Monday, December 20, 2010

Memory Maker - Festive Squash Gratin

"It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life."
- P. D. James

My Aunt Kimm is amazing! She once prepared four turkeys for Christmas dinner. One was stuffed with chestnuts and figs, one was barbecued, I don't even remember how the others were prepared, but I remember it was a feast! That holiday she also shared with me her recipe for squash gratin. It's elegant, smells like garlic heaven, and is deceivingly packed with vitamins. This is one of those magic recipes that if you don't tell the kid's its good for them, they'll mistake it for junk food. ;)

So while spending my first Christmas in tropical florida, I picked up an amazing recipe that has become a family tradition in our home. Whether we're decorating an evergreen tree or a palm tree, we always have Festive Squash Gratin.

I'll walk you through the process, but first here's the shopping list so you are sure to have everything you need.

Festive Squash Gratin

2 big heads of garlic (50 or so cloves)
1/2 tsp (càc) olive oil
1 Nutmeg Squash (2 kilo)
1 lb (500g) fresh or frozen spinach
1 tsp (càc) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp (càc) nutmeg
2 1/2 tsp (càc) Thyme
2.5 C (60cl) whipping cream (crème entière liquide)
5 tbsp (càs) bread crumbs
50g parmesan

Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C)
Tear the cloves off of the head of garlic and place them with their skins in a small baking dish. Drizzle olive oil over the garlic and place them in the oven. Roast the garlic until it's golden and tender, about 20 minutes. Then set aside the garlic until it's cool enough to handle. Reduce the temperature to 365°F (180°C). Slice the soft garlic cloves in thin slices.

Choose your squash well. I can always find a Nutmeg squash around thanksgiving time and they're just the right size for a big giant Festive Squash Gratin. The Acorn squash is also a good choice. If you can't find either of those then ask your market to recommend a squash that doesn't turn to soup when it's cooked, like pumpkin does. Butternut keeps it's firmness in the oven, so that might work as well.

Peel and seed the squash and cut it into strips about 1/4 of an inch thick.
Butter two medium glass casserole dishes (or one extra-large dish).
Arrange a layer of squash on the bottom of the dish. Dust it with the nutmeg, thyme, salt and pepper. Then distribute 1/3 of the garlic slices, and half of the spinach over the squash. Arrange a second layer of squash, repeat with herbs and spices, another 1/3 of the garlic and the rest of the spinach. Then arrange the last layer of squash, followed by herbs and spices, and the rest of the garlic. Then pour the cream evenly over the squash. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until tender 40 min to an hour at 365°F (180°C).

Meanwhile mix the parmesan and breadcrumbs in a bowl. When the previous cooking time is finished open the oven, remove the aluminum foil, use a wooden spoon to gently press the squash releasing it's juices, sprinkle the cheese mixture over the gratin, and brown the gratin for another 15 minutes. (no aluminum foil of course)

Allowing the gratin time to cool (15 minutes) before serving it will ensure that the cream firms and the whole thing should slice and serve like any good casserole should. :)

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