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Whenever I leave on a trip, I only need one guess in order to know what my husband will be eating while I'm gone - mashed potatoes. Sometimes he mixes it up and makes hash browns and if he's feeling particularly crazy, he might make potatoes au gratin. My boy loves potatoes. And really who can blame him? They're one of the most comforting foods known to mankind.
What makes my husband's potato love even more amazing is how traumatized he was by a bad potato experience. When he was thirteen, his grandma sent him to the root cellar underneath the smokehouse to get some potatoes for Sunday dinner. Marcus opened the door and as he did so, in his own words, about a billion camel crickets were on the back of the door and jumped on him. After jumping up and down while screaming like a banshee, he made a pact to never enter the root cellar again. In our house, my husband is the regular bug smasher or remover, except if it's a camel cricket. We've only had two in our house during the seven years we've lived here but each time, I've been brought in to dispatch it. Ask him about the camel cricket move I do with my hand on his arm to freak him out.
I have a lot of love for potatoes, this despite the fact that my parents once tried to kill us by feeding us about three tons of potatoes. Ok - maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. But it honestly seemed like three tons of potatoes at the time. When we lived in Brentwood, TN, my Dad put in a rather large garden. As I remember, he planted two rows of potatoes. I remember feeling like Almanzo from Farmer Boy when it came time to harvest them. I remember my Dad being a bit flummoxed by the quantities of potatoes that we harvested. The rest of that summer, lunch consisted of a potato with cheese melted on it. Amazingly enough, the potatoes were so good, my brother and I didn't get sick of them. But we do refer to it as our potato year.
Monday night, we had our neighborhood potluck and I needed to make something to bring. I tend to bring vegetarian dishes to potlucks because I have so many friends that are vegetarians and I want there to be something they can eat at these functions. These dishes also have to be Southern potluck worthy which usually means they need to not be too weird and it's always a winner if it involves cream or cheese.
As I browse the web, I save recipes that I want to try later. Doing a search on recipes containing potatoes, I found a wonderful casserole posted by Marisa McClellan who writes the wonderful blog, Food In Jars. If you want more information about canning and preserving food, her blog is a must read. I've gotten so many helpful tips and advice from her site.
This casserole is delicious on so many different levels. It's true comfort food but the sage and the nutmeg fancy it up a bit. The sweetness of the winter squash adds a bit of twist to the standard mashed potato casserole. It's light and fluffy and the Gruyère cheese mixed throughout the dish and sprinkled on top makes it truly amazing. I was told by our friends and neighbors at the potluck that this was totally blog worthy. Since it was the first dish gone, I think we found a winner.
Potato & Winter Squash Casserole with Gruyère Cheese
Adapted from Marisa McClellan
Serves 10-12 as a side dish
2 lbs potatoes, peeled,sliced in half and cut into 1/2 inch slices(choose a good mashing potato - I used Yukon Gold)
2 lbs winter squash, peeled,sliced in half and cut into 1/2 inch slices(I used butternut)
2 cups shredded Gruyere Cheese (this is about 9 ounces)
3/4 cups shredded Parmesan (this is about 1 ounce)
4 tablespoons butter
3 eggs, beaten
3-4 finely minced sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the potatoes & squash. Cover, reduce heat and cook at a slow boil until soft (this took us 25 minutes).
While potatoes and squash are cooking, grate cheese and toss together. Reserve 1 cup for sprinkling over the top.
Drain potatoes and squash, reserving one cup of cooking water. Return potatoes and squash to pot and mash well. Add butter and 1 3/4 cups of cheese and mix well. Add seasonings, stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed. Let cool for 5-10 minutes and stir in beaten eggs. Add reserved cooking water until mixture is just slightly pourable.
Pour potato & squash mixture into a baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until until the top is browned and the casserole bubbles (this took us 45 minutes). Serve!