Monday, December 28, 2009

Butternut Squash Gratin with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

Recipe from Bon Appétit November 2007 Molly Stevens
Husband-Tested in Alice’s Kitchen with Marimar
Serves 10

Our beautiful daughter-in-law, Marimar, is a wonderful cook. When she and our son come to visit during the holidays, she and I spend much of the time cooking. We served this dish for our Christmas dinner. Our good buddies, Bob and Debbie, joined us for this special meal. Debbie was chatting away during dinner. She stopped mid-sentence and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do conversation right now….This is incredible!!” We all thought so too. You must try this for your next dinner party. It can be made in advance and popped in the oven before serving. It’s absolutely lovely to look at. There’s just a hint of sweetness from the butternut squash that is balanced perfectly by the creamy saltiness of the goat cheese and the crunch of the hazelnuts. All of the ingredients can be found at Lost River Market & Deli, including local goat cheese. (If you’ve never toasted and husked hazelnuts before, the directions are at the end of this recipe.)

• 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash (about 2 medium), peeled, seeded, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes (8 cups)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• Kosher salt
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
• 3 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only, about 2 large leeks)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
• 1 5.5-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream
• 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, coarsely chopped (If you don’t have hazelnuts or you don’t wish to bother with husking them, try pecans. However, we thought the hazelnuts were FABULOUS in this dish and certainly worth the effort!) (Hazelnuts are also called Filberts.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place butternut squash cubes and olive oil in large bowl; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and ground pepper and toss to coat. Spread out squash cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until just tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks and chopped sage; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until tender but not brown, about 15 minutes. Coat 11x7-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Spread half of leek mixture over bottom of prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of squash and half of cheese. Repeat layering with leeks, squash, and cheese.

DO AHEAD: Can be made to this point 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour cream evenly over gratin. Sprinkle with toasted chopped hazelnuts. Bake uncovered until gratin is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if previously chilled).

How to toast and husk hazelnuts: Preheat oven to 275. Place the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; Bake until the skins crack, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and roll up. Let steam in the towel for 5 minutes. Rub the bundled-up nuts vigorously. Some skin will remain; this is fine.

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