Dispatches From Whitcomb Street

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squash and turnip gratin


It’s getting to be spring! We’re getting to the bottom of our winter storage vegetables just in time—we’ve still got some hard-shell squash lurking in our pantry from last October. 

This gratin is as much about method as it is about ingredients. Any vegetable that tastes good simmered in milked and baked with cheese (read: any) will respond to this treatment—the direct heat of pan-roasting makes sure that the bottom is good and brown and able to pull cleanly free from the pan. The dairy gets good and dark, with that slightly sweet caramelized milk sugar thing that always works so well with cheese and root vegetables. Yum!

Recipe after the jump.

Squash and turnip gratin

We made this with butternut squash and storage turnip slices, but almost any combination of fibrous vegetables that don’t fall apart with long cooking would work—celery, fennel, sweet or white potatoes, whatever you like. Adjust cooking times accordingly. Some nuts tucked in among the layers might be nice. Or sharper cheese. And you can always use cream if you’re feeling decadent.

Melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a 12” oven-safe skillet with a lid. Swirl it up the sides of the pan and let cool.

Layer paper thin slices of turnip and squash in the skillet in concentric rings, seasoning with salt, pepper, an herb (we used chives, but pick your herb based on your vegetables), and a very light sprinkle of Parm between each layer. Clap on the lid and turn the heat to medium. 

Cook for about ten minutes—you should hear a not-too-loud sizzle as the bottom layers cook in the pooled butter. Take off the lid and add milk until it is just barely visible at the edges. Put the lid back on and cook for 10–25 minutes, depending on your vegetables—they should feel just shy of tender in the center when tested with a thin-bladed knife.

Take off the cover, sprinkle with more cheese and throw in a hot oven (450 F) for another 10 minutes, until the milk is absorbed and the top is looking spotty with browned cheese. Turn on the broiler if you need it.

Let the gratin stand for five minutes before cutting into it. We had ours with a rosemary-roasted chicken—Sunday night dinner, you know.


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