These simple and sweet Baked Acorn Squash Slices with Brown Sugar and Pecans made their first appearance at Law School Friendsgiving 2011. I knocked hesitantly, steaming plate of roasted acorn squash rings in hand, expecting to walk through the door and see a bucket of KFC and a packet of Oreos spread on the table for the holiday “feast.” I could not have been more wrong.
Despite the looming presence of finals, cramped graduate apartment kitchens, and collective lack of kitchen experience, Ben’s law school classmates put together a beautiful meal. These fit right in beside homemade garlic mashed potatoes, braised collard greens, and chestnut stuffing. The host even made a stuffed turkey roulade. I was in awe not only of the quality of the dishes, but also of the time and effort each member put into their contributions.
Homemade dishes show a care and love that exceeds their plate value, no matter their level of complexity. Whether you are a cooking novice or experienced enough to execute a turkey roulade, there’s a from-scratch recipe to match your level of kitchen comfort.
These easy baked acorn squash slices are an ideal recipe both for newbie cooks and the more experienced home chef.
- For the newbies: The directions are so straightforward, I have full confidence that you can make the recipe perfectly, even if you’ve done little beyond boil noodles. Think of how impressed your friends and family will be when you pull these bubbly, fragrant spiced squash rings from the oven!
- For the experienced: This recipe is low-stress and can be prepped in advance, meaning you’ll have more time to focus on the other more involved components of the meal.
- For everyone: They are DELICIOUS. Don’t be fooled by the recipe’s ease. Its flavors are complex. The brown sugar and butter caramelize in the oven, the pecans become golden and toasty, and the hint of cayenne balances the squash’s natural sweetness.
If praline (the classic Southern butter pecan candy I’m fairly certain was invented by angels) and a roasted acorn squash had a baby, these easy baked acorn squash slices would be it.
We repeated Law School Friendsgiving every year of school after, and by request, I made these baked acorn squash slices with brown sugar and pecans every year too. Now, although law school has passed, this easy recipe is still one I make for dinner parties because it’s simple, super tasty, and I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy it. If you have any picky eaters in your family, these baked acorn squash slices are a great way to get them to eat their veggies too.
Baked Acorn Squash Slices with Brown Sugar and Pecans
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 acorn squash or similar hard winter squash, such as carnival (about 1 ½ pounds each)
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup whole pecans
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Place a rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil and maple syrup.
- Halve, seed, and slice the squash into 1-inch-thick crescent slices. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Brush the tops with half of the olive oil/maple syrup mixture.
- Add the brown sugar and pecans to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until the pecans are finely ground. Add the salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper and pulse to combine. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar mixture over the top of the brushed squash slices, reserving the other half.
- Place the squash in the oven and roast for 5 minutes, until the brown sugar begins to melt. Remove from the oven and, using tongs, a fork, or very quick fingers, flip over each slice. Brush with the remaining olive oil/maple syrup mixture and sprinkle them with the remaining brown sugar mixture. Return the baking sheets to the oven and continue roasting until the squash slices are fork-tender, about 20 additional minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- The brown sugar topping can be prepped up to 2 days in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. The squash can be sliced up to 1 day in advance. Store in an airtight container or ziptop bag in the refrigerator. Brush and sprinkle the squash slices just before baking. Once cooked, the roasted squash can sit at room temperature, covered, for up to 2 hours.
- Don’t make the mistake a few of Ben’s law school classmates did: The outside peels of the squash slices are not meant to be eaten. Simply cut away the yummy yellow flesh as you eat it, then discard the peels.
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