Kuri Squash Gratin
I love the end of September. I love the way we seem to be hovering between summer and fall: Cool mornings and sunny afternoons, the crisp smell of colder weather in the air, but no need to pull the jacket out of the closet just yet, and still plenty of zucchini at the farmers’ market, right alongside the first of the winter squashes. As much as the harsh New England winters made me hate the cold, I have to admit I love sweaters and casseroles and big pots of chili, and someday, I swear, I’ll have a fireplace, and I’ll probably light fires in it at the first sign of the inkling of a frost.
This gratin is tailor made for this time of year: It is super comfort food, but isn’t so heavy you’ll need to lie prostrate on the couch after eating it. And it combines winter squash and summer squash in perfect balance, just like late September.
Kuri squash is a new one for me. I saw it in a pile of winter squashes at the market and was instantly intrigued. It’s about the size of a small pumpkin, but of a deeper reddish-orange, and doesn’t have the ridges that pumpkins have. And it has a lovely, delicate, just slightly sweet taste, and is very fragrant. If you can’t find one, a pumpkin will probably do just as well, or a large acorn squash. But I’d try to seek out a Kuri Squash if I were you. This might be one of my new favorites.
Once I brought it home I started searching for things to do with it. I thought I would use it in place of butternut squash in a simple, basic pasta dish. But then I came across this: Gratin de Potimarron from La Tartine Gourmet. The minute I saw it I knew it was the one. And I can guarantee I’ll be making this again. This belongs on the Thanksgiving table, methinks. Even if zucchini isn’t exactly in season in late November.
The only real change to the recipe I made, other than running fast and loose with the measurements, is that I used Italian Truffle Cheese in place of the fontina. And let me tell you, that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The gratin needs only the barest amount of cheese, just enough to add a subtle something something that takes this from your basic mashed squash side dish to an inspired addition to the table.
A few pointers which I wish I’d had ahead of time: Peel the squash before you steam it. It’s a thin-skinned squash so shouldn’t be too hard to peel, and it was much more unwieldy once it was steamed. I had to steam the squash and the potatoes in two batches, because the squash took up most of the room in the pot, and they needed a bit more time than the potatoes. Don’t skimp on the salt, because the potatoes have a tendency to make things a little bland. And be prepared to make a mess. I used my food mill and ended up with mashed squash everywhere. I think it even got into my hair.
The recipe was written for the Boston Globe, so instead of reproducing it here, I’ll send you there for it. And hope that the downfall of newspapers doesn’t wipe out the Boston Globe and all its online archives. Hm, perhaps I should add it to my print recipe file. This is most decidedly one I’ll want to make again.
And yeah, I know I’ve been woefully absent. It’s inexcusable. I have all kinds of pictures and post-its with scrawled recipes all over my desk waiting for me to sit down and write them up. I’ve been crazy busy this month, traveling all over the place and working my bottom off, and trying to figure out how to plant a garden. But honestly, I’m just lazy. I’d like to be able to say that my absence is related to the new and exciting blogging venture I’m working on, all about how to eat well when you’re cooking for one. But that project isn’t getting very much attention either. It’s really just sad. However, after this weekend’s travel to the Bay Area, I should be here and home and possessing much more free time, for cooking and for writing.