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Gratins


fifi
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Much to my amazement, I can't find a topic on gratins in general. I love gratins. Ever since I got my Le Creuset enameled cast iron pans, I have been "gratining" (Is that a word?) everything in sight. Lately, gratins have come up in several topics so I decided that it was time to start a topic on this fabulous technique. Many of us have sung the praises of Jeffrey Steingarten's excellent preparation of Potatoes Dauphinoise. I have taken his excellent technique and dumbed it down and it works for me. I will start off with that one.

First you peel and slice two medium Russet potatoes into even 1/8 inch slices. Do not rinse. the starch is needed to bind the final product. Either butter the gratin pan or spray with cooking spray.

Arrange the potatoes in even rows, overlapping by about 1/3 both horizontally and vertically.

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In a heavy saucepan, heat 2 cups of a mixture of heavy cream and whole milk* with a crushed large garlic clove, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Discard the garlic clove. Carefully pour the cream mixture over the potatoes. Note that in the picture it looks uneven because the rack isn't level in the extended position. I find it convenient to pour the cream on the rack so you don't have to carry the pan and disarrange the potatoes.

*Some recipes go all out for the heavy cream. I usually dilute with 3/4 cup whole milk. Some recipes use half and half. I wouldn't go for less butterfat than that.

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Bake in the lower part of the oven at 325 degrees F for about one hour.

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Allow it to cool slightly, cut and serve in squares. Use a spatula to get all of the browned bits off of the bottom. The square on the right has been turned upside down so you can see how the bottom has browned.

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Your turn. :biggrin:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Yum... great thread.

I need to try a pure recipe like yours--just cream, milk and garlic.

My first gratins were from Patricia Well's Bistro Cooking and they've been so good I haven't strayed much...

The first one is more similar to the classic you describe above. Differences--rub halved garlic clove over inside of dish. Layer with half of potatoes; then a layer of creme fraiche dollops and grated gruyere cheese, s&p. Then repeat with a second layer. Cook at ~ 350 for ~ 50-60 min until golden brown.

(Use about 1 cup of creme fraiche and 1 cup of gruyere cheese for ~ 2-3 lbs of thinly sliced potatoes).

The other from her book that I've used alot when I want a less rich gratin to go with a creamy sauced dish:

layers thinly sliced potatoes,

thin rings of red peppers

and zucchini.

Flavor pan wtih garlic and olive oil and tuck in fresh bits of thyme between the layers. (This is called "Gratin Grand Mere" in her book).

There are a bunch of other great gratin recipes in this book by the way!

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Heavy cream, whole egg, garlic, salt and a tiny bit if white pepper. Also, I make mine with more layers of potatoes. The layers look nice for service. Also, potato gratins taste better the next day.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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ludja,

I really like creme fraiche as well as gruyere cheese. Hope that this is not a silly question. Do you also add the cream and milk that fifi says that she uses?

We just happen to have a nice chunk of Gruyere in the frig. ummmm.

Thanks in advance.

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."

John Maynard Keynes

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ludja,

I really like creme fraiche as well as gruyere cheese. Hope that this is not a silly question. Do you also add the cream and milk that fifi says that she uses?

We just happen to have a nice chunk of Gruyere in the frig. ummmm.

Thanks in advance.

Sorry for being a little vague--this recipe just has the creme fraiche and cheese. The recipe says that you could also sub regular cream for the creme fraiche but I've always used the latter.... it's good!

edited to add: Thanks for the photos fifi--they should inspire anyone to make a gratin if they haven't yet... :smile:

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I have to say that I have also had great results from creme fraiche. Actually, it was Mexican Crema. I had a potato in hand and a true craving for a bit of potato gratin. I was planning on using one of my little individual gratins in the DeLonghi oven. Well, I opened the little carton of cream and there was a nasty looking clump of mold. But I did have a relatively new jar of crema. What the heck, says I. I thinned it down just a little with some milk. (Crema is more liquid than sour cream so it didn't take much.) It was great.

I used the cream technique on some particularly fresh and sweet carrots one time and that was wonderful.

What else have some of you done?

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I have made good gratins with raw potatoes, cream, garlic, and cheese. I have always found that my cooking times were longer than an hour. If you cook at too high of a temp you will get a broken sauce. The cruset is a good idea because the material helps keep a constant temp. I took another road on my last gratin.

The last gratin I made was good. I sliced potatoes and cooked them in just enough milk to cover. I then took the milk and made a bechamel and enriched it with a little cream before turning it in to a mornay of sorts with gruyer. I then used this to layer the potato. I didn't take any chances and baked it in a bane marie. It came out nice and creamy.

Don't limit yourself to potato. Try sweet potato. How about butternut squash gratin with coconut curry....never made it just thought of it...I bet it would be good. Make a liason with egg and coconut milk.

I just saw a dish that was a sabayon poured over a bowl of berries and gratinade(sp). It looked killer. I wish I could find the link. I will keep looking.

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That berry thing sounds wonderful. Let us not forget that gratins do not have to have obscene amounts of butterfats. The technique lends itself to concoctions that respond to a bit of caramelization. I put the following recipe in the old RecipeGullet and have gotten good feedback. (Patience. RecipeGullet will be back.)

Eggplant Gratin

I invented this dish after having mastered potato gratin dauphinoise and searching for other uses for my fabulous oval Le Creuset gratin dish. You can use other dishes of similar size to cook this but the cast iron does make for great caramelization.

1 medium eggplant

1 large red onion

Herbs (fresh or dried basil and thyme, fennel seeds or others of your choice)

1 14 oz. can chopped tomato (I like to use the finely diced)

1-pound link of sausage (kielbasa or other smoked garlic sausage is good)

Preheat oven to 325 and place a rack in the lower position. Spray the gratin dish with cooking spray.

Peel the eggplant. Cut in half lengthwise and slice into ¼ inch half round slices. Cut the onion in half lengthwise and slice into ¼ inch half round slices. Layer into the dish in rows, overlapping pieces and rows by ½ and alternating eggplant with onion.

Sprinkle lightly with salt and add herbs to your taste.

Drain the tomato and distribute over the eggplant and onion layer.

Slice the sausage in ¼ inch rounds and distribute evenly over the dish.

Bake on the lower rack of the oven for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until the sausage has a crisp upper layer and the eggplant and onion are thoroughly cooked and beginning to caramelize.

Allow to cool slightly and lift squares with a spatula to serve.

Notes:

Omit the sausage and serve as a vegetable side dish. You may want to use some of the liquid from the tomatoes for this version and add a little olive oil.

Add other ingredients such as sliced garlic, dollops of pesto or sun dried tomato sauce. Red pepper flakes add a nice note. Sliced colored bell peppers could be added. (I wouldn’t use green ones.) Sliced fennel is a good fit. Mushrooms are another idea.

You could substitute squash for the eggplant and have a whole new direction. It may have to cook longer depending upon how much water is in the squash.

Consider this recipe as an example of a technique. Slice and layer whatever you have on hand. The main considerations are the liquid content, depth of the whole dish and cooking time. You want to concentrate the flavors.

This dish makes a great pressed sandwich. Split French or Italian bread lengthwise. Remove some of the crumb. Brush the surfaces if you wish with olive oil. Fill with the gratin mixture and press. Slice to serve.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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By the way, slices of left-over honey baked ham in a pototo gratin goes a long way to making it a meal.

Great idea! My sister is in the last stages of destruction of one of these. I wonder how it would be with sweet potatoes? Someone on one of the other threads had done sweet potatoes with a chipotle "sauce" that could be dynamite with that combo.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Swiss Chard Gratin-set oven to 375F

1 1/2 qt. gratin dish,buttered and coated with fresh bread crumb

fo the chard-------

1 lb. swiss chard with stems

1 Lg. shallot,minced

2 cloves garlic,minced

1 tbl. EVOO

3/4 tsp kosher salt

fresh grind black pepper

Cut into 1 1/2 insh pieces,wash well in cold water and place in colander to drain,heat the oil in a soup pot over medium,add shallot and garlic,stirring till soft,about 2 mins.add the swiss chard,add salt and cover,let steam about 3 mins,uncover continue stirring till most liquid is evaporated-set aside

For the sauce----

2 tbl. unsalted butter

2 tbl a.p. flour

1 1/2 cups cream of your choice(i use heavy)

1 dry bay leaf

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup grated gruyere

melt the butter in a 1 qt. saucepan,whisk in the flour stirring constantly for blond roux(1 min.)pour in the cream whisking to incorporate,add salt,nutmeg and bay leave constantly stirring till it boils and thickens,knock the heat down to a simmer,remove the bay leave and add the cheese

topping---------

1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated gruyere

Finish---------------------

stir the sauce into the chard,stir,taste,adjust seasonings

spoon into gratin dish,evenly distribute bread crumbs then cheese

Bake for 40 mins.or finish browning under salamander or broiler

You can use any like leafy green if you prefer

Dave s

"Food is our common ground,a universal experience"

James Beard

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Looks great Fifi!

Here's some information that might help you expand your horizons. These are notes from my Escoffier French Cuisine class.

There are four kinds of gratins: complete, quick, light, and glazing.

Complete Gratin — The main ingredient is always raw. Synchronize the cooking process with the reduction of the sauce. The cooking process and reduction of sauce must be synchronized with the formation of the crust on the surface of the gratin.

Method — Place main ingredient in skillet coated with melted butter and coated with a few tablespoons of sauce and surrounded with slices of raw mushrooms. Add some white wine, and continue to layer with additional main ingredient in this manner. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs and melted butter; place in moderately hot (400°F) oven. If too much sauce is used, the food will be cooked and gratin formed before crust is formed; additional cooking creates steam softening the crust. If too little sauce is used, the sauce will reduce too much and the food will be undercooked; additional sauce destroys the evenness of the gratin.

Quick Gratin — Same as complete gratin except the main ingredient is cooked.

Light Gratin — Applicable to macaroni, lasagnes, noodles, gnocchi, etc. It is formed by combining grated cheese; dry, crustless white breadcrumbs; and butter. You want an even coating, uniform color, and even melting of cheese. Moderate heat is sufficient.

Also in this category are dishes where gratinizing will finish the preparation, including stuffed vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, and cucumber (I think he means zucchini). In these examples the dry breadcrumbs are combined with butter or oil. If the main item is raw, cook under fairly hot heat (400 to 450°F). If the main item is already cooked, cook under moderate heat.

Glazings — There are two glazings, one from a butter sauce, one from Sauce Mornay where the item is coated with sauce; sprinkled with cheese and melted butter, and placed in a very hot (500°F) oven.

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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I love Thomas Keller's cauliflower gratin recipe from the Bouchon cookbook - it uses the pureed stems (trimmed, of course) as the base for the sauce. But tonight I just made a light cauliflower gratin (thanks, ReallyNice, for the definitions!) with butter, panko, and cheese - no gruyere, comte, or emmentaler on hand, so I used dry jack, which was not bad.

allison

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Here is another idea I have not tried but just thought of.

Boil potatoes and pass them through a food mill.

Blend them with milk and roasted garlic to make a sauce(a sauce...not mashed potatoes). May use a little egg liason.

Use this sauce to layer what you want. Hell, I am thinking salmon, leeks, and fennel. Top with crumbs or cheese.

No need for a bunch of cream.

I have been on a kick of using purees (potato being one of the most versatile) as thickeners and binding agents. I might just be losing my mind.

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I love Fennel Gratin. I basically just slice the fennel bulbs, and layer them with lots of whipping cream (not whipped), parmesan, riccotta, and mozerella in a casserole dish, then bake till done, salt and pepper added to taste. Onions are ctually pretty good tossed into this as well.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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when i gratin i usually slice the potato paper thin. this helps it keep it's shape.

but when i was in school they we had to do it al a minute. and this by far is the best product i've had. when i open my own restaurant and if i have gratin dauphinois on the menu this is the way i'll do it. basically you have you potato pre sliced. and then you use a 1 inch ring mold to cut little coins of potato. have a pot of whipping cream on a simmer. have ready some 3 inch ramekins. when you get an order take how ever many potato slices you need and dump it in the cream. tehy shouldn't take long to cook since they are cut thin. when 80 percent cooked taken them out and put them in the ramekin arranging them so that they make an even layer through out with out any spaces. make sure the top layer is very presentable. sprinkle with parmesean and into the oven it goes for about 5-10 minutes. use a toothpick to test it. the whole process takes about 20-25 minutes so it's best to serve it with steaks and such things that take a while to cook anyways.

people ask me, "why not make it ahead of time? well every chef has their thing. why does joel robuchon make his mashed potato a la minute? it's just the way he does it. it's the signature dish at his restaurant and people flock there to try it.

bork bork bork

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I like Jacques Pepin's version from his book with Julia - slice potatoes thin, cook with chicken stock, onions & herbs, layer in a gratin dish and bake - but of course I have to add a ton of cheese

I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.

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For Thanksgiving, I was given the task of cooking the sweet potatoes. Which I loathe. :angry: In an effort to make those hideous orange tubers into something edible, I made a sweet potato gratin. It worked, kind of. Everyone else liked it. I still thought it tasted of sweet potatoes. :wacko:

In a small (8" or so) cast iron skillet, I cooked 2 slices of bacon slowly. I crumbled the cooked bacon, reserved the rendered fat, chopped some thyme, and minced a small clove of garlic.

I heated some cream, added the garlic, and let the mixture cool. Then, I sliced some sweet potatoes really thin.

In the same cast iron skillet, in a tablespoon or so of the reserved bacon fat, I layered the sweet potato rounds, then brushed on a bit of the garlic cream and sprinkled a bit of the thyme and bacon bits. I added the second layer of sweet potatoes, brushed with cream, sprinkled thyme and bacon. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

When the gratin was constructed, I brushed the top layer with a touch of bacon fat, covered the iron skillet with aluminum foil, and baked it in the bottom of a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or an hour, then removed the foil and turned up the heat a tad to crisp the top.

It's not a dieting dish, but, hell, it was Thanksgiving.

A jumped-up pantry boy who never knew his place.

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when i gratin i usually slice the potato paper thin. this helps it keep it's shape.

but when i was in school they we had to do it al a minute. and this by far is the best product i've had. when i open my own restaurant and if i have gratin dauphinois on the menu this is the way i'll do it. basically you have you potato pre sliced. and then you use a 1 inch ring mold to cut little coins of potato. have a pot of whipping cream on a simmer. have ready some 3 inch ramekins. when you get an order take how ever many potato slices you need and dump it in the cream. tehy shouldn't take long to cook since they are cut thin. when 80 percent cooked taken them out and put them in the ramekin arranging them so that they make an even layer through out with out any spaces. make sure the top layer is very presentable. sprinkle with parmesean and into the oven it goes for about 5-10 minutes. use a toothpick to test it. the whole process takes about 20-25 minutes so it's best to serve it with steaks and such things that take a while to cook anyways.

people ask me, "why not make it ahead of time? well every chef has their thing. why does joel robuchon make his mashed potato a la minute? it's just the way he does it. it's the signature dish at his restaurant and people flock there to try it.

Good idea to put Potatoes Dauphinois on the menu. It's always a customer favorite.

Robuchon makes his mashed potatoes a la minute for the texture. Pre mashed potatoes can get gummy. But he has a pretty good sized kitchen staff.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Has anyone tried celery root in a gratin?  I saw some fantastic ones this weekend at the market and I thought that might be a nice winter type dish.

I've used it with potatoes in a gratin. I find celery root to be a bit strong on its own.

allison

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If i may give my opinion here...

I used to work at a restaraunt , when we made gratin (I call it potatoe pavee) as I still make it at home, what I do is i will peel yukon gold potatoes, then on a mandoline shave the potatoe very thin - at the same time i have a pot with a cream/milk/butter mixture, along with a few whole cloves of garlic, and some nutmeg (is key) in it - on a low simmer - I will basically 'blanche' the potatoes in this mixture to partially cook them, literaly about 1 minute, then let cool, and begin to line a baking 'mould' with them - repeat these steps, put some parmasean cheese on top - and bake till golden.

This we have found is the most consistant way of making pavee, getting a layered, creamy, delicious end product.

-Justin

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