Over the weekend I decided to put all my extra winter squash to good use and make this Winter Squash Gratin recipe from the Times. I used Delicata Squash, which has a flavor described as a combination of sweet potato and corn. The recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds, so I used three smallish delicatas. I also swapped out the parsley and sage for thyme, since that’s what I had in the kitchen. I really liked the flavor mixed with Gruyère cheese, so I’d call the improvisation a success. 

delicataI’d give this recipe 3 out of 5 wooden spoons, since the time needed to prepare it isn’t necessarily worth the finished product. If I’m still left with a table overflowing with winter squash in a few weeks, I’d consider it again, though. Click through for the full rundown.

The time issue is the major hurdle. This is definitely not a weeknight meal since the squash is baked twice and the cooking must be done in between. The recipe calls for 40 minutes to cook the squash first, but I found this to be a bit long for the delicata. It’s not a very thick variety, but a different variety may need the full time. When I took the pieces out of the oven the edges were singed, although it turned out to add a really nice, full flavor to the finished product. 

Baked Delicata Squash

Baked Delicata Squash

The most difficult part of this recipe was removing the skin from the halved squash. The flesh was far too soft to cut away, and my first attempts left a big pile of mush on my cutting board, with the skin coming apart in pieces and getting mixed in. This was partly because my squash was slightly overcooked, and partly because the variety has a thin skin to begin with. In the end, the best method I found was to slice the halves in half again lengthwise, then gently roll back the skin from the newly exposed long side. The side of the peel that was exposed in the oven was singed to the flesh, so I had to carefully cut that away.

Once I removed the flesh and cut it into rough chunks, the rest of the prep was easy. My squash was already so tender that it didn’t take much to mash it, which I think is a good reason to err on the side of baking too long. The recipe says you can have pureed or finely diced squash in the mixture, but by mashing it I kept the stringy texture in tact while still smoothly incorporating the other ingredients. 

Because I was a bit worried about overcooking the final dish, I took it out of the oven on the early side. Still, the recipe amounts were right on to give it a nice texture and balanced flavor. The final dish was tasty, but not substantial enough for a main course. Thin slices would work well as an appetizer or a side dish, and with smaller portions I would even consider upping the amount of parmesan on top to make it richer.

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