winter squash pancakes with crispy sage and brown butter
There comes times in every cookbook author’s life that they have a very specific kind of gift to bestow on unsuspecting others — tasty, deeply loved dishes that were dismissed/ejected/left homeless in the editorial process because they didn’t make the cut. The reasons may be myriad; the ingredient, format or flavor felt redundant with another dish or, as happened here, something else about it gnawed at me until I decided it was best to move on without it.
I believe we call these rejects. I, however, prefer to call them displacements, and I’m not even sad because this means I get to share it with you sooner. These are my most favorite dinner pancake to date and I loved them as endlessly when I made them for the first time two years ago (it’s true, I am this slow at book-ing) as I did when I revisited them last weekend. Here you use any roasted, mashed winter squash — I’ve made this with both kabocha and butternut but you can use whatever you have or can get — and you whisk it into a quick, thick batter with sour cream or buttermilk, flour, eggs and then, instead of the predictable sugar and pumpkin spice, we add salt, pepper and gruyere or parmesan, if you’re feeling it (no surprise here: we always are) and spoon them into a frying pan just like you were making pancakes on a Saturday morning, if you are the sort of person who does such things.
Not that anyone asked the details, but this is where I got stuck. Do we serve them with a yogurt sauce? Eh. Some sort of salsa verde? Probably, but they were so mellow, I wasn’t sure they needed anything so sharp. And so I started Googling “savory squash pancakes” and all the way at the bottom of the second page of results, I discovered that someone, the lovely and dangerous* Mimi Thorisson had gotten to my pancake idea first and I was very sad because I like to believe every thought that comes to my head is a special butterfly/unique snowflake, even when the evidence to the contrary mounts. And then right after I was sad, I realized that the recipe had did something mine had not yet — stuck the landing. Thorisson has you finish the pancakes with a bit of sage crisped in brown butter that you pour over the pancakes and it is everything, the perfect coda. It’s also a little crazy — yes, we’re just going to pour some butter over these pancakes like we’ve never heard of arteries — but I find that very little goes a long way and also that there’s absolutely nothing else on top that will be half as unforgettable.
* I had coffee with Mimi, her husband and two of their gorgeous kids a couple years ago and by the end of the hour was so charmed, the spell they cast is so pervasive, I was 100% ready to buy a farmhouse in France. Actually, I still cannot remember why we have not.
1.5 Years Ago: Artichoke Gratin Toasts
2.5 Years Ago: Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms
3.5 Years Ago: Bee Sting Cake
4.5 Years Ago: Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch
Winter Squash Pancakes with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter
I prefer my own winter squash pancake — a little more squash, less flour and an additional egg to help it set — recipe but the crispy sage brown butter is inspired by a Mimi Thorisson version (link to come once site is back online). Thorisson recommends 5+ tablespoons butter but I found even 2, or even “2-ish” makes a finish that trickles over the side of a stack just enough that you can taste and enjoy it but not drown in richness, definitely adjust to your taste.
Finally, I can just about guarantee that you will not regret if you double this recipe. The pancakes keep well in the fridge and can also be frozen.
- 1 cup (8 to 8 1/4 ounces) roasted and mashed winter squash
- 1/3 cup (80 grams) yogurt or sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (about 30 grams) finely grated gruyere, comte or parmesan
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- A few grinds of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
- Butter or olive oil for frying pan
- 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
- A pinch or two of salt
- A few fresh sage leaves
In a large bowl, whisk squash, yogurt, eggs, cheese, salt, pepper and baking powder until smooth. Add flour and stir until just combined. Batter will be thick.
Heat a large frying over medium-low to medium heat. Coat the bottom with butter or olive oil, or a combination thereof, and spoon in pancake batter, a heaped soup spoon or scant 1/4 cup at a time. Press the back of the batter mound to flatten the pancake slightly. Cook until golden brown underneath, flip and then cook until the color until golden brown on the second side. If this is happening very fast, lower your heat. If you’re worried pancakes have not cooked in the center, you can finish them for 10 minutes in a 250 degrees oven. You can also keep your pancakes warm there until needed. Repeat with remaining batter.
To finish, wipe out frying pan and place butter, a pinch or two of salt and sage leaves back in it, heating over medium. The sage leaves will crisp and the butter will brown in a minute or two so keep a close watch on it. Pour leaves and butter over pancakes and quickly understand why you’ll never have them another way.
To roast squash: For butternut or kabocha, I halve the squash, scoop out the seeds and roast it face-down on an oiled baking sheet that I’ve sprinkled with coarse salt at 375 for 40 to 50 minutes, until tender. I get about 2 cups mashed squash from one 2-pound (i.e. small-medium) whole squash. If yours is already peeled and in, say, 1-inch chunks, it will likely be tender in just 25 minutes (just updated after rechecking my notes).