Archive for November, 2006

Squash and Pear au gratin

I’ve adopted this recipe from one found in my Better Homes and Garden cookbook. It is easily adjusted for however much of the two main ingredients you happen to have on hand. I made a small version this time in a one quart baking dish, but just use a two quart dish to increase the portions. The original recipe included bacon in the topping, but I don’t like bacon, so I omitted it. Plus, it seems like a lot of extra work to fry up just a couple pieces of bacon. I don’t think fake bacon would work here because there is too much moisture in the dish.

squash, pear

Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes prep, plus 1 hour baking

Servings: about 2 side dish portions


  • a butternut squash, about 6-7 inches long, or the top half of a larger squash
  • a medium pear (hard, Asian pears work well)
  • about half a medium onion
  • butter
  • salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp nuts (walnut, almond and cashew work well–or try a mixture)
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp Parmesean or Romano cheese, grated
  1. If you’re using a whole squash, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds and guts (you can save the seeds and toast them just like pumpkin seeds). Peel the squash, making sure to get down to the orange flesh (no green lines). Slice the squash into 1/2 inch thick pieces.
  2. Slice the pear in half and scoop out the seeds. Peel it (easier to cut in half before peeling because it gets slippery once peeled). Slice into thin (about 1/8 inch thick) slices.
  3. Place a layer of squash in the baking dish. If you need to, cut a slice into thirds or halves in order to fill in more gaps, but it doesn’t have to be perfectly covered. Then place a layer of pear slices over the squash. Lightly pinch the tip of your first finger and thumb in the salt dish and let the excess fall out. Sprinkle only the salt left between your fingers over the two layers. The salt helps draw out the juices and the sweetness, but it doesn’t take much. Repeat the layers.
  4. In a non-stick pan, heat about 1/2 tbsp butter over medium-low heat. While the pan heats, slice the onion half into rings about 1/4 inch thick (I like it best when they are half rings, not whole rings, because it is easier to eat. At any rate, don’t chop them.). When the pan is hot, add in the onion slices and turn the oven on to 350 to preheat. Saute onions until golden and starting to caramelize. Add a little extra butter if the onions are drying out, but remember, you’re sauteing, not frying. Spread the cooked onions over the squash/pear layers.
  5. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is just starting to get tender.
  6. While the dish is in the oven, melt about 1/2 tbsp butter in a small bowl (heat on medium in the microwave for 15 or 20 seconds). Mix in the breadcrumbs, nuts and cheese. Set this aside until the dish is done with the first round of baking.
  7. After the first round of baking, take out the dish and remove the foil. Top with the breadcrumb mixture. Return the dish to the oven and bake (uncovered) for 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the topping is golden. Allow dish to rest for a couple minutes before serving.

Note: Steps 1-4 can be done ahead of time. Just cover the dish and refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake and serve the dish. It should last overnight, possibly two days, but it needs to be well-covered so it doesn’t dry out.


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