I first made this apple butternut squash gratin for my sister’s baby shower last year and it was completely devoured. Not a crumb was left. I was a little sad because once I had had a taste of it, I was already dreaming about leftovers. I’ve been meaning to make it again every since, but it somehow slipped from my mind and then the next thing I knew, it was spring. When a good friend and his mother made the trip up to have dinner with us earlier this fall, this gratin instantly came to mind. It just seemed like the perfect dish. Warm and satisfying, while being perfectly seasonal with roasted butternut squash, sautéed apple, fresh rosemary, nutty gruyere, and a dash of cream, all topped with crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs, this gratin is both deliciously sweet and savory. It is also guaranteed to make your house smell absolutely amazing.
The dish is substantial enough to serve as a main dish, pairing beautifully with a harvest salad of pear or apple, walnuts, and gorgonzola, but it would work equally well as a side to any fall meal. It would be an especially nice accompaniment to a Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you are looking for something that will work for both your vegetarian and meat-eating guests alike.
You may have noticed that things have been quieter than usual here on Pixelated Crumb this year. It’s not that I’m not cooking, baking, and eating, and it’s not that I haven’t been itching to share fabulous, seasonal recipes. It’s just been…well, it’s been an interesting year.
I found out that I was pregnant in early February and at just about the same time, my appetite went a bit haywire. I didn’t really want to look at food, let alone take pictures and write about food. I was basically in a semi-permanent state of always feeling a little awful (sometimes just straight up awful) and so unbearably tired. Foods that I had loved suddenly repulsed me. I got through the first 12 weeks knowing it would get better and that it would all be worth it.
But when I went in for my first ultrasound at 12 1/2 weeks, the doctor, after reviewing the sonogram the technician had just taken, came in the room and told us how very sorry he was. I couldn’t understand what he could possibly be talking about. Why would he be sorry? This was such a happy thing! New life! Soft baby skin and tiny little toes! It took a while for the news to sink in. Despite the fact that my body had kept carrying on being pregnant, the baby simply had not developed.
Over the past several months, I have written this blog post over and over in my head. I have gone over and over what I had to say, but it would fill a chapter in a book to say everything I wanted to say: how I declined a D&C and took meds that forced a miscarriage, how I had to take two rounds of the medicine for it to finally kick in, how intensely painful it was, how my parents drove eight hours to be with me, how I stared at pregnant women and couples with newborn babies with anger and resentment deep in my heart, how guilty and ashamed I felt for that anger and resentment, how kind and supportive my friends and family were, how I felt betrayed by my body, how responsible I felt no matter how many times the doctor and midwives told me that nothing I had done had caused this to happen, how my coworkers who didn’t even know why I was out of work for a week brought me flowers, how it took so much longer than I thought it would to recover, how I got macarons and Jeni’s ice cream in the mail from great friends, and how I never felt closer to and more in love with Joseph.
You know how you never forget your first? Well, Smitten Kitchen was my first food blog and I instantly fell in love with Deb Perelman’s photos, her recipes, her style of writing, and especially her stories. She only features the best of recipes (including this unbelievable chocolate peanut butter cake that you’ve seen here) and her blog is often one of the first places I turn to when I’m looking for a particular kind of recipe because I know she’s going to deliver.
I was so excited when I found out that Deb was coming out with a cookbook, and three years later, it finally went to print and I had one waiting at my doorstep the day it was released. Imagine my glee when I then found out that she was coming to Boston and giving a talk and signing books at my favorite bookstore. Tickets ran out in two hours, but fanatic that I am, I called the second the store opened and had no problem gettings tickets.
The short talk was interesting, but the real highlight was getting to meet her and tell her what an inspiration she was for me to start my own blog. Even though I had to wait in line for two hours to meet her (and we were in the first third of the line!), it hardly felt like it because of the great conversation with other Smitten Kitchen fans in line (one of whom I later found out was none other than the dedicated SK reader who introduced Deb to the brown hazelnut brown butter cake that I love. Thank you, Rachel!).
Dare I say it? I don’t like pumpkin pie. So un-American, right? People who know me are always shocked. I love all things pumpkin! I love chocolate chip pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bundt cake, and especially pumpkin cinnamon roll pancakes. But pumpkin pie? Not so much. That is, not so much until I had my first bite of pumpkin pie from this Cook’s Illustrated recipe at last year’s Thanksgiving.
I guess what I don’t like about most pumpkin pie is that it just comes across as mushy and kind of bland. There’s just not enough going on for me. This pumpkin pie, on the other hand, has all the right things going on. The flavor is deep, warm, and full of pumpkin and the texture more silky than mushy. And it’s not just for the pumpkin pie averse. My sister – a huge pumpkin pie fan – loves this recipe as much as I do. What makes it so superior from other recipes? Well, it starts with cooking the canned pumpkin. But I’ve done that before and it didn’t really do that much for me. The real secret to this recipe lies in a can of candied yams. Yup, there’s not only a full can of pumpkin puree in this recipe, there’s a whole can of candied yams! No wonder it’s so spectacular!