For quite a while now I’ve been trying to think about the perfect Thanksgiving dinner side dish. Of course, turkey is the star of the show, but the deliciousness of turkey always delivers. Unfortunately, however, all side dishes are not created equal. There are the usual standbys, like stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, and the ever-present holiday green bean casserole. But year after year, I get a little tired of the same old side dishes. Then I remembered a potato gratin that Rachael Ray had made on one of her special Thanksgiving shows…she called it Autumn Potato Gratin and it sounded perfect.
I changed up Rachael’s recipe a little. She used a mix of baby potatoes; I just had regular on hand so that’s what I went with. Rachael used half a stick of butter and 2+ cups of cream in her recipe; I know this is a holiday dinner, but I thought this sounded like a LOT (don’t forget that there will be many other side dishes, plus dessert!) so instead I used olive oil and thickened up some milk with a little flour. Lastly, for the pretty color and mostly because I had it on hand, I added fresh pumpkin to the mix.
If you want more holiday ideas, be sure to check out Allrecipes.com! Allrecipes is featuring a Thanksgiving Budget Menu for 8 for less than $50! Their menu includes Roast Turkey, Bread and Celery Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Green Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, and Pumpkin Pie. (Pretty fabulous, right?!) On Wednesday, Nov. 25 from 8 AM to 4 PM PST, Allrecipes will host a live webcast where they demonstrate how to cook the recipes in their budget menu, answer your live cooking questions, and give Thanksgiving cooking and entertaining tips. (You can read more about this here.)
To Make This Dish Ahead and Reheat: The casserole can be made up to three days ahead. After making it, allow it to cool completely, then store it (covered) in the fridge. On the day you want to use it, let it sit at room temperature for two hours, then bake (covered with aluminum foil) at 325F for about 30 minutes or until it starts to bubble (if it gets a little dry you can add a splash more milk).
Substitutes for the Fresh Pumpkin: If you don’t want to use fresh pumpkin, you can use sweet potato instead to get the same gorgeous color…just thinly slice the sweet potato along with the other potatoes.
How to Peel a Pumpkin: I peel pumpkin the same way I peel cantaloupe. Just trim off the top and bottom then run your knife from top to bottom, cutting the rind off in strips. Once the rind is off you can cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds.
Autumn Potato-Pumpkin Gratin (Adopted from Rachael Ray’s recipe for Autumn Potato Gratin)
(Yield: About 8 servings)
3 ½ c chopped fresh pumpkin
3 medium potatoes, washed and thinly sliced but not peeled (about 4 c sliced)
2 TB olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB all-purpose flour
2 ¼ c low-fat milk
1 TB minced fresh thyme
3 TB minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
½ c fresh grated Parmesan
Butter, to grease the casserole dish
2 ½ quart casserole dish with high sides
For the pumpkin: Preheat the oven to 400F. Roast the pumpkin with a little salt and pepper on a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray for about 15-20 minutes (stirring once), until the pumpkin is just starting to get tender and light golden brown. Toss together the roasted pumpkin and raw sliced potatoes.
For the milk: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat; add the onion and sauté 5 minutes until softened, then add the garlic and sauté another minute. Sprinkle in the flour and cook 1-2 minutes, then gradually whisk in the milk. Bring the milk up to gentle boil, turn off the heat, and add the parsley and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the gratin: Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly butter the casserole dish, then pour in the pumpkin and potatoes. Pour the milk mixture over top until the liquid comes to just under the top of the pumpkin/potatoes (note: you might need to add a splash more milk to make sure that the liquid level is just under the top of the pumpkin/potatoes). Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 60 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Turn the oven up to 425, remove the foil, and bake until the top starts to brown (about 15 mintues). Then preheat the broiler, sprinkle the cheese on top and broil the casserole for another couple minutes until the cheese is melted and starting to brown in places. Allow to set for about 10 minutes before serving.