Having always been an adventurous eater – and being as passionate about cooking as I am – I just assumed I’d have kids who would follow suit. I figured they’d love everything from sushi to exotic spices. Well, I was wrong.
And here’s the irony…my sons love sushi and exotic spices! It’s the foods that are slightly less unfamiliar that they seem to avoid. My 11-year-old often turns down ice cream and doesn’t care for strawberries. My 9-year-old won’t deign to consider an apple or even a glass of orange juice. But if you offer either of them a slice of something like this gratin that’s full of interesting spices and hearty, earthy vegetables, they’ll adore you forever.
This is a vegetarian comfort food dish, and I love it for so many reasons. Its spice is perfectly balanced with a bit of sweetness from the squash and the fresh flavor of Cacique® Crema Mexicana. It’s rich and creamy, while still what I’d consider “light and healthy” — and the bits of Cacique® Ranchero® Queso Fresco on top are enough to make anyone want to dive right in. This dish can be made ahead of time and best of all, everyone at my dinner table cleans their plates and asks for more.
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WHAT YOU NEED
- 1 (approximately 2-pound) Butternut squash)
- 1 1/2-pounds Pasilla chiles (about 6)
- olive oil for the pan
- 3 cups thinly sliced onions
- 2 cups thinly sliced Button mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
- 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears of corn)
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh oregano leaves
- 1 cup Cacique® Crema Mexicana
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled Cacique® Ranchero® Queso Fresco
- Sea salt to taste
HOW TO MAKE IT
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, adjust a rack to the lower third, and place the whole butternut squash on a baking sheet. Once the oven is preheated, place the baking sheet on the rack, and roast until it’s soft to the touch, about 1 hour, 30 minutes. After the first 45 minutes, turn it over. When it’s done, the skin will be somewhat wrinkled with some charred areas. Let the squash cool so you’re able to handle it. Cut the stem end off and slice it in half lengthwise. Use a large spoon to gently scoop out the seeds. Then gently scoop the soft flesh out of the skin and measure 1 cup of it for the recipe. Set it aside and turn the oven down to 375 degrees F.
- While the squash is in the oven, roast the chiles over an open flame until the skin is completely charred, turning them from time to time with kitchen tongs. Place them in a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let them steam this way for at least 10 minutes. Remove the plastic and use the back of a paring knife to gently peel off the charred skin. Remove the stem and seeds, and then use the paring knife to carefully remove the membranes. Keep the chiles in large pieces and set aside.
- Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil and place it over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden brown and soft, about 15 minutes. Add a bit more olive oil, turn the heat to high and add the mushrooms. Stirring frequently, cook until they’re soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the dried oregano, cumin and chile powder, and then add the corn and fresh oregano. Turn the fire off and leave the pan on the stove.
- Once the 1 cup of squash has cooled to room temperature, add it to a large mixing bowl and whisk it with the Cacique® Crema Mexicana. Now add the onion-mushroom mixture to the bowl and mix until everything is combined. Season to taste with sea salt. This is the filling for the gratin.
- Coat the bottom of a 9 X 9 X 3-inch baking pan with a thin layer of the filling and then add 1 layer of the chiles, coating as much of it as possible. Add half of the remaining filling, followed by a sprinkling of half of the Cacique® Ranchero® Queso Fresco. Now, starting with the rest of chiles, repeat this process using up the ingredients. Place in the preheated 375 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.