It’s not easy…

butternut squash and cheddar gratin with tillamook cheese and dried oregano
Photography by Matt Hocking

Oh, who am I kidding? Last week’s #testkitchen was one of the easiest and enjoyable nights of my life. When your cheesemaker transplant friends from the Pacific Northwest, Genvieve and Conan, show up bearing gifts of PCN cheeses and wine pairings. Then bringer of joy and sanity, nutrition coach/dietician Allison Tepper arrives at your door (more wine). Add into the mix a pantry full of farm-fresh, fall food and it was an evening of amazing people and really good eating.

Photography by Matt Hocking

Everyone’s favorite? Not the carrots and fennel cooked in Port wine and mixed with award-wining, world’s-best-cheese Rogue River Blue, nor the delicious fondue that I broke by overheating it (pro tip: you should still eat all of the delicious cheese!). The clear favorite was a gratin that, again, could not be easier. Tillamook medium cheddar brought the cheese and dried oregano, which has been missing since it’s overuse several decades ago, lent a bold, sweet, hay-scented presence in the finished dish.

This will be appearing on my Thanksgiving table. Why? We’ll, I want to eat more. And we all need one more easy side. Assemble it a day ahead and bake it off after the turkey comes out of the oven.

Butternut squash and cheddar gratin

Serves 8


Tillamook cheese for the butternut squash and cheddar gratin with oregano.
  • 6 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Marsala
  • 4 tbs dried oregano
  • Sherry vinegar
  • 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut in 1″ dice
  • 1/2 lb mild cheddar, shredded
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs


butternut squash and cheddar gratin with panko bread crumbs and dried oregano
  • Preheat the oven to 375 F
  • Warm 2 tbs oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Add Marsala and deglaze pan scraping up brown bits while the Marsala reduces. Stir through 2 tbs dried oregano and season to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of vinegar.
  • In a large bowl, toss together butternut squash with the onion mixture.
  • Grease an approximately 3 1/2 quart baking dish with 2 tbs olive oil. (Note: both as 11″ round 2″ deep dish or a 13x9x2″ rectangular dish would work well.) Layer in half the squash followed by half the cheese. Repeat with the remaining squash and cheese. Pour the cream and stock over the dish.
  • Warm the remaining 2 tbs oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add the panko and toast until golden brown. Season with remaining 2 tbs oregano, salt and pepper. Sprinkle evenly over the gratin.
  • Cover the dish with foil and place in oven. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove foil, increase oven temperature to 425 F and cook another 20-30 minutes until the bread crumbs are browned and liquid is mostly evaporated. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving to cool and absorb any additional liquid.

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