Root-Vegetable Gratin

Healthy comfort food -- is there such a thing? When I think healthy, I think fresh veggies and salad. When I think comfort food, I think warm, gooey macaroni and cheese. Is there a way to combine the two? With this root-vegetable gratin there is.

As soon as I saw it on the cover of Food & Wine, I knew I'd be making this dish. It combines good-for-you butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and rutabaga with a touch of cream and a sprinkling of bread crumbs that give just the right amount of crunch.

I made my usual pre-cooking shopping trip to Whole Foods and got the necessary root vegetables. I wasn't entirely exact about the amounts, so I had a bit more than the recipe called for, and on top of one large dish of the gratin, I also made two smaller dishes with just butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

Root Vegetable Gratin (from Food & Wine, March 2009)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
1 butternut squash neck (2 1/4 pounds) from a large butternut squash, peeled
1 medium rutabaga (2 pounds), peeled and halved lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375°. Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes and squash lengthwise 1/8 inch thick. Slice the rutabaga crosswise 1/8 inch thick. I had trouble fitting the vegetables -- even after cutting them into smaller pieces -- in the mandoline and resorted to slicing them with a knife instead.

Spray an 8-by-12-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. I used olive oil instead of cooking spray. Arrange half of the potatoes in the dish, overlapping them slightly; season with salt and pepper. Top with half of the rutabaga and the squash, seasoning each layer. Repeat the layering.

Pour the broth over and around the vegetables.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour, until the vegetables are almost tender when pierced. Remove the foil and pour the cream over the gratin. Bake for about 30 minutes longer, until the liquid has thickened.

Preheat the broiler. Mix the panko with the oil and season with salt and pepper; sprinkle over the gratin. Broil 3 inches from the heat for 2 minutes, until golden, rotating for even browning. Let the gratin stand for 10 minutes, then serve.

I really loved this dish. The vegetables were soft and creamy, but the panko on top kept the dish from seeming mushy. I ate this the day I made it and then took pieces to work for lunch all week and rewarmed them in the microwave. It held up well and made for several tasty, satisfying meals. Plus, it's loaded with beta carotene and fiber, so it's not just tasty but also healthy.