Dealing with kabocha squash
This week another teacher and I are doing a Halloween lesson with 6th graders in which they make pumpkin pancakes. We're using kabocha squash for the pumpkin. The recipe involves cutting the pumpkin into small cubes, microwaving it, and then squashing it into the pancake batter.
To keep our precious 12 year old babies from cutting off their fingers, we're going to do the cutting into cubes part ourselves before the lesson. The problem is that this means we'll have to cut 6 whole pumpkins into small pieces... and we learned when trying out the recipe that kabocha is extremely difficult to cut since it's so hard. Are there any suggestions for an easy way to get the small pieces we want, or a way to soften the squash?
The best way to cook kabocha would be to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast it. But since you probably don't have the time for that, try cutting them in half and scooping out the seeds, microwave (cut side down) enough to soften a bit, then scoop out the flesh with a big spoon (or peel off the skin if the flesh is too hard), cube the flesh and microwave again. I've never done it this way so I can't say how long to microwave them at each step, but squash are pretty forgiving when it comes to cooking.
Good call using kabocha -- much tastier than pumpkin.
Personally, I'd wash it well and remove all the seeds and gunk, then wrap in foil and roast in the oven. If you just cut it in half. Surely the kids can handle getting all that out of the shell with a tablespoon. Also, I think it would be safer in that it would be cool. Mashing hot squash squares might be as much of a danger as the knives. At least, I remember getting pretty burned by hot potato back the first time I made mashed potatoes. The thing is it is hot and it is sticky. Although sounds like they'll be cooking the pancakes? If you have ovens available the kids can prepare the squash as far as cleaning them out after an adult just cuts them in half, then you can do a lesson of some sort while they bake, and then they can scoop them out after they cool a little?
Only other softening possibility I see other than bake them is par boil it, maybe.
First find yourself a good SHARP chef's knife - cut it in half and scoop out seeds with a melon baller if you have one. Flat side down remove the skin with a knife. Cube the squash. Steam the cubes over a double boiler or in a bamboo steamer - the result will be tender and not overly wet. You could also boil and drain.
Yes, you need a sharp knife, 6" or longer blade. I think a thinner blade is better than a thick one, because the thicker blade acts like a wedge.
I wash it, and cut it in half, then scoop out the seeds (kids could do this step).
Roasting or microwaving the halves is an option. Usually though I cut it into smaller pieces and steam them. I progressively cut the halves into halves and so until I get wedges a couple of inches in size.
I usually cook it with the skin on, and eat skin along with the flesh. An alternative is to separate skin from flesh after cooking. Removing the skin before cooking is also an option. Last time I did that used a Y shaped peeler, though a sharp knife would work. It is harder to peel than a carrot or potato.
I always microwave or roast squash halves because I find them so hard to cut into cubes. why don't you do that ahwad of time, and then you can just give the cool cubes to the kids to mush? I don't know if time time or quipment are a factor.
by the way, I have used this method with all types of recipes, and the pre cooking does not affect the final recipe, except maybe in terms of cooking time.
taking the advice of my arthritic cousin I no longer cut hard squash/pumpkins before cooking. She uses a little drill to make a hole for steam but I just stab it (aggression relief ;-] then pop in a cold oven or the microwave and cook until soft enough for your purpose. This also makes them *so* much easier to scrape seeds and peel the skin.