A culinary and environmental visionary, Alice Waters is a pioneer of the notion that cooking should be based on the freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. The proprietor and executive chef of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, Alice is also the founder of the Edible Schoolyard, an innovative program created to transform public education by using sustainably grown food to teach, nurture, and empower children of all ages.

Celery root adds complexity to the sweetness of the butternut squash. The gratin can be made ahead and reheated. It’s fine to leave it out at room temperature for a few hours—it tastes better and is easier to reheat if it has not been chilled completely. Pack it in a sack lunch or as a picnic treat, to be served at room temperature.


Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Trim the ends from and peel the butternut squash and celery root (a vegetable peeler works well). Cut them both in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds from the squash. Compost the peels and seeds. Using a sharp knife or mandolin slicer, cut both the squash and celery root crosswise into thin slices. (A mandolin makes this job much easier, but it is certainly not essential.)
3. Strip the leaves from the marjoram or sage sprigs. Chop coarsely; you should have about 2 teaspoons.
4. In a gratin dish or a low-sided baking dish, lay out a single layer of squash, packing slices tightly and leaving as little exposed as possible. Sprinkle the layer with one quarter of the herbs and salt.
5. In the same way, lay out the celery root in a single layer on top of the squash and sprinkle with herbs and salt. Continue until you have 3 layers of squash and 2 of celery root. The top layer gets salt only.
6. Mix together in a small heavy-bottomed pot and heat until warm:
• 1 cup half-and-half
• 1 cup cream
• Salt to taste
• A pinch of cayenne
7. Pour over the vegetables; the level of the liquid should just reach the top layer of the vegetables. Press down on the vegetables; they should be fully submerged when pressed.
8. Place in the middle of the oven to bake. After the gratin has been cooking for 35 minutes, take a spatula and press the top layer of squash under the cream. This keeps the top layer from drying out. Bake until the liquid is absorbed, the top layer browned, and the vegetables are tender (test by probing them with the point of a paring knife), about 1 hour of cooking in all. If the gratin begins to brown too much before it is cooked through, loosely cover the top with a piece of foil.
Variations:
• Substitute sautéed leeks for the celery root.
• Make the gratin with other kinds of squash such as Seminole, Amish neck pumpkin, or Musquée de Provence.
• Use stock in place of the cream, adding a drizzle of olive oil on every layer.
• Lightly sprinkle grated cheese, such as Parmesan or Gruyère, on each layer.



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