By Cathy Barrow

Special to The Washington Post

When I plan my Thanksgiving menu, I keep its complementary fall colors in mind — the russet and bronze of a roast turkey, the distinct greens of string beans, Brussels sprouts and kale, and the flame oranges and golds of winter squash.

There is great variety in squashes, my favorite fall shape shifter. They pair with curry in one dish and cinnamon streusel in another. For the holiday, I have transformed winter squash into soups, soufflés and stews, but this year I will use it to fill a savory slab pie. It can feed a crowd, be made a day in advance and is served at room temperature. In other words, it is a formidable addition to the side-dish arsenal.

While this vegetarian pie could be made with kabocha or Cinderella or Hubbard squash, I choose the humble butternut.

Look for heavy, unblemished specimens, seeking out those with long necks and bulbous ends that are on the small side, because the bulb's flesh surrounding the seeds tends to be watery and/or stringy. The cylindrical, seedless neck is denser and easier to peel and cube.

Because this recipe calls for a quantity of puree, the smaller and adorably named buttercup squash is too petite to fuss with for this pie.

I am aware that some cooks avoid working with winter squash because its prep can be daunting. Rather than succumb to the pre-cut and often tasteless shrink-wrapped cubes at the store, I have a solution: Poke the squash with a sharp knife in a dozen spots then microwave it until it is fork-tender. Let it cool for a few minutes, and the skin will be easy to remove. The flesh emerges ready to mash and tuck into a pie.

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