It’s that time of year when we are in search for that delicious side dish that will satisfy even the most picky eater. Gratin-style casseroles are crowd-pleasers with both young and old. Typically prepared with a variety of good melting cheese, even the kids will come back for seconds! For this recipe, I combined three different varieties of squash. Butternut squash, zucchini and chayote. They each have a distinct texture and flavor, but work well when combined in any casserole, soup or stew. The chayote squash is a popular ingredient used in many Latin American dishes. It’s the firmest in texture, looks like a green pear and tastes a little like cabbage. It’s one of my favorites!
Cook the bacon in large skillet at medium heat until crispy. Remove from pan onto a plate lined with a paper towel.
In that same skillet you cooked the bacon, heat to medium. If there is more than 2 tablespoons of grease, you could remove the excess. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash and chayote. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 more minutes. Fold in the cooked bacon and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. In another pan, add the butter and heat to medium. When butter melts, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and chicken broth. Whisk until mostly smooth. Add the smoked paprika, garlic, onion, thyme, nutmeg and hot sauce. Stir well to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. Cook at a low simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until sauce becomes thick.
Once the sauce is thick, turn off the heat and mix in 1/2 of the cotija, 1/2 of the muenster cheese and sour cream. Stir just to melt. In a large baking dish, spread out the cooked squash evenly. Pour cheese sauce over the top and stir carefully to coat evenly. Add the remaining cheese to the top. Cover loosely with foil paper and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Uncover and cook under the broiler just to brown the cheese a little more. Remove from oven and sprinkle with panko bread crumbs and green onions. You could toast the panko bread crumbs ahead of time if you prefer them to be brown, but that are crispy already.