I missed it when The Times first reported it last week: the Maya Schaper Cheese and Antiques store in the upper west side is going to be replaced by a coffee shop because of soaring rents. Good thing then that the Dr. and I stopped by today to buy some cheese. The Dr. picked up a beautiful stinky blue cheese while I walked around gasping at the prices of the Rococo-style plates I’d very much like to afford and own. I tasted the cheese he bought and got my own sliver, and I also picked up a Manchego because I wanted to use the butternut squash that has been sitting on my window kitchen sill since the last Supper with Strangers. (It was still good.)
I like baking gratins because they’re so easy. They’re a nice addition to a dinner setting: you get your starch and in this case, your vegetable, too. I love the hint of salt and savory in this recipe even though it’s a creamy baked dish. It went perfectly well with a pork shoulder roasted for three hours.
1 butternut squash, peeled, chopped lengthwise, sliced thin
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced thin like coins
2 cups Manchego cheese, shredded
1 pint heavy cream
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsps fresh thyme
a small knob of butter
1. Preheat oven to 400º. In a saucepan, bring cream and garlic to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside, stirring occasionally to keep the top from gelling.
2. Butter a 9″x13″ shallow baking dish. Spread the sliced butternut squash out in a single overlapping layer. Sprinkle with some of the salt, pepper and thyme and then about a third of the grated cheese. Top with half of the sweet potatoes, building a new overlapping layer. Again sprinkle with some of the seasonings and another third of shredded cheese. Use the last of the potatoes to make one final layer and top with the remaining cheese. Pour over the garlic cream mixture, distributing evenly.
4. Bake the gratin. Cover the dish with foil and bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, move the gratin to the top rack of the oven and bake, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes. The top should be nicely browned and the vegetables soft. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.