"En papillote" refers to cooking something in parchment paper or foil. The sealed environment traps steam, aromas and flavors and permeates what’s inside. It’s a great technique for fish, mushrooms or other vegetables. Since the process is more akin to steaming than to roasting, a quick sear in a cast-iron skillet at the end of cooking helps to add depth of flavor to the squash.
1 medium acorn squash
2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
3 teaspoons sherry vinegar, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons butter
2 sprigs thyme
Maple Mole, for serving (see recipe)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place 2 layers of foil roughly 1 foot square on top of each other. Slice the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and pulp. Then, using the natural ribs as a guide, slice into wedges. Place half of the squash flesh side up in the middle of the foil, and season with 1 tablespoon syrup, 1½ teaspoons vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon butter and 1 sprig of thyme. Fold the foil square in half to make a rectangle. Crimp the long edge of the foil over itself twice, and repeat on the ends, taking care to keep the foil from crumpling into a ball or tearing. Fold the foil over as many times as there is room to help keep a seal. Repeat with the other half of the squash and remaining seasonings.
Bake 30–40 minutes. Unpack the squash from the foil very carefully—the steam is quite hot—and reserve the juices. To glaze the squash, have a cast-iron pan ready over medium heat. Arrange the slices in the pan and allow them to sear and take on some color; work in batches if the slices don’t all fit. Return all the squash to the pan with the juices from the foil packs and gently glaze the squash until they are golden brown all around. Serve with maple mole sauce on top.
BEN RIGBY is a professional cook, freelance writer and anthropologist. Amateur gardening and banjos round out the days. Follow him on instagram at @rigbybenjamin