Delicata squash gratin with apple, Hannah cheese and thyme
This recipe highlights Ancient Heritage Dairy and Hannah, their award-winning raw cow and sheep’s milk cheese, which is aged for 6 months. Ancient Heritage is known for their delicately flavored and textured table cheeses, which generally do not respond well to heat and high temperature cooking. Firmer textured Hannah is the exception.
In this recipe, Delicata squash, apples and potatoes are thinly sliced with a mandolin and baked in a moderately hot oven, which softens and binds the autumn vegetables. The subtle flavors of the squash and apple are accented by Ancient Heritage Dairy’s Hannah cheese and fresh thyme. (Other semi-firm cheeses such as white cheddar can also be used.)
A mandolin is the best tool for cutting vegetables into paper-thin slices; you can find one at any well-stocked kitchen supply store. I recommend purchasing a model with a stainless steel interior and blade, and a hard plastic exterior, such as an OXO. It will cost a bit more than one with a plastic frame, but it should last a lifetime in a home kitchen.
When assembling the gratin, the key is to make sure all of the vegetables are thinly sliced in advance, the cheese is grated, and the thyme is chopped. The squash will need to be de-seeded before slicing. The best way to do this is to peel the squash and cut in half width-wise, into a two short halves. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and debris inside before slicing.
makes 4 to 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 medium Delicata squash, peeled and sliced into thin rings
1 small or 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large firm apple such as a Macintosh, Braeburn or Honey Crisp, peeled, cored and sliced into thin rings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces firm aged cheese, such as Hannah, grated
8 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked and coarsely chopped (about 1-tablespoon)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Add the olive oil to a baking dish appropriate for a gratin. I like to use a cast iron skillet (see photo), but an enamel baking dish or a stainless steel sauté pan also works well. Place the pan over medium heat and heat the oil just until it begins to smoke. A hot pan ensures that the bottom layer of potatoes doesn’t stick, and makes it easier to remove the finished gratin from the skillet or baking dish.
Reduce the heat to medium low and start layering the potatoes on the bottom of the pan. One by one, place the potatoes in the pan in a circular pattern, beginning at the edge of the pan and circling inward until the entire pan is covered. When the first layer of potatoes is in place, remove the pan from the heat. Continue layering with the squash, then the onions and finally the apples. Repeat two times; there should be enough for three layers of each ingredient. Season each layer with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle one-third of the cheese and thyme on the apples layers, reserving the final third of cheese for later.
After the final layer of apples and thyme, cover the gratin with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil, place in the oven to bake for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove the parchment paper or foil, add the remaining cheese and continue to bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven after 15 minutes and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Alternatively, allow the gratin cool and reheat it when ready to serve, 1 to 3 hours later.
Cut the gratin into wedges and serve with a lettuce salad or as a vegetable side to any meal.