RECIPE #121, DAY #143
ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Rice and Winter Squash Gratin” from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone*
TIMING: At least 1 hour
DIFFICULTY: Just takes some time and a little patience, but overall easy
TOOLS: Small, heavy bottomed sauce pan, a whisk, a wide, tall skillet, and a casserole pan. You will also need a food processor with a grating attachment to break down the butternut squash
COOK TYPE: Stovetop and oven
HEALTH: There is definitely some richness here in all the milk product, but most of the creamy feel actually comes from squash and rice (starch). With a whole grain and a whole lotta veggie, this counts as health food when you really want something rich and heavy on a cold, rainy evening.
EXPERIENCE: And it’s also very appealing to a whole range of ages and diet types, sorta like mac and cheese but not quite so familiar. Even kids tend to tuck into the squash without realizing they are eating it. Seriously, I had winter squash in the pantry, no meat defrosted, and just wanted something uber warm and comforting. This was a home run, served with leftover salad greens and Clementine Vinaigrette from the night before.
NOTES: You could use acorn or spaghetti squash, but butternut is by far my favorite.
I also changed the original prescription of Gruyerre or Fontina to cheddar, just because it’s what I had on hand and it’s what we usually have on hand. It would be nice to try it with the other cheeses, maybe even in combination.
- Cook 1 cup short grain brown rice however it is you cook rice. I use an electric steamer. In the end, you want 2 cups cooked rice.
- In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup minced shallot (or onion) and cook until translucent. Work in 2 tablespoons flour and cook 1 minute.
- Whisk in 1 1/2 cups milk and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch each of ground black pepper and nutmeg. Cook, whisking frequently at the bottom, until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Butter a medium casserole dish. Set aside.
- In a wide, tall skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons dried sage and 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley. Add 3-4 cups grated butternut squash and stir until it begins to brown.
- Add 2 cloves minced garlic and stir for 30 more seconds. Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup white wine, scraping up the bits on the bottom. Remove from heat.
- Add 2 cups of your rice, your cream (bechamel) sauce, and 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir quickly and then scoop into the casserole pan.
- Top with another 1/2 cup grated cheddar and bake about 1/2 hour, until top is golden and bubbly.
Serve with an autumn-inspired, green salad and a bottle of cold, hard cider. This would make a nice potluck offering.
*Recipe changed from the original.