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Gratin: Home Cooking Dish of the Month (December 2012)

The dish of the month for December is GRATIN! This is our reporting thread.

If you'd like to look at the voting thread, it is here:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/879229

Most of the votes for Gratin did not include a description or definition, except to say that there can be a wide variety of inclusions: cream, cheese, breadcrumbs, etc. Here is what Wikipedia says:
"Gratin is a widespread culinary technique in food preparation in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg and/or butter. Gratin originated in French cuisine and is usually prepared in a shallow dish of some kind. A gratin is baked or cooked under an overhead grill or broiler to form a golden crust on top and is traditionally served in its baking dish."

I think that definition is both specific enough, and broad enough, for our purposes, and does not limit what goes into a gratin.

Remember that you can use old favorite recipes, find new recipes, or make something up. Tell us a bit about how the dish was made, and whether you liked the final product. Photos are always welcome.

Please remember to paraphrase any recipes that are not your own; verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Everyone is welcome to join in, even if you've never participated before. Lots of good ideas come out of these threads.

So cooks, get thinking about gratins, and get back to Chowhound to post your results.
Tout le gratin sera là !

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  1. One of my favorite all time gratins is Alice Water's 'Swiss Chard Gratin", which I've played with a little and come up with a variation. I always make this at holiday dinners but also make it during the week as well. It's just wonderful:

    Saute one finely chopped onion in butter until soft. Add a clove or two of minced garlic and continue to cook a minute or two. Add handfuls of chopped swiss chard (and or kale) until the leaves begin to soften. I just keep adding handfuls until it cooks down a bit and I have enough chard to fill a 9x13 dish.

    Sprinkle 2 T flour over the mixture and stir. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Drizzle over 2 cups of milk and/or cream, seasoned with healthy doses of salt, cracked pepper and grated nutmeg. (you can add these seasonings to the greens in the pot as they cook as well.)

    Cover with a light layer of toasted breadcrumbs mixed with some parmesan cheese (or pecorino). It is better to toast the breadcrumbs but in a rush, you can skip that. Dot with butter and cook for 35-45 minutes on 375.

    Wonderful.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Tom P

      That sounds wonderful and I really like chard. I would assume that any leftovers reheat well?

        1. re: Tom P

          I'm going to, I have chard and parm on hand and some panko crumbs that I'll sub in for the bread crumbs. I think this sounds like an weeknight dinner parnter.

      1. re: Tom P

        I love the recipe for artichoke/potato gratin from The Flexitarian Table. As a matter of fact, one is in the oven right now. It's just a mixture of potatoes and artichoke slices (trimmed of all the tough parts) topped with a mixture of panko crumbs and parmesan cheese. Since Flexitarian was a COTM a while ago, there are probably posts about this gratin.

        1. re: oakjoan

          Wouldn't you cook the artichokes first?

      2. Are we allowed to provide links to recipes we've used? I made a gratin this week that I liked a lot from butternut squash, apples, leeks from a Martha Stewart website.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Jay F

          yes, links are allowed , indeed encouraged!

          1. re: magiesmom

            Except if it is a link to you own blog. They will remove a post for doing that.

            1. re: melpy

              yes, I should have mentioned that. Sorry.

          2. re: Jay F

            Links are always helpful! Be sure and tell us your own experience with cooking the dish, and your impressions, also.

            1. re: L.Nightshade

              Okay. Thanks L.N. and mm. Here's the link. http://www.marthastewart.com/344010/a...

              I googled "martha gratin butternut" because I knew I wanted something with butternut squash, and I also wanted a shopping list.

              I used cream instead of sherry, which worked well. I didn't have sherry or any other alcohol in the house, but the cream was perfect. I was careful to cut the squash slices identically thick, the 1/8" asked for in the recipe, maybe a little thinner, and the apples a tiny bit thicker, not nearly as much as 1/4", but just a little teeny bit thicker than the squash. It was perfect.

              I don't think I'd use parmigiano again. Or maybe it just browned too much. In any case, it was the only false note in the dish. I would try this again with gruyere, or some kind of Swiss, or maybe Jarlsberg.

              The smallest butternut squash I could find had a gross weight of 3 pounds, and it yielded around two pounds of sliced squash, or twice as much as needed. So I bought three extra apples to make a squash/apple soup two days later (cooked with chicken stock, pureed, and finished with a little cream).

              It was delicious, and I felt oh, so virtuous eating nothing -- well, almost nothing -- but fruits and veg for 3 days.

              1. re: Jay F

                I have a butternut squash on the counter... trying this tonight! Along with the eggplant gratin below. Gratin Saturday!

                1. re: Jay F

                  I just had a problem with this. I made it exactly as written... tempted the whole time to add cream, as you did. But I wanted to see what it was like as written. When I started building the gratin, I kept thinking... there's no liquid, it is going to be too dry... and there was literally no liquid. But I figured, well, we cover it and the apples have liquid so maybe that will do it.

                  Well, when it came out of the oven.. totally dry. So I don't understand. After an hour, I poured in cream and baked it 15 more minutes. That helped a lot! I was just cooking for myself so it was a fun experiment. And it was my first time to attack a butternut Squash from scratch, which was easy and fun, so I am glad i learned that. But the butternut squash gratin with goat cheese below I will make again and again. This one... someone help me, where does the liquid come from?

                  1. re: Tom P

                    I did not have a dryness problem. In fact, I cooked it an extra 10 minutes because it seemed, if not exactly soupy, then as if it could stand a little bit of drying out time.

                    Did you cover it with tinfoil and seal it tightly?

                    1. re: Jay F

                      He says "we cover it" so sounds like he knows that

                      Seems to me that since you are using fresh produce, the wetness or dryness of your dish will depend solely on the moisture content of your particular vegetables & fruit, especially if you do not add any liquid to begin with. Nature does not make every squash or apple the same way twice.

                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                        I did indeed cover it. It tastes great the day after with the addition of the cream. It's hard for me to see how it would not be dry, given I cooked the sherry, the only liquid, into a glaze. But as you said, veggies are different. My apples may have been drier than most.

                        1. re: Tom P

                          The squash is likely to be the big variable there. I sometimes get precut butternut in plastic when I just want a little for the two of us, and I usually cut up, steam and mash it. Sometimes it's almost soupy just with butter, sometimes very much in need of added liquid, and I can't always tell by looking which it'll be.

                  2. re: Jay F

                    Thanks for posting the link. I served this as part of our Christmas day meal and it was an enormous hit. I doubled it, and followed the recipe to the letter. Only problem was that I was a little short on parmesan so had to grate up some monterey jack (the only other light cheese I had) to fill in the gaps.

                    I was looking for something that would be comfort foodish but not be filled with heavy cream.

                    1. re: 512window

                      I'm glad you liked it.

                      I should get back to making a gratin, but all the ones that look good to me now are potatoes and cream.

                      Sigh.

                2. I need some cookbook/online recommendations for gratins

                  1. My finding four graduated-size tin-lined copper gratin pans at a yard sale and another small one a week later got me started on this as a way to cook everything from sides to main courses. With vegetables I usually steam them just to the beginning of tenderness, then toss with oil and/or butter and seasonings, spread into a pan with grated cheese, buttered crumbs, or a combination. Fifteen minutes in the oven wraps it up. If Mrs. O is out and I want meat or fish, I can preseason that and then roast it on a wire rack in another pan. 30 minutes will roast a thick lamb chop at 350º, or 20 minutes for a piece of fish, and there's plenty of room to slide the broccoli or Brussels sprouts in next to that to finish.

                    I think my favorite gratin recipe from a book is for Morue à la Savoyarde, a classic bistro dish that is fiddly as hell for the home cook making one pan, but easy if you're a cook preparing a day's worth. It's still worth it for me. Here's my take on it:

                    3 or 4 White Rose or other boiling potatoes
                    About 3/4 pound of salt cod, refreshed and cleaned of skin/bones
                    1 medium onion, sliced thin
                    salt, pepper
                    Comté cheese

                    Boil the potatoes until just barely tender. Peel and slice 1/8" thick. Fry until golden brown, seasoning lightly, set aside.

                    Cut the cod into large bite-size pieces, about 1 1/5" square. Dry well, fry until golden brown and set aside. Fry the onion likewise.

                    Combine potatoes, fish and onion in a buttered gratin pan. Grate a good but not copious quantity of the Comté over all. To serve, set into a preheated 400º oven for ten or twelve minutes and serve immediately. A small green salad or vegetables à la Grecque … you know the drill. For that good old Parisian touch have some good cold Sancerre, and Hot Club on the music box.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Sounds amazing, and definitely want to try as I'm trying to cook with fish more often. Question: why do you boil the potatoes slightly before frying? I've seen that direction in other recipes, but never the reason why. Thanks!

                      1. re: DGinDC

                        It makes the potatoes cooked and tender already, so all you have to do is give them color in the pan, not cook them through.

                    2. Ok, here is another from me. (Gratin fanatic here :)

                      This is a spin on a recipe from TENDER by Nigel Slater, a wonderful, wonderful book. Even people who think they hate eggplant go nuts at my house over this dish. It is simple yet very elegant, so it works for a mid-week supper or for Christmas Dinner. It tastes SO good.

                      EGGPLANT GRATIN

                      Take 1 large or 2 medium eggplant. Trim ends, cut in half horizontally, then slice halves in long, fairly thin strips. Toss slices with salt in a bowl, then put them in a colander and let drain 30 min at least. Pat dry.

                      In the meantime, slice 1 medium onion and saute in butter. Add 3-4 cloves sliced garlic. Season with salt, cracked black pepper and fresh thyme as you cook.

                      Place the onions in a shallow baking dish. Layer the eggplant on top, scattering salt, pepper and fresh thyme as you do.

                      OPTIONAL: You can brown the eggplant slices quickly in olive oil in a pan for a more roasted feel and taste. This is good but I only do it every so often. The dish is still wonderful without it. Just pat them dry to remove most of the oil once browned.

                      Pour enough whipping cream over the onions and eggplant to wet well. It should not cover them but can come up to the top, about 1 3/4 cups depending on the dish. Scatter a healthy layer of parmesan and/or pecorino on top.

                      Bake at 350 for 35-45 min, until bubbling and browned.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Tom P

                        Tom, do you mean "horizontally," as in "cut in half horizontally," which to me means you can't really cut long strips, because you cut the eggplant in such a way as to preclude horizontal cutting.

                        (Am I making sense?)

                        1. re: Jay F

                          Yes, making perfect sense. I think Slater has you cut the eggplant vertically from top to bottom. That is too long for me, to serve. So I cut it in half across the middle, then make vertical slices top to bottom, so they are vertical strips but each strip half the size of the length of the eggplant... Goodness, am I myself making sense? :)