In my humble experience as a Mom, I have found there are windows of opportunity for introducing new foods to kids. When they’re very young most kids want plain foods that don’t touch on the plate. Gradually as they get older you can introduce them to more exotic flavors and textures but it does take time. Again, there are exceptions and for those of you who have adventuresome eaters at a very young age – be grateful.
When our kids were probably 8 and 10 years old they had a negative experience eating butternut squash. My husband was cooking dinner one night while I was teaching an evening cooking class. Thinking he was adding more of a good thing, he doused the cut chunks of squash with extra brown sugar and sent them into the oven to roast. The result was overly sweet squash that the kids deemed after a few bites “inedible”. And so with the stroke of too much sugar, they went on strike for eating butternut squash – honestly for many years. I think of this every time I cook butternut squash and it reinforces how an experience can leave such a strong impression. Fortunately, my kids are over it and they’ve loved eating butternut squash for many years now.
My one skillet recipe featuring butternut squash uses bone-in, skin on chicken thighs or breasts because of the flavor they give to the finished dish. But you could make this with boneless, skinless breasts or thighs and for vegetarians and vegans you can use tofu and vegetable broth (see note below recipe).
With a little pre-chopping of onion, fresh ginger, garlic, butternut squash and cilantro, this recipe goes together quickly. The French call this “mis en place” and it’s a very efficient way to organize getting everything ready so the actual cooking process goes quickly. I use a vegetable peeler to peel the butternut squash and I recommend cutting it into a larger one-inch size piece rather than smaller. The amount for the cayenne pepper makes the recipe just slightly spicy so if you want it spicier, add more.
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or chicken breasts or a combination (see note)
- 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 3 cups 1-inch chopped, peeled and seeded butternut squash (small squash)
- ¾ cup canned coconut milk or light coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or Italian parsley
- Cooked rice
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper; set aside. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet pan; skin side down add chicken and cook until browned, about 5 minutes; turn and cook until the other side is browned, about 5 minutes; remove and keep warm.
- If necessary, drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan; add onion, ginger and garlic and cook and stir until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in curry, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne.
- Add chicken broth, bring to a simmer and add chicken back to the pan. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add butternut squash, making sure it is at least partially submerged in the broth and continue cooking until chicken is cooked through and squash is tender when poked with a knife, about 10 minutes longer.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and keep warm. Stir coconut milk into the sauce; bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in cilantro, then season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce and squash over chicken.
- Serve with cooked rice.
If using tofu, use a 14-ounce package (drained) and cut into bite size pieces; set aside. Cook onion, gingerroot and garlic in olive oil until softened, about 3 minutes; stir in curry, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne. Add chicken broth; bring to simmer and add butternut squash and tofu; cook until squash is just tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and cilantro; bring to simmer and cook until sauce is slightly reduced, about 3-5 minutes. Serve with cooked rice.