Deb made this for a recent Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. It was one of those “I’ll have seconds of that” kind of dish. The recipe calls for roasting cubes of squash, and hence, easy-to-peel butternut squash is listed. You can peel other squashes by cutting them into chunks and then peeling the pieces, or you can simply bake these other squash halves until almost tender and then cutting the flesh up. For those of you who like to mix things up or if you don’t have enough squash, you can make this with a mix of squash and other root vegetables–carrots, celeriac, parsnips, turnips, kohlrabi come to mind.
8 c peeled, seeded, cubed (1″ or so cubes) winter squash
2 T vegetable oil
salt and pepper, to taste
4 T butter or oil, or a combination, divided
3 c sliced leeks (white and light green parts); or (sweet) onion or scallions; or a combination
1 T chopped fresh herb, or 1 t dried herb
2/3 – 3/4 c goat cheese; or cream cheese; or mascarpone; or sheep’s milk feta
1 c cream or half-and-half or whole milk; or broth
1/2 c toasted, chopped nuts, such as hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, macadamias, almonds…
fresh grated nutmeg, optional
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Combine squash cubes, oil, salt, and pepper on a large, rimmed baking sheet, tossing to coat. Spread out and bake until just tender, about half an hour, depending on the size of your cubes. Remove from oven and set aside. Reduce oven to 375ºF.
2. Meanwhile, grease an 11″ x 7″ or similar baking or casserole dish with 1 T of the butter. Melt the remaining 3 T of the butter in a large skillet. Add the leeks along with some salt and sauté until tender, 10 – 12 minutes (onion and especially scallions will take less time, so if combining, add them later). About halfway through stir in the herb.
3. Spread half of the leeks over the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half the squash, then dot with half the cheese. Repeat. At this point you can cover the dish with foil and chill up to a day before baking. Take out an hour or so before baking, or add 10 minutes to the baking time if still cold.
4. Pour the cream evenly over the dish. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Some freshly grated nutmeg is nice here, too. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling.