Slices of butternut squash are cooked in heavy cream and vanilla until nearly fork-tender and baked together with alternating layers of walnuts and mescal-soaked dates for a unique and unforgettable side dish.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the heavy cream and vanilla beans in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, taking care not to let the cream boil over. Add the butternut squash in small batches and cook until 75-percent cooked, about 7 minutes per batch. Drain and reserve the cream.
Warm the mescal in a small pot for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl. Soak the dates in the warm mescal for 20 minutes.
Cover the bottom of an ovenproof dish with a single layer of butternut squash, making sure they all face the same direction. Then top with the walnuts, dates, and a few ladles of the heavy cream. Create the next layer in the same fashion, but arrange the squash slices perpendicular to the first (create a crisscross pattern). Repeat the process about 4 times or until all of the ingredients are used. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.