Tuesday, January 10, 2012

cheesy baked squash gratin

What you see here is actually the leftovers from a big dish of acorn and butternut squash chunks baked up with some bread and cheese and a little cream-- essentially, another savory bread pudding.

It's original incarnation was as a delicious, if slightly awkward to eat without utensils party food. Laura and I usually put together a pretty well received spread of party snacks, and this was no exception. That being said, I think it was even better the next morning, heated up and served with a fried egg.

I was inspired by Dorie Greenspan's stuffed pumpkin recipe, and also this version from Gourmet (RIP). which I have made before, but instead of stuffing the squash with the bready cheesy goodness, I mixed it all in a big pyrex baking dish and threw it in the oven.

Like the original Gourmet recipe, I went with a combination of gruyere and emmental cheese. I may also have thrown in some cheddar, although I don't really remember. Certainly, it would not go amiss if you did. I diced the cheese into half in cubes. I peeled my squash (with the help of some of the early party guests. I know, it's embarrassing, but it's hard to get a party started on time when you don't get home from work until 6:45) and chopped that into chunks as well, about an inch big. Let me get real repetitive and tell you what happened next: I chopped up a loaf of Italian bread. Oh yeah. I went there.

So then, I took all my assorted cubed ingredients and put them together in the baking dish, and poured in a little half and half to make sure it wouldn't dry out in the oven. Compared to the "fondue" filled pumpkin that inspired me, this cooked much faster, since it was spread out on a flat surface, rather than a whole big pumpkin full. Also, it was much drier, although it still had plenty of oozy gooey goodness. The original gets very melty and soupy, but here the cheese starts to get brown and crispy on top. This added textural contrast really makes this dish, which is creamy and delicious. Gruyere and emmental are pretty tasty, nutty cheeses, and they work really well with the sweet acorn and butternut squash.

This is not a dish that you can really write up a recipe for. I would estimate that I used roughly equal parts bread, cheese and squash. I added a decent amount of half and half, but not so much that it was swimming in it. I would say that the bread mostly absorbed the liquid. Sorry that I can't be more specific, but I assure you this is really easy, and you should try it! Mix up the squashes or the cheeses... Add some garlic, or bacon, or caramelized onions... Lots of possibilities with this one!

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