I know it’s not Tuesday, but I have these Maple Habanero Squash Tacos. And are you really going to deny them for the sake of an alliteration? I’m not. I’m not bound to food holidays. I like to live my life on the edge, so yeah, I’ll eat a taco on a Wednesday, tuck into one on a Sunday, and yes, even chow down on a Thursday – Tuesday’s natural enemy. I’m not exactly sure why I think those days are enemies, it just feels right. And yes, I agree this intro is fairly unhinged but I promise these tacos are not. Buttery squash wedges glossy with a maple habanero glazed tucked into warm corn tortillas and finished with a blistered jalapeño crema. There’s no way to say no to these any day of the week.
Not only are these tacos spicy-sweet masterpieces, but they’re also easy to put together and cheap to make. Honestly, when you eat meat-free a few nights a week, you will save money on your grocery bill. This recipe makes a meal out of a single buttercup squash and the supporting cast of veg is nothing extravagant either. When I was in university, I was a vegetarian and it was almost entirely for financial reasons. I wish I had an altruistic reason but I don’t.
Now, unfortunately, a squash will make you work for it. In this case, you have to split, deseed, and peel the squash before cutting it into wedges. Luckily, buttercup squash isn’t as difficult to crack into as some other varieties but it still puts up a decent fight. Peeling the squash is the real pain. But having said that, you could leave the skin on. As you roast the squash the skin will soften. So you could eat the skin and barely notice it. I haven’t tested it, myself. But I have a pretty solid hunch it would work. If you do decide to peel your squash, go slow and watch your fingers.
Once the squash is peeled, cut it into wedges and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. It’s time to make the glaze for them. And the glaze is a simple three-ingredient situation. First, add your favorite habanero hot sauce to a small pot. Then add some maple syrup and half a stick of butter. Melt everything down and brush it all over the squash wedges. If habanero is a pepper too far for you, Frank’s or another cayenne-based hot sauce is a reasonable substitute. Just make sure whatever hot sauce you choose has a solid vinegar hit to it. We want that tang.
When your squash is glazed and gleaming, pop it into the oven and roast it for 15 minutes. This is the first of three roasting cycles. And if you think that this will cook the hell out of the squash, you are right. That is precisely what we’re trying to achieve here. We want the squash to be melt-in-your-mouth soft when we pop it into our tacos. We’re also trying to build up a thick lacquer of glaze. Liberally reapply the maple habanero mixture to the squash in between the roasting interludes. When all is said and done, you should have glossy, buttery squash with caramelized edges that taste like spicy butterscotch.
Everything else in these Maple Habanero Squash Tacos is a walk in the park, especially if you have a mandolin on hand. But before I get to that, let’s blister some jalapeños. And we’re going to do that by heating a cast iron griddle or skillet over high heat until smoking. Whatever hot surface you chose, once it gets a good smoke on it, add the jalapeños and don’t touch them. Once they too are smoking quite a bit, roll them onto another side and repeat. Continue this process until all sides of each jalapeño are heavily blistered.
Set all but two of the jalapeños aside. Deseed your selected peppers and place them in a large food processor. Blitz until the peppers resemble mulch. Transfer the puree to a bowl of yogurt and give it a stir. And there you go, you have your crema. And with the squash and crema done, you are less than 10 minutes of light chopping away from dinner. Less if you have that handy mandolin.
These Maple Habanero Squash Tacos feature an assortment of fresh veggies. I left them undressed because I thought the tacos had enough going on. But if you feel the need, you could add a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and a squeeze of lime. Anything more than that would likely overwhelm. As you can see, these tacos sport red cabbage, radish, and cilantro. You can use any or all of these veggies. You could use an entirely different cast. But whatever you choose, make your veggies, cool, crisp, and refreshing. The crema and squash have quite a bit of, um, personality.
I mentioned using a mandoline, but if you don’t have one or the thought of using one scares the bejesus out of you, you can chop everything with a knife. Just try to make sure you chop everything as finely as possible, particularly the cabbage. These tacos work best when you can fit a bit of everything into a single bite. So take the time to chop everything good and fine.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Maple Habanero Squash Tacos with Jalapeño Crema. A worthy and fiery candidate for your next supper no matter the day of the week.
Maple Habanero Squash Tacos with Jalapeño Crema
- cast iron griddle or skillet
- Food Processor
- 1 large buttercup squash deseeded, peeled, and cut into wedges
- ⅓ cup habanero hot sauce **
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp kosher salt divided
- 4 jalapeños
- ¾ cup yogurt 3% milk fat or higher
- 1 lime juiced
- 12 corn tortillas
- ¼ head red cabbage shredded
- 4 radishes sliced thin
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro sprigs tightly packed
- Preheat the oven to 400°F
- Arrange the squash wedges on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set them aside.1 large buttercup squash
- In a small pot, place the hot sauce, maple syrup, butter, and half of the salt. Place the pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the butter melts and the mixture becomes homogenous.⅓ cup habanero hot sauce **, ¼ cup maple syrup, ¼ cup unsalted butter, 1 tsp kosher salt
- Brush the glaze all over the squash and place them in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes have passed, glaze the squash once again before returning it to the oven for another 15 minutes. Repeat these steps once more for a total cook time of 45 minutes. The squash should be on the verge of falling apart. Set aside to cool slightly.
- While the squash is in the oven, heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over high heat until smoking. Add the jalapeños and don’t touch them until they begin to smoke. Roll them to another side and repeat. Repeat until the jalapeños are blistered on all sides.4 jalapeños
- Take two of the jalapeños and remove their seeds. Place them in a food processor and blitz until they resemble mulch. Transfer the puree to a bowl and add the yogurt, lime juice, and the remaining salt. Stir to combine. Chill until ready to serve. Slice the remaining jalapeño into rings and set them aside.¾ cup yogurt, 1 lime, 1 tsp kosher salt
- Return the griddle or skillet to the heat and lightly warm your corn tortillas. Transfer the warm tortillas to a tortilla warmer or wrap them in a lint-free tea towel to keep them warm and flexible.12 corn tortillas
- To build the tacos, place 1-2 squash wedges in a warm corn tortilla. Top with red cabbage, radish, and blistered jalapeño rings. Finish with a dollop of crema and a sprig of fresh cilantro. Serve immediately with lime wedges and cold beer.¼ head red cabbage, 4 radishes, ¼ cup fresh cilantro sprigs