Most gratins need milk and cheese to add flavor and richness, but for our butternut squash gratin, we wanted the sweet, nutty flavor and brilliant color of the squash to shine. We cut the squash into bite-size pieces to eliminate pre-cooking and then toss them with fruity extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.. Caramelizing the onions before layering them with the squash not only deepens their flavor but also gets rid of excess moisture so the squash doesn’t taste steamed or waterlogged. Avoid buying pre-peeled or chunked butternut squash for this dish.
1 pound Ground Beef
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 pounds onions, halved and sliced thin
¼ cup water
4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 pounds butternut squash
¼ cup minced fresh parsley (optional)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
Instead of fresh garlic, I used Vik’s Garlic Blend; 1 teaspoon when browning the meat, and 2 tablespoons with the caramelized onions.
Instead of fresh sage, I used the Turkey Herb Rub Blend; ½ teaspoon sprinkled on top of each layer of butternut squash slices.
Both of the herb and spice blends are from Spice and Tea Exchange, salt free.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with spray olive oil. Over medium heat, cook the ground beef with one large onion, halved and thinly sliced. Season the ground beef and onions with salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is browned and the onions are translucent. Add one teaspoon of minced garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds; set aside.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the remaining onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until water is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons water and cook until onions are caramelized and water is evaporated, about 5 minutes longer. Add 2 teaspoons sage and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds; set aside.
3. Trim ends from squash and peel. Cut in half lengthwise, then quarter each half lengthwise and remove seeds. Cut each piece into 1/4-inch-thick slices (you should have 11 cups). Toss squash, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 2 teaspoons sage, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Arrange half of squash evenly in prepared dish. Spread half of onion mixture evenly over squash. Arrange remaining squash evenly over onion mixture. Spread remaining onion mixture evenly over squash.
4. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake until squash is nearly tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer dish to wire rack. Combine parsley and lemon zest in bowl and sprinkle over gratin (optional). Serve.
TECHNIQUE: CUTTING BUTTERNUT SQUASH