At work each month a group of fellow cooks convene for “Cooking Club” and make food to bring in and share in a potluck fashion. This month’s theme was squashes/gourds/autumn vegetables. I originally wanted to make my mother’s recipe for Butternut Squash Soup but the recipe seemed too complicated. I wanted to use butternut squash as my autumn vegetable so I looked for a recipe and came across one that called for the squash to replace some of the potatoes in an au gratin.
A difficult aspect of cooking club is you often are making dishes you cannot necessarily taste before you serve it to the group, so there is some degree of trust you have to place in your recipe. The recipe is pretty easy and, judging from the comments of my colleagues, I believe came out very well.
The recipe, adopted from “12 Seasons Cookbook,” with a few photos follows.
2 lbs butternut squash (about 1 squash)
3 large potatoes (I used russet potatoes)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp chopped fresh marjoram
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream
4 ozs gruyere cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 375°F
Butter a 9″ by 12” gratin dish (the CorningWare version did fine by me). Peel the squash with a potato peeler and remove the seeds.
Slice the squash into 1/8” rounds or half circles (bottom portion). I used a handheld mandoline.
Peel potatoes and cut into 1/8” slices.
In a small bowl, combine thyme, marjoram and sage.
Layer one-third of squash slices in baking dish; use less attractive slices on bottom. Sprinkle with some of the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Layer half of the potato slices over the squash. Sprinkle with some of the herbs and half of the garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread another third of the squash slices on the potatoes. Again, sprinkle more herbs and season with salt and pepper. Spread the remaining potatoes in another layer over the squash and sprinkle some herbs and the rest of the garlic. Top with the remaining squash and herbs and season with salt and pepper.
Firmly press down on the squash and potato layers with a large spoon, spatula or your hand. Slowly pour the cream over the top and down the sides of the dish. Add enough to just barely cover the vegetables when pressed. Too much cream will result in a soupy gratin, too little will make it dry.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
Remove the foil and sprinkle with the gruyere. Continue to bake, uncovered for 25 to 30 more minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, the cream is nearly absorbed and the top of the gratin is lightly browned. Let the gratin rest for 10 minutes to absorb all the cream before serving.