Yikes! Can you believe Christmas is only a few weeks away? It’s time to start planning your holiday menu, send out Christmas cards and begin your holiday shopping list. Wow, I’m already tired. I find the holidays are often a month chock full of to-do lists, parties, shopping and wrapping gifts. With all the rushing and hustling I find myself craving a table full of comforting side dishes that soothe my tired soul.
I keep our holiday table pretty classic with tamales, mole, ham, and pozole, but I like to mix-it-up with new side dishes each year. Last year I made a cheesy rice casserole to accompany my charros beans. This year I am adding this cheesy and creamy chayote potato gratin to the mix that pairs wonderfully with my papi’s famous tamarind glazed ham he makes every year.
My gratin is made with crispy chayotes and hearty potatoes all swimming in a creamy béchamel sauce swirled with Cacique Crema Mexicana. I’m addicted to Cacique’s line of cremas from their Crema Mexicana to Crema Agria to the Crema Salvadoreña I keep my fridge stocked with these delicious cremas to use in my weekly meal prep.
Cacique cremas have a neutral fresh-tasting flavor, similar in consistency to crème Fraiche. I like to use them to top my gameday nachos, weeknight enchiladas and have recently started adding them to my sauces.
The star of this gratin is chayotes. Chayotes originate in Mexico. They are a light green, pear-shaped member of the cucurbitaceous family. Mild in taste, similar to a cross between a pear and squash they are crunchy in texture and can be eaten raw, steamed, sautéed and baked. I like to add them to my summer salads, winter soups and they pair perfectly with potatoes. Low in calories and sodium, chayotes can be found near the squash in your produce aisle. When selecting a chayote, it should be firm to the touch and free of bruises.
Assemble this gratin the day before and bake Christmas day. I added another layer of flavor by combining Monterrey cheese with fresh cilantro, add to baked gratin then broil for a crispy-cheesy topping. Creamy, hearty and packed with deliciousness this chayote potato gratin is sure to be a hit at your Holiday table.
WHAT YOU NEED
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 chayotes, diced
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- Nonstick spray
- For Béchamel Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/4 cups warm milk
- 1 cup Cacique Crema Mexicana
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup Cacique Oaxaca cheese, shredded
- ¼ cup cilantro washed and stems removed
HOW TO MAKE IT
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet over medium-high heat sauté onion and celery until light and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic cloves; cook an additional 30 seconds then stir in chayotes and potatoes. Cook, occasionally stirring for 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano. Remove from heat, while you make béchamel sauce.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat melt butter. Stir in flour, constantly stirring until the mixture is smooth and light in color, about 2 minutes. Stir in warm milk slowly, stirring until mixture is smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the sauce boils, remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in crema. Pour the béchamel sauce over chayote-potato mixture, stir carefully to combine. Spoon into a casserole dish liberally sprayed with nonstick spray.
- Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. While gratin bakes, combine shredded Oaxaca cheese with cilantro. After 40 minutes, top with cheese-cilantro mixture, return to oven and broil until cheese melts and toasts. Remove gratin from oven, allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve warm.