Dan’s Thanksgiving Squash

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and on my table there will be a butternut squash casserole that has been part of our annual feast for nearly 30 years.

This casserole came to my attention, believe it or not, at our wedding reception. Andrea and I were married in October 1987 and had our reception at the now gone, but fondly remembered, Wishing Well Party House in Rochester, NY. When planning the menu for the reception, the Wishing Well manager spoke of their “famous squash casserole” and I was a bit skeptical… I like squash, I thought, but was it really something I wanted on my wedding reception buffet? Still we were assured that it was always featured on their buffet menus and it was a favorite among the Wishing Well guests. So, okay, we’ll have the squash. As you can guess, the dish was amazing and Andrea and I loved it (and so did most of our 200 guests). The following year I recreated that “wedding squash” recipe for Thanksgiving  dinner, and it has been a centerpiece of our traditional Holiday meal ever since.

Now when I was growing up my Mom made squash for the Holidays but it was a simple preparation of mashed winter squash (usually from those little frozen boxes) with some salt, pepper, and butter. It was a vegetable after all and nothing fancy. Quite honestly, it wasn’t my favorite. Back in those days the extravagant Holiday side dish was always the candied yams (which, by the way, came out of a can) topped with butter, brown sugar and mini marshmallows — or doused with maple flavored pancake syrup (Staley’s brand)  — and baked to a bubbling, sticky-sweet decadence.

Dan’s Thanksgiving Squash on the other hand has a nice balanced flavor profile of the subtly spicy, savory butternut squash and the sweet, crunchy pecan streusel topping.

Dan’s Thanksgiving Squash is made with butternut squash since it yields a good quantity of usable flesh after it’s been peeled and seeded — but you can successfully use any variety of orange flesh winter squash (i.e. hubbard, acorn, buttercup, red kabocha). Hint: Since winter squash can be difficult to peel and dice, I look for the fresh “cleaned and cut” butternut at my local Wegmans supermarket. But if you can’t find fresh pre-cut squash and want a short cut you can definitely use those little boxes of frozen squash instead.

Dan’s Thanksgiving Squash

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 45-60 minutes
Serves: 8-12 as a side dish

6 cups diced Butternut Squash (about 2 med squash)
4 TBSP Butter – melted
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Flour (Regular or Gluten Free)
1 TBSP Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Pecans – finely chopped
6 TBSP Butter – cut into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Place diced squash in a large saucepan with about 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and allow to cook until very tender (about 15-20 minutes). Drain and mash with a potato masher until smooth.
3. Add melted butter, pumpkin spice, vanilla, and salt to squash and stir to combine. Pour squash mixture into a 3-4 quart casserole  or 9×13 pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Set aside.
4. Prepare topping, by combining flour, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, and chopped pecans in a mixing bowl. Cut in butter pieces until combined and crumbly.
5. Spread the pecan topping evenly over the squash mixture in the casserole dish.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and serve.

There you have it, Dan’s Thanksgiving SquashI hope your family enjoys this dish as much as mine does (my father-in-law calls in advance to make sure I’m making it). This side dish is sweet, savory, and just plain yummy! It’s a great addition to your Holiday dinners. Perfect next to the turkey and stuffing. But if it doesn’t make it on your Thanksgiving table this year, then try it the next time you make roasted chicken, ham or pork… and I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

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