Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Vegetarian: Winter squash and Root Vegetable Gratin

Who doesn’t love the humble potato? Ok, so maybe during that whole low-carb craze I may have shied away from baked potatoes for a little while, but it sure didn’t take long for me to be wooed by a yummy potato salad or some rich scalloped potatoes.  Especially in the cold New York winter, potatoes are a solid staple of my pantry.  This might be because potatoes are a staple in my family.  Growing up in Connecticut, I ate steaming baked potatoes on winter nights in my mother’s kitchen.  A few holiday seasons back, I watched my Dad resurrect an old family recipe for potato rolls that were an instant hit.  And this Thanksgiving, I feasted on mashed potatoes which my uncle had grown himself (organically nonetheless).

I also love potatoes because I can depend on them for anything.  Throw them in soup, mix them up with lentils, boil them, whip them, fry them—it seems no task is too big for the potato.  The other night, I made a Julia Child recipe for the very first time and just loved it.  Potato leek soup—so versatile, so easy!  (I wrote about it here in case you are interested.) I am going to add the recipe to my regular rotation of soups.  However my very favorite go-to potato dish remains the root vegetable gratin.
A while ago, I made my first gratin and I think it had mainly potatoes and carrots.  Having a CSA (community supported agriculture) share in the winter in the Northeast means that potatoes and carrots are be the tip of the root vegetable iceberg!  What to do with all those turnips and parsnips?

What about winter squash that is so abundant in the CSA deliveries now?  These  questions used to nag me and I kept turning to soups to use all my veggies.  Then, after getting some inspiration from neighbors who love to roast all their CSA produce, I decided to throw everything into a gratin.
Mmmmm this dish is delicious.  The mix of flavors from the root veggies, squash, and cheese meld together to give you savory and sweet at the same time.  The texture is at once crunchy and soft.  If you are looking for comfort food that you don’t feel too guilty about, this recipe is for you!

Note: this is more of a set of guidelines and less of a recipe because as with all dishes I write about, I encourage you to add what suits you and leave out what you dislike.  If you don’t have parsnips, just leave them out.  If you want to use acorn squash, please do! If you think of any tasty additions/substitutions, I’d love know.  The dish serves nicely as a side but if you are like me, you will treat it as the main event.  In that case, saute some spinach or other greens on the side to round out the meal.  The gratin keeps in the fridge for about a week and a half.
-4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped roughly
-one onion, cut into thin strips
-winter squash, peeled and chopped into chunks (I love butternut squash because it complements the other veggies so well)
-sliced carrots, about 4 medium
-chopped potatoes, about 2-3 medium russet or sweet if you like
-a few other root vegetables such as turnips and parsnips
-olive oil, start with about 2 TBS
-rosemary, three pinches
-salt and pepper
-breadcrumbs, start with 1/3 c
-parmesan cheese, start with 1/3 c also

1.  Prepare the veggies, so they are nicely chopped up.  Pull out a baking dish and transfer all the vegetables (including the garlic chunks).  I use an 8 ½ X 11 pan.
2. Pour the oil over your vegetables and toss to combine evenly.  Assess the vegetable to oil ratio and if you think they look dry in some places, feel free to add more.  The actual amount of oil will depend on how many vegetables are in the pan.

3. Season with rosemary, salt, pepper and stir everything up again.  Repeat with the breadcrumbs and parmesan.  Again you need to assess the ratios in the pan.  Please, if you need more breadcrumbs or cheese or oil, add more.

4. Pop the pan into a 400-degree oven.  After 20-25 minutes, stir everything up and test the potatoes.  If they seem as though they are still very hard, turn the oven up to 425.  The final product should look crunchy brown in some spots with the potatoes being a little soft but still retaining their shape.  The squash will be nice and squishy.

I hope you enjoy this hearty, satisfying dish.  Not too shabby for our humble friend the potato, huh?


  1. You mention leeks and as of last week that is my new favorite veggie. My husband does the grocery shopping and I asked him to bring something new home to try because he was in a rut. WOW! Who would have thought that it could pack such a subtle flavor punch. It is a lot like a green onion, but softer in flavor. I have been putting it on everything. I made a sandwich the other day with roast chicken and hummus – it was a little bland until I threw on some leek slices. Perfection. I’ll give a 2nd look to your potato leek soup. Nice post!

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