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eG Cook-Off 54: Gratins

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Welcome to the eGullet Cook-off 54: Gratins. Click here for the Cook-off index.

Now that we're all battening down the hatches to wait out winter in our kitchens, it seems like a good time to consider the gratin. It's cold outside; the shops are filled with reasonably-priced root vegetables; and we can still kinda-sorta justify calorie-dense dishes that help us maintain our winter weights.

Gratins are not something I knock out much in the kitchen, so I've had a look in my Larousse to get a starting point:

The golden crust that forms on the surface of the dish when it is browned in the oven or put under the grill (broiler). Usually the top of the dish has been coated with grated cheese, breadcrumbs or egg and breadcrumbs...The term has been extended to denote a method of cooking fish, meat, vegetables, pasta dishes and even sweets.

Gratins have been discussed before, but we've never done a cook-off to properly get under the "skin" of this dish, if you will. RecipeGullet is full of recipes from our members: Fifi gave us Fifi's Favourite Eggplant Gratin; jackal10 contributed quick potato gratin a la dauphinois; Dave the Cook saw his quick potato gratin and raised it to a Really Simple potato gratin; and even Russ Parson's weighed in with his mushroom and spaghetti squash gratin.

Shalmanese has asked about non-soupy cauliflower gratins; Chris Hennes has yearned to know why his gratin broke. Kim Shook just plain feels she's gratin-challenged.

There's lots for us to discuss with regards to gratin: meat or vegetables? What kind of cheese? How about breadcrumbs? Do you use cream?

Do you have a special gratin dish, or do you just use a casserole?

Let's get layering. Allez gratin!

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Every December when the crabbing season opens in the Pacific Northwest I make a Dungeness Crab Gratin. My fishmonger procures deep-ocean crabs which are larger than crabs taken out of bays. The meat of the deep-ocean crab is more firm and the claw meat is about 1/3 larger than the claws from the bay crabs.

I start with a simple white sauce of butter and flour, then add cream or milk to thicken. For this dish I used Emmenthaler Swiss cheese and seasoned the sauce with salt, cayenne, white pepper and maybe a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Sometimes I'll add some slivered, toasted almonds and some chives.

I layered the gratin dish with cooked crab then spooned the sauce over the top. The sauce is so creamy I didn't need to add any cheese grated over the top of the dish and I like to keep it creamy without adding the texture of a top layer of breadcrumbs. Baked in a 400 oven about 15 minutes then under the broiler for about 2-3 minutes to brown the top. Served with buttered, toasted baguette slices.

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Tonight I'm making another gratin using a vegetable that most of us only eat raw-Celery Gratin.

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Does anyone else deliberately use too large a pan, to maximize the crunchy top part? I usually make half-batches but use the same sized pan. The topping is the best part!

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Definitely. I love this move with dauphinoise potatoes. Just yukon gold potatoes, cream, a tiny bit of garlic, salt and pepper.

I also do this with gratins that tend toward soupyness like cauliflower (which I make with mustard, cream, bacon, onion and cheddar on top.)

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Count me in. It's summer here, although with the weather we've had recently you wouldn't believe so. Purely for fun, I'm going to see what I can do with some summery vegetables. Eggplant, maybe.

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Tonight I'm making another gratin using a vegetable that most of us only eat raw-Celery Gratin.

Do tell - I happen to think celeery is much more palatable cooked than raw. What kind of sauce do you use?

Definitely. I love this move with dauphinoise potatoes. Just yukon gold potatoes, cream, a tiny bit of garlic, salt and pepper.

I also do this with gratins that tend toward soupyness like cauliflower (which I make with mustard, cream, bacon, onion and cheddar on top.)

This sounds incredible. Do you layer the bacon in between the cauliflower, or is it more like bacon bits?

Count me in. It's summer here, although with the weather we've had recently you wouldn't believe so. Purely for fun, I'm going to see what I can do with some summery vegetables. Eggplant, maybe.

Sorry, Chris - I always forget about our Antipodean contingent! Love to see what you're doing with gratins in the height of summer, though. Did you have a look at Fifi's Favourite Eggplant gratin?

I'm leaning towards dauphinois myself, for ease. Anyone have any good recipes to recommend?

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Tonight, Celery Gratin. I started with the same basic white sauce that I used for the Dungeness Crab Gratin but omitted the Worcestershire sauce. Instead of Swiss cheese, tonight I used Parmesan.

I cut the celery in 2" chunks and turned it into the sauce raw. I didn't want to blanch the celery first because I wanted it to remain crispy in the finished baked gratin. I also used the celery tops and leaves and chopped them up to go in the gratin. Those are fresh breadcrumbs on top. They are so simple to make, just plain white sandwich bread pulsed in the food processer with some melted butter. Baked the gratin for about 30 minutes until bubbly then passed under the broiler for another 2-3 minutes to brown the top. And I agree, cooked celery is so wonderful in flavor and texture I wish we all ate it more.

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I've had the gratin dauphinois recipe in Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook bookmarked long enough, so count me in.

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I've had the gratin dauphinois recipe in Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook bookmarked long enough, so count me in.

It's a great gratin!

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Just did a baked mac n' cheese with breadcrumbs on the top (basically Bittmans's recipe). Does that count?

My kid liked it.

Cheers,

Geoff

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I've had the gratin dauphinois recipe in Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook bookmarked long enough, so count me in.

It's a great gratin!

THE best !

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.....Although this Rosemary gratin clickie was pretty damned amazing, and made for a beautiful presentation. I did it for Christmas Eve dinner, and it was a huge hit. Even good reheated.

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I've had the gratin dauphinois recipe in Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook bookmarked long enough, so count me in.

It's a great gratin!

I don't have that book, but I dug up the recipe online, here.

This recipe specifies Yukon Gold potatoes, which I can't get. What are people's thoughts on waxy versus floury potatoes and dauphinois? I favour waxy, myself.

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I've had the gratin dauphinois recipe in Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook bookmarked long enough, so count me in.

It's a great gratin!

I don't have that book, but I dug up the recipe online, here.

This recipe specifies Yukon Gold potatoes, which I can't get. What are people's thoughts on waxy versus floury potatoes and dauphinois? I favour waxy, myself.

For this, you want to veer towards the waxy. You may need to adjust the liquid to compensate (I'd say Yukons are about mid-way between new potatoes and Russets), and I'm not sure if you'd need more or less. In my mind, the starchier Russets would absorb more?

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I have only one variety of potatoes available for me to use, so I'll just be using the market potatoes - but I'm interested to hear what others like. Does anyone ever use red?

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Definitely. I love this move with dauphinoise potatoes. Just yukon gold potatoes, cream, a tiny bit of garlic, salt and pepper.

I also do this with gratins that tend toward soupyness like cauliflower (which I make with mustard, cream, bacon, onion and cheddar on top.)

I too use the Bourdain recipe. Red pots work fine in it, but gold is better.

The cauliflower gratin I make in big ramekins. About two tbsp of chopped uncooked bacon, same amt of diced yellow onion, i/4 tsp or so of dijon, salt, crumbled cauliflower, 1 oz or so of heavy cream, NY State sharp cheddar sliced on top. 400 deg for about 30 minutes or until cauliflower is soft and cheese browned.

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I have a lot of broccoli sitting in the fridge right now, thanks to the same CSA that's over-running me with pumpkin. Gratin-able?

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I have a lot of broccoli sitting in the fridge right now, thanks to the same CSA that's over-running me with pumpkin. Gratin-able?

Absolutely

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I have a lot of broccoli sitting in the fridge right now, thanks to the same CSA that's over-running me with pumpkin. Gratin-able?

Yep. This recipe at Epicurious is a nice change from the usual bechamel technique. You blanch broccoli florets (seems like thinly sliced stems would work, too), then mix them with cream and Dijon-style mustard. The topping is a combination of sauteed onion, garlic and bread crumbs, to which you add dry and Dijon mustards. Once that's cool, add some parmesan cheese and use it to top the broccoli. Pop it in the oven until the cheese browns.

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How about rutabaga? I have half a rutabaga that must have been the World's Largest Rutabaga; it was the size of a fast-pitch softball. Half of it went into a braised chuck roast with winter veggies. Half is reposing in my fridge in plastic wrap.

I think I have a parsnip left. How about a parsnip and rutabaga gratin?

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I have a lot of broccoli sitting in the fridge right now, thanks to the same CSA that's over-running me with pumpkin. Gratin-able?

Yep. This recipe at Epicurious is a nice change from the usual bechamel technique. You blanch broccoli florets (seems like thinly sliced stems would work, too), then mix them with cream and Dijon-style mustard. The topping is a combination of sauteed onion, garlic and bread crumbs, to which you add dry and Dijon mustards. Once that's cool, add some parmesan cheese and use it to top the broccoli. Pop it in the oven until the cheese browns.

This is the recipe I use most often,


Edited by Marlene (log)

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I think I have a parsnip left. How about a parsnip and rutabaga gratin?

Did that exact thing over the holidays and it was fantastic.

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Absolutely.

Here's a question: does a gratin require cheese? Is Jansson's Temptation a gratin?

Don't think cheese is a requirement. I think "gratin" is defined by the browned crust, be it cheese, or bread crumbs, or flour and cream run under a broiler.

By that definition, then, yes, Jannson's Temptation is a gratin.


Edited by Pierogi (log)

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Celery root and leek gratin tonight, more or less following the Les Halles recipe linked above. Bay leaf in place of rosemary and thyme. No cheese. Really good.

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