This delicious recipe is a variation on a late summer gratin that ran in my first cookbook, Fast, Fresh & Green. That one used fresh corn and leeks to enhance the butternut; here I substitute thinly sliced kale and onions for a winter spin. The butternut squash is diced fairly small so that it will cook properly (it isn’t pre-cooked before going in the oven) so be sure to do that and use a shallow baking dish of the correct volume (5 to 6 cups, or 1 ½ quarts). That way the butternut will be well spread out. There’s a good bit of Parmigiano in here; I like to chop the cheese in my little mini-food processor (this results in a pebbly texture) rather than hand-grating it. 

The squash will absorb most of the cream-broth mixture as it cooks, and as those liquids reduce, they will leave quite a bit of browning around the edge of the pan. When the gratin is done, bubbles from the liquid will be barely detectable around the edges. But you can also check for doneness by poking the squash with a fork or thin knife.

This gratin would be an excellent accompaniment to Simple Sauteed Bay Scallops with Lemon Orange Pan Sauce.

Susie Middleton

Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for rubbing the pan
  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small onion (about 3 ounces), diced 
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 ½ cups thinly sliced Tuscan kale (ribs removed first)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon (or a bit more) freshly grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lightly chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 12 ounces peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into ½-inch dice (about 2 ½ cups)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub a 5- or 6-cup shallow gratin dish (or a 9 1/2-inch-diameter pie plate or quiche dish) with butter.

2. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and mix well.

3. In a medium nonstick skillet, melt the 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low to medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring, until softened and just starting to turn golden, about five minutes. Add the garlic and stir well to incorporate it. Add the sliced kale and season with ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring and pressing the kale against the bottom of the skillet, until all the kale is wilted and darkened, 2 to 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool for a couple of minutes.

4. Combine the heavy cream and chicken broth in a liquid measure. Add the lemon zest, ½ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir to mix well.

5. Add the diced squash to the kale-onion mixture and toss to loosely combine. Transfer the mixture to the gratin dish and arrange as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the thyme and the Parmigiano over the vegetables. Stir the cream mixture one more time and pour and drizzle it over everything as evenly as possible. Be sure to scrape out any seasonings left in the liquid measure. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over all.

Susie Middleton

6. Bake until the crumb topping is deep golden and the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 40 to 45 minutes. The juices should have bubbled below the surface of the vegetables, leaving browned bits in a line around the edge of the pan.