I love a fancy five course meal as much as the next foodie, but as nice as extravagance can be, most of the time I like keeping it simple.
Typically our meals consist of one hearty and comforting dish accompanied by some crusty bread and possibly a quick salad. I don’t like thinking about side dishes and I am usually so excited about eating what has been bubbling away in the oven, slow cooker, or dutch oven all day that I don’t really feel like having to share space in my tummy for something else.
Most meals I love are best served in a bowl and are often not a dish you would typically consider a “main course” (I think this comes from my vegetarian leanings). Take this lasagna-like gratin of thinly sliced butternut squash and creamed spinach. A vegetable dish yes, but my idea of a perfect dinner.
You may be normal and like a plate perfectly portioned with a protein, veggie, and starch like you were taught is the correct make-up of a meal. If so, this would be a great side dish for you! I think this would also be a unique addition to a Thanksgiving spread.
As for me, I will probably curl up on my couch with an extra-large serving of this bubbly goodness and call it a night.
Butternut Squash and Creamed Spinach Gratin
Adapted from Gourmet Today edited by Ruth Reichl
20 oz frozen leaf spinach, thawed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
scant 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 large butternut squash, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and seeded
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Special equipment: a mandoline or other adjustable-blade vegetable slicer
Drain thawed spinach in a colander and squeeze in small handfuls to remove excess moisture. Coarsely chop spinach and transfer to a bowl.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over moderately low heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add onion mixture to spinach, along with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cream, and stir to combine.
Put a rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Butter a 9-by-9-inch shallow baking dish.
Cut bulb sections from neck sections of squash. Cut bulb and neck pieces lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices with slicer (Note: I have found butternut squash and sweet potatoes too hard to slice with a mandoline so I just slice the squash thinly with a knife. Maybe you have better mandoline skills. If so, kudos!).
Layer about one fifth of squash slices in baking dish and cover with one quarter of spinach mixture. Repeat layering 3 more times, ending with a layer of squash. Sprinkle top evenly with cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon of butter. Cover top with a sheet of parchment paper.
Bake until squash is tender and filling is bubbling, 25-30 minutes. Remove paper and bake gratin until browned in spots, an additional 10-15 minutes.