Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Butternut Squash, Bacon & Kale Gratin

ahhh- three of my favorite vegetables. Oh, wait, bacon isn't a vegetable. Downer.

This baked dish is a hearty accompaniment to any meal [86 candied yams and serve this with your bird], as well as a satiating main course. Its fairly simple to prepare, so long as you are careful not to burn the bechamel, and the ratios can even be played around with to turn this into a soul-warming fall soup.

1+1/3 lbs cubed Butternut Squash pieces [aim for 1 inch-ish pieces. Also, a 1.5 - 1+2/3 lb butternut squash should yield about 1+1/3 lbs after cleaning]
note: the easiest way to peel the squash is with an ordinary potato peeler. then cut it in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds using a table spoon.

3 strips nitrite-free Bacon, diced

small pinch Dried Thyme [barely 1/8th tsp]
1 large dried Bay Leaf, broken in half
1 small Yellow Onion, chopped
1.5 Cups 1% Milk
1/4 Cup Flour
3.5 C Kale, coarsely chopped [approximately 1 small bunch]
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for greasing an 8x6x2 baking dish 
2/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided [half goes into the gratin, the other half goes on top]
1/4 tsp Sweet Hungarian Paprika, for topping
Kosher Salt, as needed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease your baking dish.
2. Render the bacon in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Once the bacon begins to release some of its own fat add the bay leaf & dried thyme and stir.
3. Once the bacon is slightly cooked 
[about 3 minutes] add the onion, along with a pinch of salt, and cook until the onions are softened and translucent.

4. Make sure you have a whisk nearby and add the 1/4 Cup Flour. Stir to cook the flour just briefly [no more than a minute] and then pour in the milk, while continuously whisking.
5. Raise the heat to high and whisk while the mixture comes to a boil [do not stop whisking or you seriously risk scorching your bechamel], as soon as the mixture comes to a boil reduce the heat to low. Allow the sauce to cook for about 10 minutes, being sure to whisk often so that the bottom does not burn.
6. Once the sauce has thickened considerably, remove the bay leaf pieces and fold in the chopped Kale. Allow to cook until wilted, then add the parmesan cheese. Taste & adjust seasoning as necessary.

7. Now fold in the butternut squash.

8. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish, top with remaining parmesan cheese and sprinkle with sweet Hungarian Paprika and a pinch of kosher salt.

9. Transfer to 375 degree oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender and the top is browned. 

The squash releases some water during cooking, so it is normal to have a fairly loose dish. You can technically shorten the cooking time & moisture content by par-roasting the squash in advance. To do so simply coat the cubed squash with 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or Grapeseed Oil, and roast in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. When it is time to make the gratin, shorten the cooking time to 20 minutes [or until squash is tender] and increase the temperature to 425 degrees.

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