A big sharp knife slicing through a huge, tough, wobbly, oblong-shaped pumpkin can be downright intimidating. I think to myself, is it really worth it—hacking my arm off to make this soup, bread or whatever it is I am making that day? Honestly, I get nervous every time I grab that big knife. But the result is worth it, because kabocha squash is absolutely delicious. The texture of this squash, which is often called a Japanese pumpkin, makes whatever it’s being turned into a creamy, flavorful, and delectable delight.
Here are my straight-from-the-cutting-board-trenches tips on prepping a kabocha squash for roasting.
• Wash and dry the squash.
• Use only a large, sharp knife.
• Place the squash on a sturdy cutting board—put a damp dishtowel underneath the board, so it doesn’t slip. Another method is to cradle the pumpkin in a dishtowel on top of the board and actually cut it on the towel.
• Slice it in half first, cutting just next to the stem. If you can get your knife through half of it, then you can usually pull the rest of it apart.
From here you can do one of two things:
Simply roast: Leaving the seeds in and the skin on, place the squash face-up in a roasting pan or cookie sheet, cover with foil, and cook at 400 degrees for a bit longer than an hour. (Suzanne Goin, in her cookbook Sunday Suppers at Lucques, says this technique adds more flavor.)
Peel, dice and roast: First, scoop out the seeds and save them for snacking. Next, turn the squash halves cut side down so they’re stable, and use your knife to remove the skin in a rounded fashion (making sure no green stuff is left on the squash). If you have a super-amazing, durable peeler, you can use it here but in my experience the skin is so tough that none that I have used has worked for this type of pumpkin. Needless to say, if you have one that works for this, will you let me know what it is?
Always point the knife downward, and move it away from your body. Please! I know it’s Halloween season but let’s try to avoid kitchen gore; I was only joking about hacking my arm off. Once the squash is peeled, you’ll find that it’s easy to slice into strips, which you can then dice into 1-inch cubes and roast for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees.