Given that it’s taken me a couple weeks to write my follow-up blog, it’s fair to say I dragged my feet on trying this. I really didn’t have high hopes given how my other winter squash escapades had gone.
But I’m a woman of my word, so after weeks of stalling, I finally found what I believed to be the best preparation I could hope for for the acorn squash collecting dust on my counter. I was already making some oven-baked fries (using a mashup of the NYT Cooking baking method and the spice mix from this Half Baked Harvest recipe). So I threw some sliced acorn squash onto my sheet pan and hit it with that same seasoning when it finished roasting.
I figured that if I could make it resemble french fries as closely as possible, maybe it would stand a chance this time.
I may have buried the lead with the post title, but HALLELUJAH! Not only was this not bad, it was downright delicious! It turns out all along, all I needed to do was roast the squash to high heavens and add some extra seasoning on top! This confirms: when in doubt, potatoes are the answer.
The spice mix I used included flaky sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and ground cayenne (full recipe below). The smoky, spicy mix was just what the doctor ordered to balance the natural sweetness of the squash that I’ve come to dislike oh so much.
The mushiness of winter squash has also been a sticking point for me in the past, but I think the cooking preparation this time helped out because even though this was very soft, it had a delicious, deeply roasted flavor that enhanced the overall bite.
Mothers everywhere will be pleased to know that I ate all my squash before even touching the french fries!
And even better, I had more squash the next day with my lunch (and more french fries if we’re being honest)! This time, I decided to see if cooking it in the air fryer would get me crispy, instead of mushy, squash.
What are the chances that I would have such bad experiences when cooking butternut and delicata squash and such good experiences the two times I attempted acorn?? Yep, the air fryer method worked beautifully! The edges got crispy while the center stayed soft and tender. I added the same spice mix after cooking, and it was just as delicious on day 2.
It took three attempts, but I’m finally a believer in (some) winter squash! Now that I know some new cooking methods, I might even go back and try them on my less favored squash varieties.
Which is your favorite winter squash—butternut, delicata, acorn, or maybe the hitherto unexplored kobucha? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @thepickyeaterchronicles.
Recipe for smoky, spicy acorn squash fries
One acorn squash
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
flaky sea salt to taste
- Prepare the squash. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.* Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and other ugly innards. Slice the squash into half moons, roughly resembling the shape of a french fry.**
- Cook the squash. Lay the squash out in a single layer on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway through (the squash should should have deep brown spots when it’s done—trust me, this is the tastiest part!).
- Season the squash. Mix the smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground cayenne in a small bowl; you can also add more flaky sea salt to taste. When the squash is done cooking, generously sprinkle it with this seasoning and toss. Enjoy!
*If cooking in the air fryer, spray squash with cooking spray, and cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through. This will yield crispier edges with a still-soft center.
**Fun fact: I quickly googled “how to cut acorn squash” before making mine, and the guy in the video peeled his, so I thought I had to also. Turns out I didn’t, which is good news for all of us because that was a pain!