There is a season: Low and slow for Thanksgiving butternut squash

  • Slow-baked butternut squash with garlic, golden brown, is melt-in-your-mouth good. MOLLY PARR

For the Gazette
Published: 11/21/2020 1:21:07 PM
Modified: 11/21/2020 1:20:52 PM

Confession: I’ve never made a Thanksgiving feast. We alternate years at my Aunt Bev’s, an excellent cook, and at my mother-in-law’s, an excellent quilter. However, given the landscape of the Jewish calendar, I’ve already prepared at least half a dozen feasts in the past eight months — for just the four of us, of course.

So this year, we are doing our first Thanksgiving. Just the four of us — last week, we finally removed the extra chairs from the kitchen table that sits eight comfortably. No one else has been in that room but us, and no one is coming over any time soon. Maybe we’ll have a small bird — chicken, not turkey, probably — but really, it’s all about the sides.

I found this particular recipe in Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” I was intrigued by the idea of cutting the squash into tiny cubes, not to mention five cloves of garlic, a little flour, and a long, slow bake that promised “crusty cubes of squash tinged brown on the edges.”

Madison wrote that she learned the technique from Richard Olney’s book “Simple French Food.” Typically, Madison cuts the squash into larger pieces, but for a festive celebration, like your small Thanksgiving meal, I say cut them small for the low and slow. I mean, where else do you have to be?

There is no shame in buying peeled and already cut-up butternut squash; you have my full support. But if you do start with a whole squash, I tend to peel mine, then cut the long stem from the base so I have two smaller pieces to work with, rather than one large clumsy cylinder.

I made this for my parents alongside a galette filled with mushroom, caramelized onion and gruyere. You can easily replicate this with a little time for the filling, and all of 10 seconds on the dough. It’s made using the same galette recipe from June, which then I’d filled with broccoli and blue cheese.

Together, these dishes would go a long way for a Thanksgiving feast for just a few, which may be all you need this year!

Provencal winter squash gratin

From Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”


2 to 2½ pounds butternut squash

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ cup chopped parsley

Salt and fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons flour

Extra virgin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 325 F and oil a shallow earthenware baking dish.

Peel the squash and cut it into even-sized cubes, from one-third inch to 1 inch. Toss it with garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.

Add the flour and toss again until the pieces are coated lightly, letting the excess fall to the bottom.

Pile the squash into the dish and drizzle oil generously over the top.

Bake, uncovered, until the squash is browned and tender when pierced with a knife, about two hours.

When served, the individual pieces will collapse into a puree.

Molly Parr lives in Florence with her husband and two young daughters. She’s been writing her food blog, Cheap Beets, since 2010. She was furloughed from Smith for the summer and is using the time to work on her first cookbook. Send questions or comments to

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