Unlike caramelizing onions, which is all about low and slow cooking, this take on caramelization relies on an understanding of heat and movement in the pan. To get that beautiful golden sear on squash, don’t crowd the squash pieces in the pan. If they are packed too tightly, they will steam instead of sear. Even if you can fit all of the squash into the pan at once, don’t. Cook it in two batches. Thinly cut delicata squash doesn’t need to be peeled. The skin offers a nice textural contrast.
The move that will really help you here is the flip. You see chefs using the flip in busy restaurants and on TV. Instead of using a spoon or spatula, which can cause your ingredients to break, they quickly shove the pan forward and up so the ingredients lift up and flip over, falling back into the pan. Try this several times per batch. Flipping turns the squash over quickly and creates a fast, even sear. (And for the sake of your wrist and arm, practice with a lightweight pan! This is one of the main reasons chefs use the black steel pans that I recommend.)
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 (1½- to 2-pound) delicata squash, unpeeled
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Flaky finishing salt
- Carefully cut the stem end off the squash, then cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut each half crosswise into half-moons about ⅛ inch thick, or about the thickness of two quarters. This is one of those times when being accurate with your knife cuts is important, as each piece needs to be as close to the same size as possible to cook evenly.
- In a large bowl, toss the squash with 3 tablespoons of the oil, the salt, and the pepper. In a lightweight sauté or black steel pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the squash and cook, flipping the pieces frequently (every 10 to 15 seconds), until tender and golden brown on both sides (some blistery dark spots are okay), 4 to 5 minutes. During cooking, move the pieces with a spoon or tongs as needed to ensure each one makes contact with the pan. .
- Transfer the first batch of squash to a plate or baking sheet and gently spread out the slices so they will cool. Avoid piling the squash slices into a bowl, which can cause them to continue cooking and break apart. Cook the second batch of squash in the same way with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- To serve, briefly warm all of the squash together in a large sauté pan. Sprinkle with flaky salt and serve immediately