As a home cook, I am often asked about my Thanksgiving menu. This is the holiday that is known for marathon cooking (and eating) sessions. My inner chef should be elated with all the details that go into planning such an epic meal.
Nope. Not me. I am the Thanksgiving version of Scrooge!
For the last 26 years, my Thanksgivings have been hijacked by in-laws. I went into this marriage knowing that this was part of the deal so I am far from a victim. The privilege of always having a place to go where food is plentiful is not lost on me.
My hard part of my holiday is that my in-laws are not into cooking. They enjoy the traditions of all the Thanksgiving basics like a turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. There is a creativity that is overlooked every year so the meal is exactly the same.
I will say my mother-in-law makes the best stuffing and no amount of begging will persuade her to share her technique with me. Other family delicacies include my sister-in-law’s famous cut up raw carrots and celery and my brother in law’s crockpot broccoli with Velveeta. (I may not be invited back this year if I say anything more.)
I’m “allowed” to make gravy every year which gives me great joy but in years past anything different I’ve tried to add to the menu has been refused. My southern sweet potato casserole doesn’t have the required marshmallows on top, my Brussels sprouts are too green and there are no indentations on my cranberry relish.
There was some hope for change last year when my niece helped me design a delicious cheese and harcuterie board. It was well received and cracked the door open for some new dishes on the table.
Giving up was not an option so it was time to shred the negative old Thanksgiving mindset and make something new like these shredded butternut squash fritters. The key was to make something that was completely unexpected, irresistible and wouldn’t be compared or alter any favorites. Not too hard, right?
I’ve made butternut squash fritters in the past with mashed squash. Very simple but texturally boring. Shredded squash is a great alternative because it allows the various edges to crisp up. There will be some soft components but also some crunchy parts.
Using the larger holes on a box grater makes the perfect size pieces but if you have a food processor with a shredding disc, I’m sure that would work too. I will say shredding is a great teamwork task because it is a bit of a workout. It can also be a great stress reliever if you need that sort of thing during the holidays.
Butternut squash is adaptable to various seasoning but in this case, I prefer something with a little heat like chipotles. Most other Thanksgiving dishes are bland so the chipotle pepper adds some excitement to the menu. There is just enough fire in these fritters to make your nose run a little but it will not be the kind of heat that makes your mouth burn or take over the overall flavor profile.
Finally, the fritters are extremely light so even those who avoid fried food may take pleasure in enjoying a bite or two. I did try to make an oven version and it just didn’t give me all the good feelings as the fried.
Butternut Squash Fritters
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Makes 40 Fritters, serve 3-4 per guest
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
2 lb butternut squash, 4 cups grated
1/3 cup of flour
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
2 eggs, beaten
4 minced chipotle in adobo, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
Optional: Mexican crema or lime slices for serving
1. Peel the squash.
2. Grate the squash with a box grater. Keep turning the squash as you grate it. Start by grating the top neck. When you get down to the round belly, you can easily slice it in half to remove the seeds and then continue grating. You can also just use a food processor with a grating option. (This is the most time-consuming part of the recipe.)
3. In a large bowl, add the squash, chipotle, garlic, cilantro, parmesan, eggs, green onions and 2 -3 tablespoons of flour to start. Combine together. If it seems too wet, keep adding flour one tablespoon at a time. You want it to come together enough so you can scoop it and mash it into a disc. It will not be doughy enough to handle. It will go from scoop to pan.
4. Prepare a landing pad for your cooked fritters. A cookie cooling rack or some brown paper bags work perfectly
5. Heat a cast iron pan over medium high heat.
6. Add 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. The oil will be shiny when it is hot enough to drop in the squash.
7. Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, gently place a scoop in pan and use your spatula to flatten it out. Do not overcrowd your pan. You may have to cook in batches and also have to add more oil.
8. Look for the edges to get brown (about 2-3 minutes) and then flip and cook for another 3 minutes.
9. Remove from pan and place them on your landing space. Salt them when they are hot out of the pan.
10. Serve with slices of lime or drizzled with crema. (They really don’t need anything else.)
I highly recommend just serving them as you go. You probably can hold them in a low oven (200 degrees) for a little bit if you want to serve larger batches. Just don’t stack them or they’ll get soggy.
I hope you all have a wonderful month of cooking. I’m grateful that I married into a family who gathers together every year. (And who also appreciate my passive aggressive cooking humor!)
If you are looking for wonderful positive cooking inspiration, The Chopping Block is hosting our Customer Appreciation Day, Friday November 10th in Chicago. Free demos and tastings will get your own creative juices flowing.
If you are looking for a Thanksgiving Crash Course, join our virtual demonstration on Sunday, November 19 from 10am to 2:30pm. Get all your questions answered in the comfort of your own home as our chef prepares everything virtually from their kitchen. It is a game changer!