This creamy, cheesy dish is like savory pumpkin pie
Can’t get enough pumpkin this time of year? Neither can we. Especially when it’s mixed with cream and gruyère in a savory side dish.
So remember: This pumpkin gratin would love an invitation to your next dinner party. Maybe as a plus one for ham or beef roast.
Or even turkey. We hear you may be serving that in a few weeks.
Recipe: Pumpkin Gratin
This gratin is similar to both a casserole and a custard. It’s browned on top and served in the shallow dish it was baked in. Our dish is adapted from a Jacques Pépin recipe (see Notes).
If you baked this gratin in a pie or tart dish with a crust, you could call it quiche. Using sweet instead of savory ingredients would turn it into pumpkin pie.
Prep time for this dish is about 15 minutes (including sautéing the onions). Baking time adds 30 to 40 minutes.
This recipe yields about 8 side-dish servings. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 1 medium onion
- 1 garlic clove (two if you like a more pronounced garlic flavor, as we do)
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (see Notes)
- 2½ to 3 ounces gruyère cheese, grated (about ¾ to 1 cup packed; see Notes for substitutions)
- ~1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
- 3 large eggs (consider using pasteurized eggs; see Notes)
- 1 cup cream
- 15-ounce can pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme)
- additional salt to taste (maybe ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us)
- a dozen or so grinds of black pepper (to taste)
- garnish of thyme sprigs or chopped parsley (very optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Peel the onion, cut it in half, then cut each half into thin slices. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and mince it or slice it thinly. Set aside.
- Place a large skillet (preferably nonstick) on medium stovetop heat and add 1 tablespoon butter. When the butter has melted, add the chopped onion. Add salt to taste. Sauté the onion for about 6 minutes (until it’s translucent). Then add the chopped garlic and sauté for 1 additional minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and let it cool.
- While the onion is cooking, use the remaining tablespoon of butter to grease a gratin dish (use one that holds 1½ to 2 quarts). Set aside.
- Grate the gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. Set aside.
- Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork or whisk. Add the cream to the mixing bowl and beat to combine. Add the pumpkin purée, thyme, salt to taste, and black pepper to taste. Beat with a whisk or spoon to combine.
- Add the grated gruyère cheese and the onion/garlic mixture, folding them in with a spoon. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared gratin dish. Smooth the top of the gratin, then sprinkle the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese evenly over the top of the dish. Place the gratin dish into the preheated oven and set a timer for 25 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, check to see if the gratin is done (a thin knife or toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean; the dish may need another 5 minutes or so in the oven). When done, the top of the gratin may not be as brown as you’d like. In that case, just run it under the broiler for about a minute to brown the cheese.
- Top the gratin with a garnish of thyme sprigs or chopped parsley, if you like, and serve.
- This is a very rich and hearty dish. Although it’s designed to be served as a side, you could make an entire meal out of it. Especially if you add a salad or some crusty bread.
- We like to use gruyère cheese in gratins. You could probably substitute a domestic Swiss-type cheese (we haven’t taste-tested this, but think it would work).
- If you plan to taste the raw pumpkin batter before pouring it into the gratin dish (and we usually do, to make sure the seasoning is correct), you may want to consider using pasteurized eggs. Non-pasteurized eggs can contain salmonella. This problem is rare, but real.
- Have roasted whole pumpkin on hand? You could substitute it for canned (the flavor will probably be better). We generally use canned pumpkin in this dish because it’s readily available and of decent quality. Not to mention more convenient.
- Pumpkin is a form of winter squash that is native to North America (it probably originated in the area that today takes in northeastern Mexico and the southwestern US). It dates back at least to 5500 BCE, probably earlier. It’s usually orange, although there are yellow varieties too. The word pumpkin has no particular scientific meaning. In North America, “pumpkin” usually refers to orange winter squash derived from Cucurbita pepo. In other parts of the world, “pumpkin” is often just a generic term for winter squash.
- When we hear “pumpkin” in the US, we usually think of the large orange squash used to make jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween. These pumpkins are edible, but they tend to be rather stringy. If you want to cook fresh pumpkin, look for the smaller “pie” varieties. We think butternut squash makes a pretty good substitute for fresh pumpkin. And some brands of canned “pumpkin” actually contain other varieties of winter squash.
- The biggest producer of canned pumpkin in the US is Libby’s, which uses a strain of Dickinson pumpkins that they developed specifically for canning. Their pumpkins are larger than normal “pie” pumpkins, with meaty, sweet flesh and a creamy texture. Dickinson pumpkins aren’t the deep orange we usually associate with jack o’lanterns; instead, they’re generally tan or pale orange.
- Pumpkins can be grown throughout much of the US. But the Libby’s people grow almost all their pumpkins within about 80 miles of their processing plant in Morton, Illinois.
- Most producers of canned pumpkin make two versions: One that contains only pumpkin, and another that contains both pumpkin and “pumpkin pie spice” (for making pie). You should use the straight pumpkin version for this recipe.
- BTW, although pumpkin pie is great, we think Sweet Potato Pie (which has a similar flavor} is even better.
- Our recipe for pumpkin gratin is based on one developed by Jacques Pépin. We don’t remember where we saw it. When we searched for “Jacques Pépin pumpkin gratin,” we found some videos of his TV shows, and we suspect that’s where he first presented his dish. We added onions, garlic, and thyme to our recipe, giving it a more complex flavor. The addition of onion also makes our version denser than his. If you leave out the onion, this dish will puff up more in the oven, sort of like a soufflé.
- Pépin also achieves a very light texture by mixing the ingredients for his dish in a food processor, which helps incorporate air into the mixture. He whirls everything except the gruyère in the bowl of the food processor (basically Step 7 of our procedure). Then he adds the gruyère (Step 8 for us) and pulses several times just to incorporate the cheese.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If substituting table salt, start with about half the amount we recommend. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Yum!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I’m savoring the savory.”
“This is a quichin’ cousin of pumpkin pie,” I said.
“The onions make me cry with joy,” said Mrs K R. “Gruyère-anteed.”
“This dish is definitely what I’d call the Big Cheese,” I said.
“So glad you added the Parmigiano-Reggiano,” said Mrs K R.
Well, I always keep some on hand. In queso emergency.
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