Winter Squash and Sweet Potatoes

There is something magical about the marriage of sweet potatoes and butternut squash. They have similar textures and colors, but the flavors are unique to each. Combine them with white potatoes and you have a dish of exquisite sweet earthy flavors perfect for the winter season.

Grocery stores and farmers’ markets have all manner of winter squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Butternut squash is commonly available, but this dish is a great chance to try some other squashes like kabocha, Hubbard, Kuri, buttercup or even sugar pumpkins. Each squash has a somewhat unique flavor although they may be hard to tell apart unless you have them side by side.

This dish can be seasoned according to your culinary bent – with fresh or dried herbs, cheese, bacon or pancetta. However you season, be sure to use plenty of fresh ground black pepper and a hint of red pepper for a delectable main course or side dish.

Simply put, you will first make a seasoned creamy sauce, then cook the potato, sweet potato and squash slices until tender and finally layer them, pour over the sauce, top with cheese and bake.

Butternut, sweet potato, white potato bake

(serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main dish)

Roux (sauce)
2 T. butter
1 oz. pancetta or bacon (optional)
¼ c. finely minced onions or shallots
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
¼ c. flour
1 ½ c. milk (skim or 2%)
Approximately ¾ c. grated Parmigiano cheese
½ t.salt
½ t. fresh ground black pepper
¼ t. ground red pepper

1 large baking potato
1 medium sweet potato
Half of one small squash (save the other half for another dish)
½ c. grated gruyere, asiago or crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Peel and cube the potatoes and squash into ½” cubes. Add to boiling water and boil gently until tender, about 4-5 minutes (may take longer, depending on the density of the squash). You want them easily pierced with a fork, but not falling apart. Drain well.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter and add the pancetta or bacon if using, cooking until crisp. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, add flour and cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Continue stirring over low heat until the sauce thickens. Add the parmesan, salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Arrange vegetables in a shallow baking dish and pour sauce over the vegetables. Top with cheese and any desired herbs. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. If desired, you can then put the dish under the broiler for 3 or 4 minutes until it is golden. Let stand ten minutes before serving.

This dish goes well as a side with any smoky meat such as barbecued ribs or smoked sausage. A perfect accompaniment is homemade applesauce, dusted with cinnamon.

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