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Easy Thanksgiving Casserole: Squash, Leek & Bacon Gratin

squash bacon leek casseroleOne of the first things that my now-husband shared about his father is that he made the most amazing squash casserole every Thanksgiving. (They are a very food-centric family!) This Squash, Leek and Bacon Grain is, deservingly, part of the family lore. And how could it not be made with butternut squash, bacon, leeks, sour cream and gruyere cheese.

This casserole is elegant and decadent, but simple. It’s also easy to make and is a perfect dish to make ahead of time (like tonight!). I love how quintessentially French it is while, at the same time, being so perfectly fitting for the American holiday table.

It turns out that the recipe is from a November 20, 1985 edition of The Boston Globe. (How adorable: my father-in-law still has the newspaper clipping. He had to scan it to get it to me!) I thought of making some changes but, in honor of our family tradition, am sharing it as printed. And, anyway, when I made this recently to test the recipe myself, I was reminded: it’s perfect the way it is.

To keep this super easy, I cook the squash (step one) in a large dutch oven. When it’s done, I put set it aside in a large bowl, wipe out the dutch oven and cook the bacon in leeks in the same dutch oven. I also mash everything to together (step four) in the same dutch oven. That makes this a one-pot meal (aside from the baking dish but, since you’ll serve this casserole in the baking dish, it doesn’t count!).

Winter Squash Gratin from Le Beaujolais Restaurant
serves 4-5

3 lbs winter squash, to make 2 lbs peeled and seeded, cut into 1″ chunks
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 medium leek, cleaned and cut crosswise into thin slices
2 slices bacon, or 1 thick-cut slice, cut crosswise into 1/2″ pieces
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp sour cream
salt and pepper
2/3 c grated Emmenthal or Gruyere cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the squash and garlic in a pot, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 c water. Cover and cook until the squash is very tender, about 15 minutes. Add water if needed to keep from burning. If water remains when the squash is done, uncover and cook until dry. Set aside.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet (or, as per my directions, in the wiped out pot in which you cooked the squash). Add the bacon and cook slowly until golden but not crisp. Set bacon pieces aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

3. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the fat in the skillet (or pot). Add the leek and cook, covered, over low heat until very soft and translucent.

4. Mash squash with a fork, adding the cooked leek, bacon pieces, sour cream, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Butter a 10″ round baking dish and spread the squash evenly in it, about 3/4″ deep. Sprinkle with grated cheese, cover with foil, shiny side down, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake about 5 more minutes, until steaming hot and golden.

*Note: If making the dish ahead of time, cover and refrigerate after you cover with foil. If using a porcelain dish or pyrex, bring to room temp before baking.

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