Spaghetti Squash with brown butter, walnuts and goat cheese
This dish is easy to prepare and uses the classic flavors of brown butter and walnuts and pairs them with spaghetti squash, goat cheese, and marjoram for a twist on tradition.
Serves: 2 • Prep Time: N/A • Cook Time: N/A
Spaghetti Squash with brown butter, walnuts and goat cheese
Some flavor combinations can be safely described as classics, and brown butter and walnuts definitely falls into that category. When butter is browned the milk solids, which are made of protein, sink to the bottom, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who’s ever melted butter for…well, any dish ever. The top layer of the melted butter is a golden yellow (and if skimmed off becomes ghee, one of the great secret weapons of Indian cooking), while at the bottom lies a pool of white, creamy deliciousness. Browning butter is the simple act of cooking those sunken-solids, a process which greatly enhances the already inimitable flavor of butter.
Browned butter takes on a deep, nutty flavor when prepared properly, which makes it the perfect companion to actual nuts. It’s actually kind of hard to mess up a brown-butter-and-nut pairing, as in my experience it’s a combination that kind of goes well with any nut you might want to use. For this dish however, walnuts are the way to go. Toasting the walnuts in the just-browning butter helps to make your dish wonderfully fragrant, and adds another layer of flavor. This is also a plus when you consider that spaghetti squash can be on the bland side, and needs to be dressed up a bit to really shine.
Some flavor combinations can be safely described as classics, and brown butter and walnuts definitely falls into that category.
This dish also incorporates goat cheese and marjoram. Goat cheese is actually a surprisingly versatile ingredient in that when it melts it becomes creamy, and when paired correctly the tangy flavor can be a welcome addition to dishes that might otherwise be a bit one-dimensional. Marjoram is also a bit of an unusual addition, in that it’s an oft-overlooked herb that really packs a punch in small doses. Make sure to use fresh marjoram, as the dried stuff is a pale imitation and is usually pretty gritty.
*A note on goat cheese: buy a small log of fresh chevre and under no circumstances buy the already crumbled stuff. I know I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to this, but the difference in quality is extraordinary. Crumbled goat cheese, much like crumbled feta, is a great example of how a pretty simple, traditional ingredient can be warped and ruined by mass manufacturing. Crumbled goat cheese, which will appear in plastic tubs near the pre-grated counterfeit parmesan (don’t even get me started) isn’t even the same species as regular chevre.
Also, don’t get bamboozled by price. My local Harris-Teeter supermarket tried to charge me 7 dollars for 4 ounces, a price that made me think I was literally going insane. Unless you’re buying cheese made by Amish warrior monks who only process their dairy by the light of a bloodmoon, and from a farm that’s five miles from your house, don’t pay more than around $14 per pound (which is around 3 bucks for the amount you’re going to need.) I only paid $14 for a pound of the imported French stuff, which is enough to last me for at least a month.
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First, place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter to the pan. Stir constantly as the butter melts and when it becomes fragrant and begins to foam add the walnuts to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the butter has turned a light brown. This will take around one minute, but don’t stress if that time doesn’t line up exactly: just make sure that the milk solids don’t transition from light brown to dark brown/black, as this will mean the butter is burning.
Next, add the spaghetti squash to the pan. Your squash will likely be clumpy as a result of your squeezing the liquid out of it during your mise en place, so use a fork to break up any clumps. Distribute the spaghetti squash evenly in the pan and stir to coat with the browned butter and walnuts. Once this has been accomplished, add two tablespoons of water in order to keep everything nice and loose. Sprinkle the surface of the squash with two teaspoons of kosher salt and stir again to combine. If the mixture still appears thick and clumpy, add another tablespoon of water to the pan.
Next, sprinkle the chopped marjoram leaves over the top of the squash and drop small clumps of goat cheese sporadically over the surface. The goat cheese will melt with the heat but remember, we’re not making nachos here, and it’s perfectly fine if the cheese doesn’t completely dissolve into the butter and squash. Drizzle the squash with two tablespoons of walnut oil (or olive oil if walnut oil isn’t available to you) and fold everything together with a silicone spatula or similar instrument. If everything is still very solid continue to add water to the pan, one tablespoon at a time, but this will likely not be necessary. Plate immediately once the dish is hot and everything is combined, and top with additional goat cheese and with another drizzle of walnut oil. Consume ASAP (as if you’d be able to stop yourself).
Here’s how to make this delicious recipe
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and foaming. Add the walnuts to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until butter has turned light brown, about one minute.
Add the walnuts to the pan and cook until the butter has turned light brown
Raise the heat to medium-high, add the cooked spaghetti squash to the pan, and stir to coat with the butter and walnuts. If the spaghetti squash clumps, use a fork to separate out the strands. Add two tablespoons of water to the pan along with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and stir again to combine. If the mixture still appears very thick, add additional water as needed, one tablespoon at a time.
Sprinkle chopped marjoram leaves of the mixture and drop small clumps of the goat cheese over the surface of the squash, then drizzle with two tablespoons of walnut oil.
Drop small clumps of the goat cheese over the surface of the squash
Fold together using a silicone spatula or similar implement. Do not worry if the goat cheese does not evenly distribute when folding. Plate immediately and drizzle with additional walnut oil before serving.
- 3tbsp salted butter
- 1 cup whole shelled walnuts
- 1 medium spaghetti squash (about 4 pounds), flesh cooked and liquid squeezed out
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp roughly chopped fresh marjoram leaves
- 1/4 cup goat cheese
- 2 tbsp walnut oil plus extra to finish
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Who’s Cooking Today
Jacob Dean is a freelance food and travel writer, recipe tester, and culinary product reviewer based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The Cook’s Cook Magazine, DCist, Industree, has freelanced as a recipe tester for the New York Times, and has been published by the Washington Post. Jacob has tried over twelve hundred unique beers (he keeps count).
You can find him online at jacobdeanwrites.com, on Twitter as @SchadenJake, and on Facebook as Jacob Dean Writes.
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