Although Friendsgiving can be an event on the same scale as Thanksgiving — depending how much cooking you’re doing or how many side dishes you’re expected to prepare —  it can also feel more relaxed than the usual big turkey day. Family tension is absent, kids (if they’re a part) are generally happy to be playing together, and the pressure to make traditional family dishes melts away.

So I love thinking of Friendsgiving food ideas that break from the traditional and are a little more unexpected.

So I’ll let you in on my favorite, crowd-pleasing Friendsgiving side dish recipe: An incredible Squash and Apple Gratin that feeds a crowd, is appropriately seasonal, and definitely impresses.

Even if you’re not charged with bringing a dish, this vegetarian recipe is perfect for all types of holiday entertaining and a great dish to keep bookmarked.

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Related: 9 mashed potato alternatives for your holiday table (No offense, mashed potatoes!)

My Favorite Friendsgiving Side Dish: Squash and Apple Gratin

From The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso. Reprinted with permission by W.W. Norton & Company.
Photos © Squire Fox.

My favorite Friendsgiving food idea: Amy Traverso's Squash and Apple Gratin | © Squire Fox

My Squash and Apple Gratin comes from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso — and she was kind enough to allow us to share the recipe, below. (PS think the cookbook also makes a fabulous Friendsgiving hostess gift!)

I first made the Squash and Apple Gratin for Friendsgiving years ago, and have since added it to any sort of family meal where I have to feed a crowd.

It’s so satisfying and delicious, it can also work as a lighter main dish for any vegetarians at the table. The sweetness of the squash and apple is kept in check by creamy gruyere and a savory garlic breadcrumb topping. It also just looks really lovely on the table.

Related: The ultimate stuffing recipe: Julia Turshen’s Sheet Pan Bread Stuffing with Sausage + Spinach

A favorite Friendsgiving food idea from one of my favorite fall cookbooks © Jane Sweeney for Cool Mom Eats

My well-loved copy of the book it comes from, along my favorite dish for making and serving the Gratin recipe.

2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
1 medium (1½ pounds or 680g) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch-wide crescents and half moons
4 ounces (115g) Gruyere cheese, grated
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 tablespoons (½ stick; 56g) salted butter, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
2 medium firm-sweet apples (about 12 ounces total; see notes below) peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch-thick wedges
1½ ounces (46 g) crusty white bread, such as Pullman style or Italian, torn into small pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2-quart gratin dish or 8-inch square baking dish
10- to 12- inch skillet
Food processor 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack to the middle position. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and broth. In a large bowl, toss the squash with the cheese, cream mixture, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon of the pepper.

Pour into a gratin or baking dish, cover with foil, and bake until the squash is tender, 35 to 45 minutes, turning the dish and removing the foil halfway through. Remove from the oven and set aside. Leave the oven on.

2. Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, add the onion, and cook until it begins to brown, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rosemary, the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the apples, and cook until they are tender and beginning to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Spread evenly over squash. Turn the broiler to high.

3. In a food processor, pulse the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, the garlic, and nutmeg to create coarse breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the squash and apples. Broil, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes (see note below). Let rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Notes and tips on the recipe:

*Use the best ingredients you can! The highest quality butter, the freshest herbs, the best bread make all the difference. Any recipe is only as good as the quality of its ingredients.

* I make this recipe exactly as written, although I think one time I accidentally started chopping my squash into chunks instead of half-moons and phew, it works just as well.

* Pay close attention to the broiling step at the end! My broiler runs very hot and this topping would definitely burn if I let it broil for the full 5- 7 minutes. I usually only need about a minute or two for it to crisp up, so be sure to stay close and check after one minute.

* If you’re traveling with a warm dish like this, I recommend placing it on a good baking sheet like this one and use that to transport.