Acorn Squash with Ginger Nutmeg Custard
Fine dining with the Table Queen.
Psst! Some shortcuts just for you...
January 04, 2021
Cook: 2h 0min
The common dark-green acorn squash is also called Table Queen. This recipe roasts the squash halves, fills each one with a silky ginger-flavored custard, and makes everyone who tastes it happy and prosperous. Or something like that.
Allow me to get you ready for your next trivia night by filling your head with stories and facts about the beloved acorn squash. Well before any European hit the shores of the Americas, Native Americans in Central and North America were cultivating and enjoying what we know as the acorn squash. Back then, people supposedly grew the fruit for its seeds only, discarding everything else. Today, most recipes (including this one) typically ask you to scoop out and discard the seeds in preparation for cooking and eating the flesh and skin. Now that’s irony.
Eventually Europeans started making nautical journeys to the west and were introduced to the acorn squash. At some point, the most common variety of acorn squash was named Table Queen. I like this name so much that I nearly named this recipe Table Queen with Ginger Custard, but figured this might make the recipe nearly impossible to find through Google searches and dropped the idea. Gotta look out for number one, you know.
One last thing regarding the Table Queen. While it seems that most people agree that the acorn squash is indigenous to the Americas, there are others who claim the little green guy made its way to North America all the way from Denmark. Mostly this means that someone told a lie at some point in history, and now we’re all confused. Lying equals confusion, and that’s where we’re at with the history of the acorn squash.
Today’s recipe is split up into two basic segments. First, you will be halving, preparing, and baking the raw squash sans custard. This is done because acorn squash flesh requires a higher temperature and a longer cook time than custard. If you baked a raw acorn squash bowl filled with the liquid custard simultaneously, you’d either end up with an extremely overcooked custard, or a very undercooked squash. That’s all there is to it.
Once the squash halves are done with the initial baking, they need to cool down a bit before adding the custard mixture. Add the liquid with eggs in it to a hot surface and you might end up with acorn squash filled with scrambled ginger and nutmeg eggs. Gross.
Custard baking can be very intimidating. As you near the end of the cooking time for a custard, all of a sudden the following questions arise: It jiggles a little, I think? Is it done? Oh wait, maybe it’s too runny in the middle? I inserted a clean knife in the middle of the custard, and I think it’s coming out mostly clean? You know how it goes. If you’ve never baked a custard before, all it takes is a thermometer and a bit of trial and error to go from custard coward to custard...conqueror?
The basic, need-to-know science behind baked custard is this: custard begins to set at 160° F and begins to curdle at about 180° F. The ideal temperature you should hit before removing it from the oven is 170-175° F. Use a digital read thermometer and your life will be much easier. Since you are cooking the custard in a thick squash shell, I found that any sort of water bath is not necessary.
A few notes on serving. The final product should sit and cool for at least an hour before serving. This will give the custard time to fully set. I consider the dish to taste just as delicious the next day after being stored in the fridge overnight. Happy baking!
(click each step as you go to keep track of your progress)
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Acorn Squash with Ginger Nutmeg Custard
- Prep time: 10min
- Cook time: 2h 0min
- Serving size: 4
- 2 acorn squash
- 4 tsp olive oil
- salt, for sprinkling over squash
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 50 g (1.7 oz) ginger
- 2 whole large eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 180 mL (3/4 cup) heavy cream
- 240 mL (1 cup) milk
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 220° C (425° F). Cut squash in half lengthwise, from tip to stem. Use a spoon to scoop and discard the seeds. In order for each half to lay flat and remain stable, slice off a thin strip from the back of each squash half. If this sounds confusing, look at an example in the pictures above.
Place the four squash halves on a sheet pan. Drizzle each half with 1 tsp olive oil. Place a thyme sprig inside each squash, and sprinkle everything with salt. Bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes, or until the squash begins to feel tender.
Remove from the oven, discard thyme, and allow squash to cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 150° C (300° F).
Finely grate the ginger. Transfer the grated ginger to a fine-mesh sieve. Use a spoon to scrape and pass the ginger through the sieve. Discard the remaining solids and set aside the bowl of ginger that passed through the sieve.
In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, cream, and milk until homogeneous.
Add the salt, nutmeg, and ginger. Stir until combined.
If not still on the pan, place the four squash halves on a sheet pan. Fill each squash half with the custard liquid. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 55 to 65 minutes. The custard will jiggle slightly when done. If using a digital thermometer, the internal custard temperature should be between 75-80° C (170°-175° F).
Remove from oven and allow the custard-filled squash to cool for at least an hour before serving.
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