Butternut squash, leek, and hazelnut gratin

Butternut squash gratin can be served for lunch with a side salad, or as a side for a holiday meal.

Beyond the Peel
Combine roasted butternut squash, leeks, cheese, and fresh herbs then top it off with hazelnuts to make a creamy baked gratin.

Depending on which camp you’re in, the arrival of fall is good news or bad news. Either way, cheesy butternut squash gratin with leeks and hazelnuts is good news! We chose to eat this for lunch one day with a salad and then had it for dinner as a side dish. It makes about 6 servings but can definitely be made to serve a crowd if need be. (For those Canadians out there, you might even want to add this to your Thanksgiving menu on Oct. 14.)

I never post that much when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner here at Beyond the Peel. There are only two of us, rarely have family around, and Thanksgiving is simply not as big of a deal in Canada as it is in the United States. But I do have some fun recipes I make for small groups or even when it’s just me and the hubby.

I like this sumac cornish game hen recipe from Bon Appetit and it’s become my go to fast-and-an easy substitute for cooking a whole turkey. I like making game hens because they are so fast to make and one hen makes 2 servings (inexpensive and without too many leftovers). Because I’ve made this recipe several times I have a few recommendations: Only brine for 2 hours (otherwise it gets too salty) and cook the hens whole in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 20-25 minutes. Now that’s a fast turkey. I serve it with this white bean cauliflower mash, butternut squash gratin (see below) and these paprika spiced green beans and pine nuts. No meal is complete without a starter and this carrot ginger soup is perfect for the fall. A perfect finish is this fool-proof  5-minute chocolate dessert.

Now back to cheesy butternut squash goodness….

I used one very large butternut squash. I used only the top half of the squash for this recipe so that I could get 12 nice sized rounds. But you could cube the whole squash and toss it in olive oil and salt and pepper and make this recipe that way, too. You decide. I saved the bottom part of my large squash to make a soup. If you would like to do the same, I recommend this one.

Roasted squash

1 medium squash (or 1 large, top part only, bottom saved for soup)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Peel and slice the squash. Cut the top portion into 1/2 inch rounds or cube. The bottom part can be sliced in half, seeds removed and diced or sliced.

3. Brush rounds on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. If using cubes, toss the whole lot with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

4. Lay the slices or cubes on a baking sheet and cook until tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Butternut Squash Leek and Hazelnut Gratin

1 batch of roasted squash, 12 rounds or equivalent (recipe above)

1 leek, whites only, cleaned and sliced

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup grated Fruiliano or other mild cheese (Mozza, Gouda, Swiss, Monterey Jack)

1 cup heavy cream (or unflavored nut milk, for a lighter options)

3 tablespoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup almond meal

1/4 cup sliced hazelnuts

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a medium frying pan over medium heat, cook the leeks with the butter until softened, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

2. Mix the cream with the chives, thyme and nutmeg and set aside.

3. Grease a 9×9-inch baking dish (I used a 6x11-inch). Put half the squash slices (or cubes) in a single layer at the bottom of the pan. Top with half the cooked leeks and half the grated cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a final layer of squash, top with remaining leeks, followed by the cheese. Pour the cream mixture over the squash. Sprinkle with almond meal and hazelnuts.

4. Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Serve as a meal with a tossed green salad or along side a Thanksgiving Dinner.

Recipe Note: Lighter cream or milk may curdle from the heat of the oven. Use heavy cream in this recipe or nut milk if you’re looking for a lighter option.

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