What to CookButternut Squash

Autumn Root Vegetable Gratin with Herbs and Cheese

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In Cooking from Every Angle, we hear from our fearless leaders: Food52 co-founders Amanda & MerrillThis post is brought to you by our friends at Weight Watchers, who celebrate gathering together around the table to enjoy wholesome, beautiful food.

Today: Merrill shares a savory vegetable gratin that highlights her autumn market haul. 

I don't know many people who would turn down a potato gratin, do you? What I love about this classic dish, other than its near universal appeal, is that it is deceptively simple to make relative to its beauty. Plus, you can probably make it with what you have in your fridge and pantry right now.

My go-to gratin is the one I learned in cooking school; it relies on garlic-infused milk instead of cream, and the potatoes are thinly sliced and added to the baking dish raw. (I find par-boiled gratins are often grainy and/or mushy, and you can't layer the potatoes into the dish in as pretty and precise a pattern if you've already cooked them.) Other than the garlic, all you add for flavor is salt, pepper, and some Gruyère cheese -- that's it. You bake the gratin in a hot oven until the potatoes are tender and the milk thickens into a sauce, and you've got a gorgeous, versatile side dish.

After having relied on my old standard for over 15 years (yikes!), I decided to shake things up a bit. With all the lovely roots and tubers appearing in the markets, why not apply the same technique to a mix of vegetables? And maybe I could even throw in some herbs and switch up the cheese while I was at it.

Having gotten my hands on a pretty little butternut squash and a pair of handsome parsnips at my local farmers market, I picked some rosemary and thyme from my window box. I also sliced up a potato to mellow the flavors of the other roots and grated a nub of Pecorino I found in my fridge for some extra bite.

Alternating evenly between the three vegetables for visual appeal, I layered them into the pan with the other ingredients, and into the oven it went. The resulting dish was savory, sweet and creamy with a subtle bite from the parnips. This gratin is more complex than the all-potato version, but not so assertive that it will distract from the main event. If you're looking to live close to the edge without going straight over it, this just might be your ticket.

Autumn Root Vegetable Gratin with Herbs and Cheese

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cloves garlic
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound butternut squash
3/4 pound white potatoes
1/2 pound parsnips
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup grated Gruyère
1 cup grated Pecorino

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom 

This post is brought to you by Weight Watchers. Need ideas for dinner tomorrow? They've got you covered. Show us what you're cooking with the hashtag #biteintolife.

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Tags: Cheese, Dairy, Parsnip, Potato, Vegetable, Bake, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Amanda & Merrill, Editors' Picks