Thanksgiving is the biggest eating holiday of the year, pored over exhaustively by every media outlet that covers food. Rather than pile on yet another recipe for turkey or sides, we wanted to offer a couple of easy recipes to bookend the main meal. All three can be made with supermarket ingredients, and each relies on that mainstay of the autumn table, winter squash. If you’re looking for a simple, flavorful way to start the meal, roasted squash plays a starring role in both this delicious soup and our favorite Thanksgiving salad, which also features chestnuts, cranberries, and pancetta (everything really is better with bacon). The maple flan, which can either be made in a cake pan or individual ramekins, is the perfect companion to apple or pecan pie. We wish you happy and delicious times with your family and friends!
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
As soon as the butternut squash appears at the farmers market, this soup is in heavy rotation in our kitchen. The depth of flavor comes from roasting all the vegetables together. We dressed it up for the holiday with some crème fraîche, toasted pepitas and a drizzle of chive oil. But the stripped-down version is just as good.
- 2 butternut squash (about 2 lbs each) halved and seeded
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 8-10 fresh sage leaves
- 2 carrots peeled and halved
- 1 onion, quartered
- Splash of olive oil
- 4 cups chicken broth, homemade or storebought
- 1 tsp chinese five-spice powder
- Salt & pepper
- Crème fraîche
- Toasted pepitas (toast until you hear them start popping, be warned, they burn easily)
- Snipped fresh chives
- Chive oil (see recipe)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place the squash skin side down in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate the squash and the rest of the vegetables–you may need two pans. Place 1 tbsp butter in each squash cavity along with 1 tsp of brown sugar and sage leaves. Arrange the carrots and onion around the squash. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour 1 cup of stock in the bottom of the pan and cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 1 hour or until the squash is tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
Once squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the squash pulp out of the skin and into a soup pot. Add the vegetables and whatever cooking liquid is left in the pan. Add remaining 3 cups of chicken broth and the Chinese five-spice powder. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well, bring to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes.
Puree the soup in batches in a blender (hot liquids can splatter, so use caution and don’t overfill). Return it to the pot and adjust the seasonings. You may also stir in a cup of water if the soup seems too thick. Reheat then ladle into bowls and garnish each portion with a dollop of crème fraîche, a few pepitas, a drizzle of chive oil and a sprinkle of chives.
Soup serves 8-10 in bowls, more as an appetizer
- 1 bunch fresh chives
- ½ cup sunflower or canola oil
Blanch the chives in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and put the chives in an ice bath. Drain and wrap chives in a paper towel removing the excess water.
Put the chives in a blender with the oil and a pinch of salt. Blend until bright green, then strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.
Thanksgiving Salad with Roasted Squash and Chestnuts and Cranberry-Pancetta Dressing
Adapted from Epicurious
We like to make the separate components of this salad ahead of time, then combine just before serving. It’s also a simple recipe to scale up for a crowd.
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for greasing
- 1 2-pound acorn or other thin-skinned winter squash, well washed
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 cup peeled cooked whole chestnuts (from a 7- to 8-ounce jar), cut into thirds
- 6 oz slices pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- ¼ cup fresh cranberries, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tbsp whole-grain mustard
- 10 cups mixed salad greens: we like chicory and arugula, but any sturdy kind will do
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Line a large shallow baking pan with foil and oil generously with olive oil.
Trim, halve and seed squash, then cut into ½-inch-thick slices. Transfer slices to a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Arrange in a single layer in lined baking pan and roast until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn squash over with a spatula. Add chestnuts in an even layer, then continue to roast until squash is golden and tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
While squash is roasting, cook pancetta in a dry 10-inch heavy skillet over high heat until browned, about 4 minutes total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet.
Reheat pancetta fat over moderately high heat, then add cranberries and brown sugar and stir once to combine. Remove from heat and add water, stirring and scraping up brown bits from bottom of skillet. Transfer cranberry mixture to a medium bowl and whisk in mustard, remaining tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Toss together greens, roasted squash, and chestnuts. Just before serving, toss with dressing and sprinkle with pancetta.
From David Lebovitz and Ina Garten
For the maple caramel:
- 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
- 1/3 cup (80ml) dark amber maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt or kosher salt
For the pumpkin flan:
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 can unsweetened pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix), about 1½ cups
- ½ cup (125g) mascarpone
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- finely grated zest of ½ orange, preferably organic
Make the maple caramel first: cook the sugar and maple syrup in a small, heavy-duty saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer over medium heat without stirring, although you can swirl the pan to combine the ingredients at the beginning. When the temperature reaches 230ºF (110ºC), immediately remove from heat, sprinkle in the flaky sea or kosher salt and pour the caramel evenly into an 9-inch cake pan (not a springform pan) that has sides at least 2-inches high. You can also spoon it carefully and quickly into individual ramekins. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Using a stand mixer with the whip attachment, or by hand in a medium-sized bowl using a sturdy whisk, mix together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, canned pumpkin and mascarpone until smooth. Whisk in eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, allspice, and orange zest.
Place the caramelized cake pan or ramekins in a roasting pan and pour the custard over the back of the large spoon or spatula into the cake pan or ramekins, over the caramel.
Add very hot tap water to the roasting pan so that it reaches halfway up the outside of the cake pan and bake the custard on the middle rack of the oven until just barely set, about 70 to 75 minutes. Ramekins will take less time: start checking at 20 minutes. When done, it’ll be slightly jiggly in the center, but set around the edges. Remove the flan(s) from the water bath and let cool completely on a wire rack, then cover and chill 3 to 4 hours (or overnight) before serving.
To serve from cake pan, run a sharp knife around the outside of the flan to release it from the sides of the cake pan. Lay a serving platter upside down on top of the flan and using both hands, flip the flan and the serving platter over simultaneously. Holding both the cake pan and platter, shake to release the flan. If it doesn’t release easily, slip your finger on one side of the flan, near an edge, to break the airlock; you should feel (and hear) the flan release slowly. Don’t rush it, but let it release and fall out gently, so it stays together. If serving in ramekins, unmolding can be messy–leave in and serve with a spoon.
The pumpkin flan can be made up to three days in advance and kept refrigerated.