I love Thanksgiving dinner, even more so than Christmas dinner…although Christmas dinner in this household usually means ham, mmmm ham…ALWAYS a good thing…which then means split pea soup…YUM! Alright, so it doesn’t take much for this foodie to get off track especially when there is pork fat involved, but for now I must leave the Christmas ham and subsequent Split Pea Soup to a later post.
While the Christmas ham is the star of that show, for me Thanksgiving is all about the sides and the abundance of them. While there in nothing wrong with a well roasted turkey, flavorful and moist. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, all kinds of dressing – cornbread, sage and sausage, broccoli rice casserole. Stupendous starches smothered in butter, cream and cheese. Topped with cranberry relish and brown gravy made straight from the turkey drippings (oh…so that is why we have to bake a turkey – I see now). Those are the things that I really look forward to and enjoy eating the most at Thanksgiving.
Unfortunately, Thanksgiving can also mean a lot stress. It is right around the corner and for many this means planning, making lists, rethinking, updating lists, going to the grocery store, getting ready for company to arrive, going back to the grocery store, generally sweating all the details, and going back to the grocery store. No wonder there is the need for massive amounts of comfort, sleep inducing, food and well…wine. I just made my first trip to the grocery store and the cost of the cheese and wine alone made up over a half of the total bill.
This year I am thankfully not hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but I always offer to bring a side dish and I’ve decided to go the relatively easy route by making a gratin. If you are still wondering what to make, a gratin is a great choice. Gratins generally only have a few ingredients, are easy to make, can often be made the day before, and are a huge crowd pleaser. How can you go wrong with cream and cheese in the mix?
Two gratins I’ve tried lately are Cauliflower and Bacon Gratin by Giada De Laurentiis and Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Gratin (although I used Yukon Gold Potatoes instead of the sweet potatoes). Both are perfect for the holidays! Both are delicious!
CAULIFLOWER AND BACON GRATIN
Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis
While this dish is not one you can make a day in advance, with its 30 minute prep time you don’t have to worry about adding to the chaos that already is Thanksgiving day. You may also be apprehensive about serving cauliflower, fearing that people will look at you cock-eyed for serving this incredibly healthy, slightly stinky vegetable. DON’T BE. All Thanksgiving dinners need some vegetable and with all the cream, cheese and bacon in this dish, your guests will likely forget that there is even a vegetable in there at all. Besides it is delicious! Ask my vegetable fearing husband.
- Unsalted butter, for dish, plus 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 slices day-old sourdough bread or 2 cups bread crumbs (EatSA Note: You can eliminate the first two ingredient by using 1 cup Panko in their place)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained (EatSA Note: I eliminated them since I do not care for them)
- 8 ounces bacon, cooked until crispy and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (EatSA Note: I used pancetta. So yummy! But also very salty. So if you go this route I would eliminate any additional salt)
- 1 cup grated Gruyere, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
- Olive oil, for drizzling
1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch casserole dish. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, blend the bread until it forms into crumbs.
3. In a large non-stick skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly until all the butter has been absorbed and the bread crumbs are toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream and flour. Add the capers, bacon and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and toss with the cream mixture. Pour the cauliflower mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.
6. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown
BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SWEET POTATO GRATIN
By Pinch My Salt
I am obviously a little late to the game since I have only recently “discovered” Pinch My Salt. This blog is fantastic, even the New York Times thinks so. It is well written, the pictures (which are quite frankly a foodie’s porn) are crazy good and the recipes, along with detailed step by step instructions, are simple, straight forward and simply wonderful.
The prep time on this dish is definitely more involved. Not hard, just more steps and more time consuming. But thankfully this dish can be made a day ahead. Prepare through step number three with the exception of sprinkling the remaining shredded cheese on top (leave that for the next day). Refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature, sprinkle on the remaining cheese and you are ready to bake.
The results were amazing. The house smelled of garlic and thyme. Cream and cheese, potatoes and butternut squash all bubbly with ooey gooey goodness. My tweak of this recipe – I used Yukon Gold potatoes and gruyere – an absolute winner. I’m not ashamed to admit I even licked the plate. I think I have a new staple for Thanksgiving dinner. Try this dish and you will too!
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1 pound peeled butternut squash, quartered lengthwise
- 1 pound peeled and trimmed sweet potatoes (EatSA note: I used Yukon Gold with great success)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 cups shredded Manchego or Gruyere cheese (EatSA note: I used Gruyere)
1. Get Ready: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small pot bring cream and garlic just to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. Butter a 9″x13″ shallow casserole dish or gratin dish of similar size and set aside.
2. Prepare the Ingredients: thinly slice the squash and sweet potatoes (no more than 1/8 inch thick) and keep them separate from one another. Measure out chopped thyme, salt, pepper, and shredded cheese and have them handy. Stir the cooling cream to help prevent skin from forming.
3. Build the Gratin: In the buttered casserole dish, spread half of the sliced butternut squash out in a single overlapping layer. Sprinkle the squash with 1/3 of the salt, pepper, and thyme and then about 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Using half of the sliced sweet potatoes, build a new overlapping layer. Again sprinkle with 1/3 of the seasonings and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Using the remaining squash, make another layer and sprinkle the last third of the seasonings and another 1/2 cup of cheese (you should have about 1/2 cup cheese remaining). Use the last of the sweet potatoes to make one final layer on top. Stir the garlic cream mixture then pour it evenly over the top of the gratin, being sure to cover the top layer of sweet potatoes. Shake the dish gently to distribute the cream. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
4. Bake the Gratin: Cover the dish with foil and bake in the middle of a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, move the gratin to the top 1/3 of the oven and bake, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned and the vegetables are tender when pierced with a sharp knife. You may also place it under the broiler for a few minutes if you wish the top to be a deeper brown (but watch it closely!). Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before slicing.
Yield: 12 servings