Winter Squash with Blue Cheese Butter

For me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides. I don't love turkey and, despite all evidence to the contrary, I'm not a huge meat-eater. But, those side dishes! Now we're talking. The only issue is that...sometimes...every year...there are certain sides I'm not that excited to see. Mushy sweet potatoes soaked in maple syrup and suffocating under a down comforter of marshmallows. Green bean casserole made with canned fried green beans and canned cream of mushroom soup. Box stuffing. It's Thanksgiving, everyone! Isn't that the one day we're supposed to make things from scratch?

This is a dish that couldn't be easier to make from scratch and, honestly, probably takes less than 30 minutes total. You can make the blue cheese butter up to a week ahead, and even roast the squash the squash a day or two early, too.

Also, BLUE CHEESE BUTTER!? That's right, the possibilities are endless. Once you make this, you can use the extra to nestle into baked potatoes, spoon over risotto, spread over toasted country bread.... When I made this, I was surprised at how complex something with three ingredients could be. Just be sure to use a nice blue cheese. The recipe originally called for Gorgonzola, which is creamier and more mild than the sharp blue cheese that I used from the local Santa Barbara Cheese Company. Both will be good, just choose what you like.

I changed the recipe slightly, because using a whole clove of garlic in three tablespoons of butter and cheese seemed like a lot. Also, I couldn't see how to really measure three tablespoons of blue cheese well, so I just did it by weight. Don't worry if you don't have a scale; I think the point is that you would have equal portions of cheese and butter. Also, I really didn't see why I would stand over a pan and lightly fry the pieces of squash, as the recipe instructed. When I have the choice, I always prefer to have something hanging out in the oven while I wash dishes or sip some tea. No one wants to stand over a pan for over 40 minutes turning squash. So, do what I did, roast.

Winter Squash with Blue Cheese Butter

Serves 2-4

Adapted from Deborah Madison

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized winter squash (blue hubbard, butternut, Kabocha, any will work except spaghetti squash and acorn)
  • 2 oz butter (4 tbsp)
  • 2 oz blue cheese 
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup crushed, toasted walnuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Take out the butter and cheese and allow to warm up slightly.
  2. Peel the squash using, if you have one, a serrated peeler. If not, a regular peeler works, too. Be sure to get off all the outside skin and well into the orange colored flesh. Then, cut the top and bottom off the squash so that you have a flat face on which to rest the squash. Sit it on its flat side, and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and scrape the cavity there to be sure it's clean. (You can reserve the seeds to clean and roast OR, even cooler, make a quick squash "stock" to use in soups and rice. Waste not want not- can I get a what what?)
  3. Place the squash cut side down (with the seed cavity sitting on the cutting board), and slice the squash into half moons or wedges, about 1/2" thick. Toss the squash slices in the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and place in the oven. I like to start mine on the floor of the oven so that the squash gets a good sear on the one side, but you have to be careful if you do this. Just watch it to be sure that it doesn't burn. Usually, I take it off the oven floor after about 5 minutes. Roast the squash for 10 minutes on one side, then turn each piece over using a fork and roast another 10 minutes, or until well-browned and tender all the way through when you taste a bit. 
  4. While the squash is roasting, cut the butter and cheese into pieces. Slice the garlic clove and remove the inner green sprout, if there is one. Put the garlic clove on the cutting board and lightly chop it. Sprinkle it with salt and olive oil and allow to sit for a few minutes. Then, chop it with your knife over and over until you get a rough paste. Add the paste to a medium sized bowl, along with the cheese and butter. Use a fork to mash everything together until it's almost, but not quite, homogenous.
  5. When the squash is done, arrange it on plates or a serving platter topped with as much of the butter as you'd like, and a sprinkle of parsley and walnuts.