Celebrating holidays in a foreign country means making certain sacrifices. As a case in point, I have yet to see anything resembling a fresh cranberry in Paris. The various American épiceries are fully stocked with jars and cans of cranberry sauce, but if you want to make your own (like I always do) you’re out of luck. However, as you can probably imagine, the markets of Paris offer up an incredible bounty from which to devise seasonal dishes from locally-grown ingredients.
Like this potimarron. I forgot to get a picture of it before I stripped it bare, but there’s a good before photo here. Potimarron is one of the more commonly seen winter squashes in the Parisian markets, yet somehow I had yet to cook one. A little research turned up some interesting facts about the potimarron: the thin skin is edible, the name is derived from the French words for “pumpkin” and “chestnut,” and it apparently increases in sweetness and vitamin content the longer you store it (to a point, I’m sure).
I purchased the cute little squash about a week before Thanksgiving without any real plan regarding what to do with it. The same market trip yielded a bag of fingerling potatoes, another impulse buy. A few days later, when I realized it was high time I start getting my Thanksgiving menu in order, the two supremely seasonal vegetables jumped out at me.
Recalling a butternut squash gratin I have made in years past to generally good reviews, I thought I’d riff on the idea, working potatoes into the mix. The potimarron, taking after its namesake nut, is one of the starchier winter squashes out there. While this makes it able to hold its own when combined with potatoes, I didn’t want the dish to be too heavy (this was for Thanksgiving, after all). I figured the tangy sweetness of leeks simmered in hard cider would offset the richness of the squash and potatoes. Top it all off with my favorite fresh chèvre, and I had just the gratin I was looking for. I may not have had sweet potatoes as usual, (ed. note: except that I did, on this salad) but it didn’t feel like I was sacrificing a thing.
Click through for the recipe and Nick’s gorgeous photo.
A gorgeous Autumnal dish, this is stunning enough for your holiday spread but easy enough for a weeknight.
For the cider-braised leeks:
2 large leeks, root ends and dark green leaves removed
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
60 ml / ¼ cup chicken stock
125 ml / ½ cup hard dry cider
1 tsp. cider vinegar
- Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly. Slice crosswise into 6 mm / ¼ inch pieces.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and stir to coat with the butter. Season with salt and cook a few minutes until leeks begin to soften.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken stock. Simmer vigorously until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the cider and cider vinegar and reduce heat to medium. Continue simmering until most of the liquid is gone, 10 to 15 minutes more. (You’re looking for very tender leeks in a small amount of buttery sauce.) Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside. This can be prepared up to two days in advance – store covered in the refrigerator.
For the potimarron and fingerlings:
1 medium potimarron, (450 g / 1 lb. or so) peeled, seeds removed, and diced (substitute butternut, kabocha or other smooth-fleshed winter squash)
450 g / 1 lb. fingerling potatoes, washed and cut into 12 mm / ½ inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 205 C / 400 F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (or don’t, but it will make cleanup a lot easier) and throw the potimarron cubes and cut fingerlings onto the pan. Drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the vegetables evenly.
- Roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Leave the oven on.
For the Gratin:
Cider-braised leeks (see above)
Roasted potimarron and fingerlings (also above)
150 g / 5½ oz. fresh goat cheese, artisan if you have the means
125 ml / ½ cup heavy cream
- Spread half of the leeks in the bottom of a 28 cm / 11 inch oval gratin dish (or similar). Top with half of the potimarron-fingerling mélange, then crumble half of the goat cheese over that. Repeat.
- Pour the cream evenly over the gratin.
- Bake in your still-hot (205 C / 400 F) oven 25-30 minutes until bubbling around the edges. Let cool a bit and serve warm.
Serves 6-8 as a side dish.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.