This is the mother of all fall side dishes. The abundance of squash and apples this year is something to celebrate and we definitely celebrated with this meal! Where I appreciate experimenting with different applications for the same ingredient – there are some moments when you don’t mess with the tried and true. In the case of squash, I will never argue that the best way to prepare it is simply roasting in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and just let it roast until it is browned, slightly caramelized and ready to melt in your mouth. Perfection!!!
Knowing that this squash would melt in our mouths, the perfect balance was the crispy slaw that accompanied this. The last CSA box of the year was bountiful and inspired our meal. So, a big thank you to Unteidt’s for the gifts of squash, apples, fennel, shallots, and their maple syrup was the plus that blessed this dish.
I wait each year for delicata squash to be in season. It is one of my favorite squashes – next to butternut squash. There is a little love/hate with butternut squash – only because of the work needed to peel that gourd if you want to cube it – which I definitely do most of the time. On the other hand, the Delicata squash is one where you can eat the peal, which makes preparation much faster.
To my palate, delicata squash is similar to an acorn squash when roasting, only with a slightly lighter, less stringy mouth feel, but still full of depth with an almost mashed potato consistency when you take a bite. It is amazing that you can cut into the roasted squash and grab with your fork, but it so easily melts in your mouth when you take a bite. Love it!
The contrast comes from the apple and fennel slaw and the punch of the apple cider vinegar. It is the brightness that helps bring everything together and could not be easier to throw together. It starts with julianning and slicing the apples, fennel and shallot so they are similar in size. Then coating the slaw with the juice of one half a lemon to prevent from browning while you make the dressing. Top the slaw with the dressing and let sit in the fridge for 30 mins while the squash is roasting and you are almost there.
Assembly for me was one of the best parts, in large part due to the desire to achieve height with my plating. Over the years, I have often thought of plating and how that impacts the photography on this page, but I get a slight imposter syndrome, as I am not a professional chef with plating skills, nor am I a professional photographer – cooking great food and sharing is a life long passion. So, on occasion when I get to plate where I feel like, ‘Dang!!! That looks amazing (and almost professional) and I am damn proud of that!’, it just feels really good. And isn’t that what cooking is all about – feeling good, nourishment, feeding others and seeing them smile.
I am very happy to be sharing how proud I am of this dish and what felt like the perfect fall meal to my family and I.
Roasted Delicata Squash w/Apple & Fennel Slaw
- 1 large (or 2 small) delicata squash, rinsed and sliced into rings and seeds removed
- 2 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 2-3 ounces goat cheese
- Candied walnuts
- 2 apples, rinsed, julienned
- 1 fennel bulb, rinsed, and thinly sliced
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- Juice of half a lemon
- 3 Tbls apple cider vinegar
- 3 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbls maple syrup
- 1 Tbls Brandy
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp minced rosemary
- 4 springs fresh thyme
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 425° and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place sliced and cleaned squash rings on the pan, drizzle with olive oil and finish with salt and pepper. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty when making sure the squash is coated in the oil and salt and pepper. Place in the oven for approximately 40-45 mins, turned every 10-15 minutes to get both sides nice and caramelized.
While the squash is in the oven, combine the sliced apple, fennel, and shallot in a bowl and coat with the lemon juice to prevent browning. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining slaw ingredients until the salt is dissolved and the dressing has slightly emulsified (you can tell this happens when all the ingredients have combined when there is a creamy appearance of the dressing).
Coat the slaw with the dressing, stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for 30 minutes for flavors to combine.
When the squash comes out, assemble by placing the delicata ring on your plate, filling the center with the slaw and drizzling some dressing over the squash. Top with goat cheese, candied walnuts, fresh rosemary, and salt and pepper to your taste. Enjoy as a side dish or as a main course!
*Experimental Spoon Original.