After hosting approximately 15 Thanksgiving meals, I am teetering somewhere midway between novice and pro. There’s been enough time and repetition for certain traditions to take root but still plenty of wiggle room for new ideas, recipes and guests to come to the table. Since our families generally don’t like to travel over the holidays–and sadly, do not live locally–more often than not our Thanksgiving is about friends. Friends who feel like family. We are extremely lucky to have a number of these special friends and our holidays are always filled with plenty of love and laughter.
This year, I’ve asked our guests to bring their traditional Thanksgiving side dishes to share. Some will be brought fully prepared while others will have us bumping into each other at the sink and jockeying for position on the stove. We will have football on the TV, music playing and cocktails pouring. The kids will likely be running around outside with various balls and sticks in hand. I anticipate nibbling too much throughout the day and needing a brief reprieve (aka, brisk walk) before sitting down to the big meal. And now I am laughing to myself as I have just described my perfect day. If even one aspect of the day looks like this I will be happy.
I will be making some of our traditional dishes that I’ve shared in the past: Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Red Onion and maybe even the Rutabaga Casserole. Although I always like to try at least one new dish, I just may not be able resist serving the Butternut Squash, Leek and Goat Cheese Gratin that has appeared on at least half of my Thanksgiving tables. This dish hits all the marks: can be made a day ahead, is decadent without being over the top, and needs minimal time on a shallow oven rack for baking. Oh, and it’s delicious. The original recipe came from the November 2007 issue of Bon Appetit but over time I’ve made so many adjustments that I’ve come to think of it as my own. If you are looking for a new dish to throw into your Thanksgiving mix, give this one a try. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
- 3 1/2 lbs butternut squash (about 2 medium), peeled, seeded, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes (8 cups)
- 2 Tbls olive oil
- coarse kosher salt
- 3 Tbls (1/2 stick) butter, divided
- 3 c sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
- 1 Tbls chopped fresh sage
- 1 5.5-oz log soft fresh goat cheese
- 1 c heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place butternut squash cubes and olive oil in large bowl; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and ground pepper and toss to coat.
- Spread out squash cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until just tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt 3 Tbls butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks and chopped sage; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Sauté until tender but not brown, about 15 minutes.
- When squash is cooked, add to pan with leeks and gently stir to combine.
- Coat a pie dish with cooking spray.
- Pour the leek/squash mixture into the prepared pie dish. Top with the crumbled goat cheese.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour cream evenly over gratin.
- Bake uncovered until gratin is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if previously chilled).
- DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
- TO GO: This gratin is a good choice for transporting because it travels well. Either complete the dish at home (wrap it tightly to keep warm) or wait until you get to your destination to add the cream and then bake.