joshua mcfadden's raw butternut squash with brown butter, pecans, and cranberries


It’s the day before Thanksgiving. I don’t mean to mess with your plans, but this late menu entry just messed with mine.

If you haven’t noticed, I take Thanksgiving very seriously. I’ve been hosting my family’s for the better part of two decades. At this point, I have the holiday on lock. I have my preferred method of turkey cookery, potato fluffing, cranberry popping, a stuffing to end all stuffings. All the pies, of course. And, for better or worse, you cannot convince me to change a thing. I’m never as obnoxious as I am at this time of year.

But I just tried out this salad, and tomorrow it makes the highly selective Thanksgiving cut. Here’s why: Years ago, I culled roasted butternut squash from my menu because there was simply too much mush everywhere. But this recipe uses raw butternut squash. It sounds weird, but is completely revelatory. The paper-thin squash ribbons are tossed with quick-pickled cranberries, scallions, mint, and roasted pecans. Then, everything gets bathed in brown butter. That’s right. It’s a bright zippy salad, drenched in brown butter.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s also stunning. But let’s not be superficial here.

joshua mcfadden’s Raw butternut squash with brown butter, pecans, and cranberries

Slightly adapted from Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg. 

Yes, this is another recipe from Six Seasons. I have no shame. A FEW SMALL NOTES: In the original recipe, Joshua uses currants instead of cranberries. I substitute the latter to make it more festive for the holiday. The squash ribbons are easier to make than they look. You don’t need a mandoline; a good vegetable peeler works great. This recipe utilizes Joshua’s scallion prep for salad (cut on an angle and soaked in ice water to take the edge off). To toast the pecans: bake them on a sheet pan in a 350°F oven for 6-8 minutes. ONE BIG NOTE: Make sure to have the olive oil, mint, and pecans ready to go once you toss the squash with the warm brown butter. Once the butter is on, you want to serve and eat this salad as soon as possible so that the butter doesn’t cool and set up. If it sits too long, it loses all its glory.

Serves 4.

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded
3 scallions, trimmed (including 1/2 inch off the green tops), thinly sliced on an angle, soaked in ice water for 20 minutes, and drained well
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves
1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted, some roughly chopped, some crushed


  • Put the cranberries in a small bowl and pour over the vinegar. Soak for 30 minutes.

  • Use a vegetable peeler to shave the squash into very thin ribbons. Pile the squash into a large bowl and add cranberries and soaking vinegar, scallions, chile flakes, and salt and black pepper. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning so it’s balanced and vibrant.

  • Brown the butter: Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring the pan every few seconds, until it turns a deep gold color and starts to smell fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Immediately pour the brown butter over the salad and toss.

  • Add the olive oil, toss again, and taste. Add the mint and pecans, toss, and serve right away.


November 21, 2018