A vegan creamy gratin? How is this possible? No cheese whatsoever and it’s not even missed? Can you guess the secret ingredient? Nope?
Believe it or not cashews can be used to produce a vegan bechamel-like sauce. I know, I didn’t believe it either at first – but, trust me on this, they really do provide the creaminess you get in a bechamel. Since we’re already braving the unknown with the cashews let’s make the star of the gratin, butternut squash, (instead of the usual potatoes).
If not for the tedious squash slicing process I would be making this a lot more often. Why oh why does butternut squash have to be so difficult to slice? It makes a brand new chef’s knife feel duller than a butter knife. Oh, and the peeling, don’t even get me started. Attempt this recipe with patience, or a kitchen partner who has patience. If you’re using that mandolin – be careful not to slice your fingers off – once you get into a groove and start daydreaming the task becomes incredibly dangerous. I speak from personal experience here – I have numerous mandolin battle wounds.
Once the frustrating squash fiasco is over, the real fun begins – layering the slices, sprinkling the shallots, and spreading the sauce. Pop it in the oven and 40 minutes later get ready to be impressed. Hands down the best gratin I’ve ever had.
Don’t worry if you end up with leftover squash slices — they’re delicious baked as chips.
- 1 pound shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
- 4-5 pounds butternut squash, peeled and thinly sliced (will be 1 1/2-2 pounds when sliced)
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
- 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- olive oil, for brushing
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Using the 1/8 inch setting on the mandolin slice the butternut squash and the shallots.
- In a pan heat oil over medium heat and add the shallots. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The shallots should brown slowly and if they start to burn reduce the heat.
- Drain shallots and spread them out over a paper towel to let them cool.
- Using the cooking oil from the shallots lightly cook the garlic slices, until slightly browned. Drain on a paper towel.
- To make the sauce add cashews, broth, salt, and garlic to a blender and puree until creamy.
- To assemble the gratin spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray and spread 1/4 cup of the sauce over the bottom.
- Place the squash slices in the pan, slightly overlapping. Spread 1/4 cup sauce over the squash and using the back of a spoon, even the sauce out. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and some of the shallots.
- Repeat for the rest of the layers until you run out of sauce.
- Top the gratin with squash and brush with olive oil.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until top of the gratin lightly browned. If gratin hasn't browned to your likely broil it for a few minutes.