Thursday, October 4, 2012

Butternut Squash and Leek Gratin

When it comes to butternut squash, I tend to rotate the same set of recipes. Most frequently, it's soup. No soup is as creamy, sweet and savory, all at the same time, as a homemade butternut squash soup with a dollop of sour cream, or a swirl of balsamic syrup. Next on the list is butternut squash creme brulee. And finally, butternut squash bread pudding.

This is the first time, however, that I've make butternut squash gratin. A gratin is a simple, baked dish, similar to a casserole, with a golden, browned crust on the top. For this recipe, I've added onions and leeks to the squash base. A final topping of cheese and breadcrumbs, and a short time in the oven, and that's really all there is to it.

This is an easy recipe, the most laborious parts being peeling and cutting the squash, and washing the leeks. For those who haven't cooked with leeks before, you might be wondering what is so difficult about washing leeks. The problem with fresh leeks is that they are grown in sandy soil, which then finds it way into the many tight layers of the vegetable. This is why it is so important that you take the time to carefully wash them before cooking. (I found a quick tutorial of the process on YouTube.)

Having made this dish for the first time, I am confidant that it would become one of my regular butternut squash recipes. I'm even thinking that it would make a lovely side dish for our Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Butternut Squash and Leek Gratin
Serves 4 to 5

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 small onion, diced
1 medium leek, washed and chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
8 oz mozzarella, sliced or shredded
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup grated cheddar
2 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 300oF. Spray an 8" x 8" baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a bamboo or stainless steel steamer, steam the squash until fork tender. I did it in two batches so that the cubes of squash cooked evenly.
3. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat, and add the onions and rosemary sprigs. Cook until lightly browned on the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped leeks. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Cook until the leeks are softened, for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary sprigs.
4. Combine the squash, onion-leek mixture, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Layer the slices of mozzarella on the top, followed by the breadcrumbs, and finish with the grated cheddar. Baked at 300oF for 25 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve warm.