I have a little crush on gratins. I love all the pretty layers. I love the savory scent of them baking in the oven. I love saying gratin in a fancy French accent. And I looooove stuffing my face with them, obvsies. But I think what I love most about any sort of gratin is that it turns a side dish from an afterthought into something quite special.
Sure, anyone could just steam up some green beans willy nilly or chuck some potatoes into the oven to serve alongside their main course, but taking the effort to whip up a gratin always shows that extra bit of attention in the finished product, instantly taking your meal from meh to marvelous...
Just look at the gorgeous ombre layers in this Root Vegetable Gratin- it's like sunset. On a plate. Who wouldn't be impressed by that? You know what else I love about this gratin in particular? It's one of the few that I've come across that isn't a total gut bomb. The cooking liquid is mainly low-fat, low-calorie chicken or vegetable broth with a mere smidge of heavy cream added for good measure, instead of being entirely cream based as many gluttonous gratins so often are. Sigh. A judicious amount of cheese is included as well; just a couple of tablespoons of Parmesan sprinkled on top is all you need to get that cheesy fix.
And quite possibly the best part of all- root vegetables like the sweet potato, butternut squash and rutabagas used here possess the magical quality of being SO good for you (hello fiber, antioxidants and minerals, get in my belly!) yet tasting rich and indulgent, like something you probably shouldn't be consuming in large quantities without a major repentance session on the treadmill. And that's totally crushworthy in my book.
adapted from Food & Wine
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
1 butternut squash neck (2 1/4 pounds) from a large butternut squash, peeled
1 medium rutabaga (2 pounds), peeled and halved lengthwise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan
*Special Equipment: Mandoline
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the potatoes and squash lengthwise 1/8 inch thick with a mandoline. Slice the rutabaga crosswise 1/8 inch thick.
2. Spray an 8x12 baking dish with cooking spray. Begin to layer the strips of vegetables as follows, making sure to season each layer: first spread half of the potatoes on the bottom layer, overlapping them slightly. Proceed with half of the rutabaga, then the squash, also overlapping. Repeat until al of the vegetables have been used. Pour the broth over and around the vegetables.
3. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour, until the vegetables are almost tender when pierced.
4. Remove the foil and pour the cream over the gratin. Bake for about 30 minutes longer, until the liquid has reduced and thickened.
5. Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle parmesan over the gratin and broil 3 inches from the heat for 2 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt. Let the gratin stand for 10 minutes, then serve.