M. Andrew Gordon

The Versatile Buttercup Squash

In Desserts, Soups and Stews on October 6, 2009 at 2:38 am

The buttercup squash doesn’t get enough credit.  Sure, everyone sees the venerable butternut squash, with its sleek tan shape, everywhere.  And the acorn squash with its dark green skin and neat ridges is pretty common.  Squash CheesecakeHell, even the hubbard squash for all its bulbous grey-green glory, gets some pub.  But the buttercup – yes, buttercup, not butternut – just seems to be the forgotten gourd.  It is a shame, because I think it’s one of the best squashes.  And so I found myself with a good sized buttercup this past weekend.  TIP: look for squashes that look heavy relative to their size; they should be dense and if it feels light it might be a sign that the squash is getting stringy, which is not good.

Now that I have reconciled the passing of summer’s culinary opportunities and am fully embracing what is one of my favorite stretches of the year in terms of seasonal dishes, it figured that Sunday would turn out to be a nice day after all.  The pork and buttercup squash stew I had made seemed a little out-of-place, especially when I walked outside and noticed the summery scent of a charcoal grill wafting through the neighborhood.

But the stew had been made the day before and, for lack of a better word, had been stewing all day.  It was a simple preparation consisting of only a few ingredients and a handful of spices.  I had a pork tenderloin I wanted to use up, the aforementioned buttercup squash in the cupboard, and a lonely sweet potato.  Add an onion, a clove or two of garlic, and a bottle of beer (to be honest, had I chicken stock on hand, I would have used it although in the end I think the beer really helped the dish) and the main ingredients were taken care of.

However, it still seemed that something was missing, so I looked through the shelves and decided a can of roman beans would do just the trick.  Of course, had I had dried beans at my disposal, I could have used them since I was not planning on eating this stew until the following day.  But using the canned variety makes this stew something that could be put together quickly after work.  When using canned beans in a stew or a chili, I like to add them last and to not let the beans cook for long, so as to not let them break down too much.  This could also be put into a slow cooker and left during the day, leaving the only work when you get home adding the beans.

Pork and Squash Stew

Pork and Squash Stew

The end result was a rich and flavorful stew, the curry really pairing well with the pork and squash/sweet potato.  As their was brown ale used as a base, I found a Smuttynose Brewing Old Brown Dog Ale to pair quite nicely with the stew.

Optional: toast the seeds from the squash and sprinkle them over the stew for added texture, which I did.  You’ll see when I get the pictures up, but unfortunately they’re not on my camera.

Pork and Squash Stew

  • 1 pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • ½ large buttercup squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 bottle brown ale
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 can roman beans, rinsed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Rosemary
  1. Brown pork, remove.  Add more oil, cook onion and garlic until soft and fragrant.  Add squash and sweet potato and toss to coat in oil, cook for several minutes.  Add beer and reduce liquid to half.  Add  water, cinnamon, sugar, chili powder and curry powder.  Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes.
  2. Add beans, season with salt and pepper, and put sprig of rosemary in dish.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Buttercup Squash Cheesecake

Having used only half the buttercup squash in the stew – it was a rather prodigious buttercup – I was trying to think of an interesting use for the remaining half.  Visions of squash biscuits, all orange-hued and flaky, were the first things to come to mind.  But then I started thinking of other, less obvious choices.  One might argue, quite successfully I suppose, that squash biscuits is not obvious to begin with.  But, regardless, I began brainstorming.  What if I cooked the squash, mashed it, added cream cheese and goat cheese, and created a not too-sweet cheesecake that still maintained the characteristic tanginess of the goat cheese?  In hindsight, I may have been able to get away with more goat cheese in the mixture.  But the end result was rather successful, I think.

Buttercup Squash Cheesecake

Buttercup Squash Cheesecake

I did some research, found a few recipes which I adapted, and off I went.  Because of the earthiness of the squash, I wanted to stay away from the usual graham cracker crusts that seem so pervasive among cheesecakes.  Instead, I toasted pecan halves and pulsed them with sugar in the food processor and then added some melted butter for a sweet and nutty crust.  I might experiment with this and add some salt or even chili powder as I think that might really create an interesting flavor, especially with a non-typical cheesecake.

Filling:

  • 2 ½ cups mashed squash, buttercup, butternut, acorn, hubbard, etc.
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pinch clove
  • 2 large eggs

Crust:

  • 1 ½ cups pecans
  • ¼ sugar
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Cook squash until soft.  I put the half into an 8 by 8 baking dish with about a half inch of water, covered it and baked it for about an hour at 350.
  2. Make the crust.  Toast the pecans and grind them with the sugar in a food processor.  When ground add the butter and pulse to combine.
  3. Butter a 10-inch spring-form pan or pie dish.  Press the pecan mixture into the dish and bake at 350F for approximately 12 minutes, or until the crust is starting to brown.
  4. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, goat cheese, and spices and pulse to combine.  Add the squash and pulse several times to incorporate.  Add the eggs and pulse to just mix the batter.
  5. Pour squash mixture into prepared pie crust and bake at 300F for about one hour, until the middle is solid but just slightly jiggles.
  6. Please help come up with a better way to describe the cheesecake jiggling.  I don’t like it at all but can’t think of another way to describe it.

Special thanks to Maeghan Silverberg for her photography!

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  1. Matthew,
    The buttercup dominates the butternut any day, hands down. Much richer and creamier. Try stuffing half buttercup squashes with a sausage-bread stuffing and baking them. Fabulous.

  2. I’m glad to hear that the buttercup squash has more proponents than myself!

    The sausage stuffing inside a buttercup sounds like a delicious option, one which may well grace the rhetorical pages of this blog at some later date.

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