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Au Gratin Problems

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Every once in a while I make a Gratin, but I never get them to come out exactly like I want. Last time, I did a potato, parsnip, and fennel gratin with goat cheese, mozzarella, and fresh cream and it came out watery -- like the liquid separates from the veg and instead of becoming creamy and gooey, leaving the fat solids all that's between the layers. I'm thinking part of it was the mozz, which is watery and can separate when cooked, or that it might be water from the potatoes/parsnips cooking out. Does anyone else know of a solution? Cook at a lower temp? Use a specific cream/milk combo or thickener? Blanche the potatoes/parsnips first? I basically want it to come out creamy and cheesy and not separated, like the potatoes suck it all up and become really unctuous. Thanks for the advice in advance.

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  1. I don't have a specific recipe per se... but typically use a cook's illustrated method... which usually starts with saute-ing garlic/shallots/onion (whatever you are using) in butter... leave in pan (or set aside if bulky, like onions) , then adding half-n-half... & salt/white or black pepper/herbs... etc., warm the milk, then add your potatoes, etc. best to use mandoline or have a even a slice as possible. Bring to a strong simmer for 8-12 mins (depending on what kind of potatoes (you're not cooking them through, just getting them started)... then transfer to buttered baking dish (I usually use ceramic or pyrex). from here, you can scoop out the potatoes, etc. w/ a slotted spoon and layer in the dish with other items.. such as other veg, cheese, etc. pour in seasoned milk, only to just below surface of potatoes. add more cheese (or you can leave off)... cover with foil & bake at 350 for 45-90 mins (again, depends on the type of potatoes, etc... just check tenderness after 45 mins. remove foil if you want to crisp up the top for last 10 mins or so.

    1. I usually make a béchamel sauce for a gratin. There are many ways to make it but I use 3 Tb butter and 3TB flour slowing wish together over low heat when it gets to a play dough feel but not over cooked, start slowing whisking in aprox 2 c. warm whole milk, keep whisking as it thickens. Add salt pepper and fresh grated nutmeg. Then I would put whatever veggies I am using in a gratin dish and pour the sauce over. You can of course add some cheese to the sauce or sprinkle cheese over your gratin. A turnip I would blanch first though with potatoes, I just slice them thin. I have found this turns out well without the liquid/fat problem you mentioned.

      3 Replies
      1. re: cassoulady

        Cool - a bechamel sauce sounds like it would work well, so I might try that. I also have not tried cooking off the potatoes etc. in the saute pan with the shallots and cream/half and half. Both sound like great methods, and I'll give them a go next time. Thanks!

        1. re: johnmlinn

          Yeah. The key to gratins is making a nice thick bechamel, which takes care of most separation problems. I tried the precooking method, but ended up badly scorching the whole mess -- it was totally my fault, but I've never tried it again. BTW for a great recipe try Old-fashioned Scalloped Potatoes from Epicurious (you can substitute any veggie you want), but this always comes out great for me. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...