It's been a tough and emotional week. At the beginning of the week I found myself very anxious about the presidential election. In fact, on the night the results poured in, I was practically sitting on the edge of my seat. I found myself screaming at the TV, like a devout football fan watching the Superbowl. I knew that no matter the outcome, emotions would be on high. I think I underestimated how high the emotions would be.
The week ended with my baby turning double digits. My little guy, who is definitely not little anymore, turned 10. After the election was over, I poured every spare minute into throwing one last big blowout of a birthday party. We rented a rolling game truck, invited about 15 kids, and went all out. The kids had a fabulous time and I was happy to throw the party, but I am emotionally, physically, and financially drained.
Desperately in need of easy comfort food, I happened upon this recipe for Winter Rainbow Gratin. Just so happened that I had all the ingredients and the directions didn't have me running for the door. Even still, I had to pry myself off the couch to get started. Within a few minutes I was happily chopping veggies (one of my favorite kitchen tasks) and I felt a certain calm I hadn't felt all week. Kitchen therapy is real.
This gratin is a combination of red potatoes, butternut squash (or you could sub sweet potato), shallots, carrot, green onions, and apple topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. It's gorgeous to look at, very savory and satisfying, and ultimately comforting. Just the right thing to end a crazy hectic week.
Winter Rainbow Gratin
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4 to 6
3 tablespoons butter and a drizzle of olive oil
4 small purple and/or red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into wedges
4 small shallots, sliced thinly
1 quarter of a butternut squash, about 1 cup cubed
4 young yellow and/or orange carrots, cut in half lengthwise if thicker than your thumb
4 green onions, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 apple or pear, unpeeled, cored, and cut into 6 wedges
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Optional: butter or oil for drizzling on top prior to baking*
Preheat the oven to 375F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
Heat the butter in your largest ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. In a single layer, add the potatoes, shallots, squash, carrots, and green onions and toss to coat. Try not to overcrowd the pan, or the vegetables will steam and not brown. If you don't have a big enough pan, split the ingredients between two skillets. Saute over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times along the way. The vegetables should start to brown a bit and be tender but not mushy.
Remove from the heat and sprinkle with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Stir in the apple wedges. If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, transfer the ingredients to an ovenproof baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle with all the bread crumbs and half of the Parmesan cheese. (Note: This method produces a fairly dry gratin, so my suggestion is to mix the breadcrumbs with a couple tablespoons of butter and/or oil to add some moisture back into the gratin - see optional ingredients*). You don't want to stir at this point; rather, let the crumbs and cheese perch right on top of the vegetables so they'll get nice and crunchy.
Place the uncovered skillet in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, tossing the vegetables with a metal spatula about halfway through. The potatoes and carrots should be golden, crispy, and caramelized where they touch the pan and soft and tender inside. When everything is caramelized and fragrant, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Serve right from the skillet.
Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we're celebrating squash by sharing both old and new recipes. This Winter Rainbow Gratin is certainly a contender, and much more sophisticated than my old standby, but it's hard to beat Tessa Kiros' Baked Butternut Squash. Bright orange spears of squash topped with butter, brown sugar, and fragrant bay leaves makes for one of my favorite squash sides. It's a colorful, creamy, and sweet delight that always goes over well.