Both my mother and grandmother loved winter squash of all sorts, and butternut was a family favorite. I knew it was fall when the scent of caramelized roasted squash filled the house. Today I decided to make a butternut squash gratin both to welcome fall and remember those happy family times in the kitchen together.
After a nasty cut suffered while hacking up a giant butternut squash, I had shied away from these beauties for too long. Armed with an improved peeler and sharper knife, I prepared my squash and walked away unscathed. And so, the return of the butternut squash, just in time for fall here in San Diego.
TIP: Roast the squash while you are preparing the gratin sauce. If your sauce is ready before the squash, it can easily rest on the stove until you pull together the gratin for baking.
Yields: 8 servings
- 1 large butternut squash (2.5 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- kosher salt and/or ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 3 cups organic whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyére cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- kosher salt and/or ground white pepper
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place the cut-up squash on a sheet pan. Add the olive oil, maple syrup, salt and/or pepper. Use your hands to toss and coat the squash.
3. Bake the squash for 30 minutes, or until tender. Use a large spoon to toss once or twice during the cooking.
4. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the milk just until it simmers.
5. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook until wilted but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and hot milk. Whisk sauce until it thickens and lumps dissolve. Add the nutmeg and cayenne. Remove pan from heat.
6. Add the Gruyére and thyme. Season with salt and/or pepper. Stir.
7. Add the roasted squash, including its juices, and mix well to combine.
8. Pour into a glass or ceramic 9 X 11 baking dish. Use a spatula to smooth top. Sprinkle panko on top of gratin.
9. Place baking dish on a sheet pan and cook for 30-35 minutes until bubbling.