It is officially fall in our neck of the woods, which means the food focus shifts from outdoor grilling and quick meals to slow cooking and comforting casserole dishes. After receiving a big old butternut squash in our CSA box last week I got to thinking about how to use it. I'd been planning a home cooked meal since Brandon would be in town for the weekend and knew he'd be craving something other than school food. We're all big fans of gratins and scalloped potatoes, so I decided to use my favorite gratin ingredients to whip together this savory and flavorful butternut squash gratin. The result turned out to be an amazing dish that will be a go-to fall favorite in our house for years to come.
Ingredients: (serves 4-6 as a side)
- Butternut squash, 4-5 pounds, long skinny neck cut off and skin peeled
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried sage (I used fresh dried sage)
- White pepper
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
I was able to use some of the freshly dried sage my mother had dried and preserved from her summer herbs in this recipe (see how she did it in this weekend roundup post). I'm bringing it up because I feel it really added depth to this dish, even though store-bought sage will sub in fine. Both Stephanie and Brandon commented and picked up on the depth of flavor the sage brought, which makes a dad proud.
In this recipe we are just going to use the neck of the butternut squash, so you can reserve the bottom portion to use in other recipes. An inexpensive mandoline definitely comes in handy here. Slice the squash to even 1/8 inch thick rounds. Spray or butter a lidded casserole dish thoroughly and it's time to start building up the layers!
Start by layering a portion of the squash on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle a layer of cheese and sage leaves. Top with another layer of squash, sprinkling that layer with white pepper. Alternate this layering method until you end with a layer of the remaining cheese.
Preheat oven to 350° and heat the heavy cream on stovetop over medium heat until almost at a simmer. Remove from heat and pour into casserole over the layered squash and cheese.
Top with lid and place in the oven for 50-55 minutes rotating the dish 180° halfway through the cooking time. This is where things are gonna bubble, melt and meld together in the most delicious of ways.
Note: If your casserole dish does not have a steam hole (which allows steam to escape) then cover it, leaving the lid a little ajar so steam can escape.
Remove from oven and allow to sit 10 minutes before serving, taking in the aromatic smells of butternut, sage and melted, bubbling cheese...
Your serving spoon should slice right through the thin layers butternut, retaining all the creamy goodness that helps make this dish so amazing.
Everyone's going to clamor over this side, so don't make plans for reheating leftovers, cause every last little bit of cheese will be scooped and scraped from the pan.