Apple, Leek and Butternut Squash Gratin

I don't know about you, but for us Thanksgiving is all about the sides. Sure, the turkey is important but it's the sides that make it all sing. Which is why for this week's Monday Night Martha we thought we would try out a potential new Thanksgiving side dish: Apple, Leek and Butternut Squash Gratin.

The recipe called for 2 leeks, a pound of butternut squash and a pound of apples such as Gala, Cortland, Baldwin or Macoun. Hmmm, we love leeks, love butternut squash and love apples. What the heck, we decided, let's give it a whirl.

The recipe says to trim and thinly slice two leeks and add them to a skillet with two tablespoons olive oil and a little water, salt and pepper. After these cook for ten minutes and begin to brown, add a 1/2 cup of sherry and a tablespoon of chopped fresh sage. At this point in the cooking process the kitchen started to smell wonderful. The aroma of leeks, sherry, and sage was divine and our stomachs were beginning to get excited.

Meanwhile, in a shallow baking dish you arrange peeled, seeded and sliced butternut squash in layers. The browned leeks get arranged over the top of this, and then a final layer is added of overlapping layers of apple slices. Martha says to brush a tablespoon of olive oil over the tops of the apples. (We just drizzled, and probably used a couple of tablespoons of olive oil). Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

The dish's three-layers looked beautiful while we were putting it together. But when it came to the final step -- uncovering the dish, sprinkling a 1/2 cup of Parmesan over the top, and baking for a final ten minutes our dish fell a little short. Our Parmesan was a little too dry and fine and did not melt in a pretty way. But this we could have easily overlooked if the dish tasted scrumptious. Sadly, it didn't. It wasn't bad; it just tasted a little dare we say, healthy. Where was the butter? Where was the cream? When warm baked apple hit our mouths we wondered why we just hadn't made apple pie? This would make a passable healthy option. But this is Thanksgiving and we want some buttery savory goodness. We will be sticking to some classics. What sides will you be making a beeline for at your holiday table?


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