Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin

This is a lovely layered casserole.  Feel free to vary the recipe by adding other vegetables, such as tomatoes, onions, or anything else you have on hand.  The recipe is by Ris Lacoste, from Fine Cooking Magazine, November 1999.

1 raw butternut squash (about 2 lb), peeled
2-3 medium potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 TBS grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy cream (or half&half)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnut
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs combined with 2 TBS melted butter

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease an 8×8 inch (2 qt.) glass or ceramic baking dish.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and fibers.  Slice the squash and potatoes about 1/8 inch thick.  Line the bottom of the baking dish with a layer of squash (overlapping slightly), season lightly with salt and pepper, sprinkle with a little of the Parmesan, and drizzle with a little of the cream.  Cover with a layer of potato slices, season with salt, pepper, cheese and cream.  Repeat with the remaining squash and potatoes until dish is full, ending with a top layer of squash, seasoned and topped with any remaining cheese and cream.  (You may have extra squash.)  Press down lightly to distribute the cream and compact the layers.  The last layer of squash should be just sitting in the cream, but not covered by it.  Cover the dish with foil and bake until the vegetables feel tender when poked with a thin, sharp knife (check the middle layer), about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Combine the walnuts and buttered breadcrumbs.  Remove the gratin from the oven, sprinkle with the breadcrumb-nut mixture, and bake uncovered until the top is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes.  Let sit in a warm place for 20 minutes before serving so that liquids will set and tighten the gratin.  Cut into 9 squares and serve.

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