was probably the last batch of chili last Sunday night. It will be well into next fall and soup weather before I get in the mood for it. Winter squash recipes abound in the autumn and winter when they are wonderfully abundant from the local farmer’s market to my favorite grocery store. But, last week I was astounded by the gorgeous squashes available, so I succumbed and bought one.
 
I really do not enjoy the prep work when it comes to the winter squashes. I was looking for an easier way, as my daughters will enjoy telling you, I am the most “short-cuttingest” cook they know. And my response to that, after more than 40 years of meal prep is – you betcha! So, I found what has to be the simplest way ever to cook a large squash without wielding a knife or cleaver and endangering fingers and countertop. 
The Crockpot. Yep. Use a large slow cooker. I tenderly washed the squash and put it in the cooker on high. Didn’t even have to poke holes in it. Four to five hours later, it was done! I let it cool. If there had been a lot of time between cooking it and preparing it, I would have cooled it and placed in the fridge until ready to make the dish. Then, simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, remove the peel, mash, and use for your favorite recipe. 
Depending on the size of the squash, the amounts of the following ingredients and baking time may need to be adjusted. Although I used unflavored commercial breadcrumbs, homemade breadcrumbs or panko style would work well. 

Ingredients:

1 large butternut or similar hard squash, baked, cooled, seeded and peeled
¾ cup half & half or milk
2 large eggs
½ cup organic maple syrup or dark brown sugar
½ stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ to ¾ cup bread crumbs
½ cup butter, sliced or chunked

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. 

Place cooked squash in and large mixing bowl and coarsely mash with a fork. Set aside. In a small mixing bowl, whisk eggs. Add half & half and whisk until blended. Stir mixture into squash, then add maple syrup, melted butter, lemon zest and seasonings. Spread into prepared dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Dot with butter and bake for about 45 minutes.

For added browning, place under broiler for a couple of minutes before serving. 
 

© 2017 Georgia Kohart