Sunday, October 19, 2008

Butternut Squash and Fennel Gratin, Cooking with ‘Chef Deb’

This is a reprint of the recipe that ran in this Wednesday's , Times-Call . To tell the truth, I was more excited about this article then I thought I would be. I actually bought several papers and showed it to the cashier. That's me! She simply smiled and said, "that will be $1.50"....

For those of you who missed the article, click on the the title of this post.

Even more exciting, were all the people who came to the market for the first time and stopped by to say "hi". I was happy to chat with many of you, I apologize for being so busy. This was a very special Saturday and there was a lot going on. If I did not have a chance to do so, I would like to say:

Welcome to the Longmont Farmer's Market!

I hope you make going to the market a regular Saturday tradition. We have so much to offer in terms of local produce and products and it is a positive way to keep our local economy strong.

I love Gratins.
These are not even remotely related to the American versions of "au gratins", which are oily and cheese laden.

In this very French dish, the vegetables are baked in a small amount of cream and/or half and half, and sprinkled with a few tablespoons of cheese, or buttered bread crumbs. This basic recipe works with any vegetable or combination of vegetables you can think of: sweet potatoes, kale, potatoes, leeks, cauliflower, cabbage, etc., etc.. Yes, you can make it lower fat by substituting some broth for a bit of the cream. But why would you?

When making Gratin, always add boiling liquids to your vegetable before baking it. The hot liquid speeds up the cooking time and creates a creamier dish.

Try this recipe at home, and play with the ingrediants.

I served this dish at the Farmer's Market Community Lunch, and everyone love it (of course, it was described as the 'orange stuff ').


This is what it looks like before it is was eaten before I could take a photo of the "after".

                      Butternut Squash and Fennel Gratin
4 as a Main course
6-8 as a side dish

2-2 1/2 pounds Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, sliced thinly
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small bulbs fennel, cored, stalks removed, thinly sliced (save the fennel fronds)
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic
1 pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1/2-cup half and half
1/2-cup heavy cream
3-4 ounces grated hard local cheese (or gruyere, parmesan, pecorino)
Sea or kosher salt
Fresh Ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350° Butter or oil a 9 x 13 inch casserole pan.

Place a medium sized skillet over medium-low heat, next add olive oil and sweat* the fennel and onions until both are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Next add nutmeg, cream, half and half, 2 teaspoons sea salt and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Chop a few tablespoons of the fennel fronds.

Place half of butternut squash in the bottom of the casserole; top with half the fennel/onion mixture, some fennel fronds, and lightly salt and pepper. Repeat, ending with all the cream and fronds. Salt and pepper again. The cream will not cover all the squash, but it will bubble up while it cooks.

Cover casserole with foil and place in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, top with grated cheese and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, before eating. Enjoy
*Meaning: cook at a lower heat and there should be no color or caramelization on your vegetables, you just want them to release their natural juices

Thanks for stopping by!

Chef Deb


subway said...

This is awesome, I've gotta save you to my favourites haha.

I'm also a chef by the way..

Chef Deb said...

HI Subway,
I see you are from the UK. I am obsessed with English food! Even one of my sous chefs is from England..
Glad you stopped by..
Chef Deb

Anonymous said...

Delicious! Highlight of my plate ;)


p.s I was at the store and noticed you in the paper...very cool!

Chef Deb said...


You are so easy, I love feeding you. You're such a happy foodie!

Chef Deb

soupchef said...

Deb this was great! I soaked the fennel in the cream for a while, then just layered - some on the bottom, then a slice of squash, then enough sauteed spinach to cover about half the squash, some more fennel, a little cheese, the cream poured in and baked for about 30 min covered. Uncovered and baked for about 10/15 until fennel was starting to brown and most of the liquid was gone. This was a real hit, even with a friend who claims not to like squash. Served with apple cider/mustard glazed quail, and a wild rice medly. Great fall dinner, thanks Deb! Cathy from laramie

Chef Deb said...

Thanks Cathy,

I often use kale and no-bake pasta noodles for a more modern take on Lasagna. I can think of no better way to get squash haters to convert..cream and cheese will do it every time!

Thanks for the comment Cathy and I look forward to working with you again!

Chef Deb