Butternut squash gratin

Okay, people. This is getting serious. Even my sister — who doesn’t cook — is asking me why I never post. (The answer is that I am incredibly lame about photos. When I get around to uploading my backlog, there are probably a dozen posts in there.)

But I did actually cook dinner the other night, and it was awesome. This awesome:

butternut squash gratin

Because you know what could make butternut squash, leeks, and goat cheese better? CREAM. And hey, these days it looks like it might not even kill you. This took me about an hour to get on the table, using squash that was already peeled, which is a little long for a weeknight. I have also since successfully reheated it and the leftovers are quite good.

Butternut squash gratin
Adapted from Epicurious

About 3 lbs or 7-8 c. of peeled, seeded cubed butternut squash*
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
5 T. butter
3 leeks
Sage: 1/2 t. dried or about three times that amount chopped fresh
6 oz. goat cheese
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. chopped hazelnuts**

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Put the squash into a pan with a rim (I used two 9×13″ ones). Drizzle it with olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Then roast it until tender, 35-40 minutes. It’s a good idea to stir it once at about the 20-minute mark, especially if you’re using metal pans.

Meanwhile, cut the roots and the green tops off the leeks. Cut the remaining part (the white and light green bit) in quarters the long way, then slice them relatively thinly. Dump all of the pieces in a bowl of clean water and swish them around. (Leeks have this magical capacity to grow with dirt inside them. No lie.)

Melt about 3 T. of butter in a skillet, then scoop the leeks out of the water and add them. (The dirt and grit will settle to the bottom of the bowl, so skimming the leeks off the top works a lot better than upending the bowl over a colander, thereby pouring the dirt back on top.) Add the sage and cook until the leeks are tender and just starting to brown. I found that I needed to add an additional tablespoon of butter during this process to keep them from sticking.

Take the squash out and turn the oven down to 375 F.

The original recipe calls for the gratin to be baked in an 11×7″ dish. I happen to have one of these, so I used it and it worked fine. If you don’t, a square pan (ideally 9×9, but it’s not a precision art) will work too.

Melt the last tablespoon of butter and spread it on the bottom and sides of the pan. Put half of the leeks on top of that, then half the squash. Crumble half the goat cheese on top, then repeat: more leeks, more squash, more cheese. Pour the cream over the whole thing, and sprinkle the hazelnuts on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cream is bubbly and the cheese is melty. Serve hot.

*So you can totally peel a squash yourself, but you want to make sure to get off not just the skin, but also the light orange, green-veined membrane under the skin, which doesn’t soften when cooked the way the flesh does. You can buy it already in cubes at the store (no one will know!), or, if you’re me, you can still be working through your winter farm share.
**I found chopped hazelnuts ready to go in the baking aisle of my grocery store.

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