Winter is clearly coming, as evidenced by my serious fatten-up efforts. Forget the plummeting temperature; when I start having an almost constant supply of homemade cookies and brownies on hand, it’s all over. There’s no looking back. Summer? What summer? In the weeks leading up to the opening of the restaurant I’ll soon be working at, I’ve had a lot of time to cook, eat, drink wine, repeat. (Walk, read, do yoga, play house in my new apartment, catch up with friends, watch movies, etc blah blah etc. I swear I’m not only eating…)
I’m not necessarily good with idle time – well, I’m good at entertaining myself, but can also be a workaholic, so too much idle time and I get stir crazy. Regardless, it is the time of year to take a bit more comfort in your meals, and I have been happily doing so. This gratin is no exception…as comforting as cookies, but is actually good for you. Delicious root vegetables; shallots steeped in cream with thyme, garlic, and hot pepper; and just enough parmesan on top for that great texture. It’s so yummy as a lunch or light dinner with a simple salad, a side with perhaps roast chicken and garlicky kale, or for breakfast with a fried egg and greens. And Thanksgiving!
This recipe is adapted from The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters, but with many a great suggestion from my roommate, who is a professional cook. Hey thanks Nora! Really brought it to the next level.
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 medium celery root
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 shallots, sliced into thin rings
- A couple thyme sprigs, picked and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, pounded
- A pinch of hot pepper
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
- A couple tablespoons parmesan, grated
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Trim the bottom and top of the squash and peel using a vegetable peeler. Cut in half lengthwise, remove and discard the seeds, and thinly slice crosswise. It helps to use a mandolin if you have one.
For the celery root, trim the top and bottom, and use a sharp knife to cut off the knobby bits before using a peeler. Otherwise you’ll be peeling forever. Then cut in half lengthwise and thinly slice crosswise. Set the squash and celery root aside, separately.
In a small heavy-bottomed pot, mix together the cream, half and half, thyme, garlic, hot pepper, shallots, and season with salt to taste. Heat until warm — you can keep it on low while you assemble the gratin.
In a gratin dish or low-sided baking dish, lay down a single layer of the squash, being sure to pack the slices in as tightly as possible so to have an even layer. Sprinkle a little salt on top. Then put down a single layer of the celery root and another sprinkling of salt. Scoop out half of the shallots steeping in the cream, and spread on top of the celery root. Repeat all these layers once, then finish with a final layer of only the squash.
Pour the warm cream over the vegetables, pressing down with a spatula. They should be fully submerged with pressed on, but will release liquid as they cook. You can always add a little more during cooking if needed, but this should be enough.
Bake in the oven at 375F for about one hour total, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the veggies are tender when poked with a butter knife. After 35 minutes, check the gratin and press down with the spatula to bring the liquid up to prevent the vegetables from drying out. When the gratin is done, take it out, turn the broiler on, and top with the parmesan. Pop it back in the oven for just a minute or two, until you evenly melt and lightly brown the parmesan.
Voila. All the meals will be happy this week. You can also freeze any leftovers to enjoy later.