Bright, green chayote squash layered in a casserole dish with sautéed onions, jalapeño, poblano and plenty of Monterey jack cheese! You can't go wrong with this side dish!
Chayote squash, also known as pear squash, is one of Latin America's best kept secrets. And chayote gratinado (chayote squash au gratin), is one of my best-kept secrets. Chayote resembles a bright, green pear and is native to Mexico. Enjoyed fresh in salads, or cooked in a variety of dishes, it holds up to long cooking times and remains crisp in texture.
For today's recipe, I have combined chayote with fresh corn, poblanos and jack cheese in a warm and bubbling au gratin casserole. Preparing dishes au gratin, rich in melted cheese, is a great way to introduce the family to different vegetables that they otherwise may not try. Next time you are at the market, pick up some chayote squash. Substitute it for potatoes in your next soup or slice it extra-thin and toss it in a salad. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Add oil to large skillet and heat to medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chayote. Sauté for 6-8 minutes.
Add the poblanos and jalapeños. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the smoked paprika and flour. Cook for 1 minute.
Stir in the milk until well incorporated. If needed, use a whisk to make sure no lumps form. Cook for 7-9 minutes or until sauce becomes thick.
Add in the corn and cook just until warm. Remove from heat and fold in 2 cups of cheese and stir just until melted.
Transfer mixture to a large baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Cover and bake in preheated 350ºF oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and place under broiler to brown the cheese. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
This dish can easily be prepared gluten-free. Substitute the flour with equal amounts of masa harina. Whisk masa harina into cold milk until smooth. Add milk as directed. The results is just a subtle flavor of the corn masa harina in the cheese sauce.