Butternut Squash Baked with Cream and Thyme
By Catherine Newman
Makes: 8 servings
Total carbohydrates: 9 grams per serving
Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes
AND CHEESE is not in the title, because it was getting too long, but rest assured there is plenty of cheesy deliciousness in this gratin. I love to make a rich, filling vegetable side like this because it can do double duty as a main dish for the vegetarians. But if lots of folks are going to eat mostly this, then double the recipe. Two other things: 1) The shallots are a tiny bit fussy, since you have to sauté them. I love the savory richness they add, but you can totally skip them. 2) The only hard part of this recipe is wrangling a leathery-skinned squash into peeled cubes; if you’d like to start with raw cubes that someone in the supermarket has already kindly created and put in a bag, please do. You’ll need 2 pounds.
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt (or ¾ teaspoon table salt)
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (use dried, if that's what you've got), plus more for garnish
Black pepper, to taste
1 shallot, thinly sliced (or a tablespoon or so of finely chopped onion)
1 squash (around 3 pounds—enough to make 2 pounds of cubes)
3/4 cup freshly grated aged gouda, gruyere, or parmesan (or that expensive cheese Whole Foods sells—Robusto—which I buy only at the holidays)
1. Heat the oven to 400 and grease a large baking dish.
2. Heat the butter in a small pan over medium-low heat and sauté the shallot until it is tender and just beginning to brown, around 5 minutes. Put it in a large bowl with the cream, salt, thyme, and plenty of black pepper, and mix well.
3. Peel and cut the squash. Here’s what I do: Cut off the long tube-shaped part of the squash and trim off the top stem end. Stand the tube up on its wide end and peel by slicing down in strips with a large, sharp knife. You want to peel away all the skin, but also all the pale outside layer of the flesh, to get at the dark orange part. Cut the peeled tube into ¾-inch chunks, and weigh them. If you’ve got 2 pounds of cubes (around 4 cups), you can put aside the trickier bottom part to use later, after the holidays are over (if it ends up in the compost, I won’t tell). Otherwise peel and chunk it as best you can, scraping out and discarding the seeds, or roasting them, if you prefer.
4. Put the squash in the bowl of cream and mix well, then pour it all into the baking dish.
5. Cover with foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.
6. Uncover the squash, gently stir in half the cheese (I use a rubber spatula for this), sprinkle on the remaining cheese, and bake, uncovered, another 15 minutes or so, until the top is browned and the squash is tender when you pierce it with a knife. Allow the casserole to stand for 5 minutes before serving so that any remaining cream can thicken up. Garnish with more thyme leaves, if you like.