If you are a fan of pumpkin, you are already a fan of squash, which is in the same gourd family. Pumpkin takes center stage in our favorite holiday pie, but it’s time to give other members of the squash family some attention. The squash we see this time of year is known as winter squash, which gets its name from being a good “keeper,” says Twin Cities chef and cookbook author Robin Asbell, who created this recipe for Real Food. It’s harvested in fall, and if left in a cool room, will keep all winter. After it’s picked, the squash cures for a couple of weeks to let the skin harden into natural “packaging,” sealing in the freshness better than a plastic wrapper ever could, she notes.
It’s good for you, too. The brilliant color of squash flesh comes from carotenoids, which are antioxidant compounds that protect your health on a cellular level. It also includes vitamins A, B and C and is high in fiber and pectin, which may stabilize blood sugar and make you feel full longer.
This recipe uses kabocha. Sometimes called a Japanese pumpkin, this squat, round squash is streaked with greens and greys. A favorite for Asian dishes, it has dense, meaty flesh that holds its shape in a curry or stew. (If you cannot find kabocha you could substitute butternut.)
Peeling and Cubing Squash
Try these helpful tips from Asbell when preparing squash for this or other recipes.
- Squash that is smooth without deep lobes, such as a butternut or kabocha, will be easier to peel.
- If the squash has a big stem, knock it off with a few whacks with a hammer or small pot.
- For a round squash, place it stem side up on the cutting board and use a sharp chef’s knife to slice straight down to cut it in half. You may have to rock it a little and carefully place the heel of your hand on the back of the knife blade to lean into it. Once halved, scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash in 1- to 2-inch wedges and place each on its side on the cutting board so you can use your chef’s knife to trim the skin off, cutting straight down and taking it off in sections. You can also use a paring knife to pare the skin. A peeler may not be up to the task with thicker skinned squash.
- For butternut and other squashes with a neck, place them on a cutting board and cut the neck section off just above where the bulb swells. That gives you a big solid piece, which you can peel with a peeler or paring knife and cut in cubes or slices. Scoop the seeds from the bulbous part and cut it in half, then peel with a peeler or paring knife. Place cut side down and cut in wedges, then cut those in cubes.
Thai Red Curry Squash and Chicken Stew
Makes 4 Servings
Sweet, meaty kabocha squash and chicken thighs go well together in this creamy, spicy Thai dish. A simple simmer sauce allows you to cook everything at once, streamlining the cooking process and saving time. Serve with black rice for a stunning, whole-grain presentation, or substitute brown or sushi rice.
1 cup black rice
For the Stew
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup fish sauce
1 stalk lemongrass, split lengthwise
3 small shallots, minced
1 large lime, pared
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger root, slivered
4 teaspoons red curry paste
3 cups peeled and cubed kabocha squash, uncooked
1 pound chicken thighs, cut in bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
- Cook the rice: Put 1½ cups water in a medium pot and place over high heat, and when boiling, add the rice. Reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender. If necessary, drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer. Put back in the pan, cover, and keep warm.
- In a large sauté pan, pour the coconut milk, chicken stock and fish sauce and place over medium heat. Add the lemongrass, shallots, lime zest, garlic, ginger and red curry paste and mix well. Bring to a boil. Add the squash and chicken and reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan, adjusting the heat so it’s not boiling. Cook until the squash is tender when pierced with a paring knife and a piece of chicken cut in half has no pink left, about 10 minutes.Add lime juice and simmer just until thick. Serve the curry over cooked black rice, topped with cilantro.
Nutrition info Thai Red Curry Squash & Chicken Stew (Per Serving): Calories 559 (221 From Fat); Fat 26g (Sat. 18g); Chol 109mg; Sodium 1745mg; Carb 56g; Fiber 6g; Protein 33g