What exactly is a gratin?
1. A gratin is always baked and/or broiled in a shallow dish.
2. The topping traditionally consists of cheese or breadcrumbs. They should be melted or crisped under a broiler.
3. “Gratin” is derived from the French word gratiner – to broil. Gratter – to scratch or scrape is a culinary technique in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg, or butter.
The best-known gratin dish is potatoes gratin. This dish is comprised of baked layers of sliced potatoes, is topped with grated cheese, buttered breadcrumbs, or both, and is placed under a broiler for final browning. Ultimately, you’ll have creamy potatoes, gooey cheese, and crunchy breadcrumbs.
Beyond potatoes, this recipe also calls for the use of butternut squash. And instead of breadcrumbs to form the crust, shallots are used to add a nice crispy crunch. Everything is tied together with the creamy and nutty flavor of Gruyere cheese. You will surely find this savory dish both comforting and indeed decedent.
I found this wonderful dish in the recipe section of Chef Gordan Ramsay’s website. It was located with other vegetarian recipes. If you are familiar with Chef Ramsay’s shows, you know he isn’t often particularly fond of vegetarianism. He considers the dishes to be uneventful and uninviting. Think what he may, but this recipe is far from preparing the boring, tasteless, and outdated vegetable dishes of the past. I guarantee you will be quite excited to enjoy this tasty dish and I hope Chef Ramsay would be proud of the gratin I prepared.
1 1/2 Pounds Butternut Squash, Neck Only, Ideally Less Than 3″ Diameter
1 1/2 Pounds Large Waxy Potatoes, Such as Red, About 3 Medium Potatoes
2 Cups Whole Milk
2 Cups Heavy Cream
4 Large Garlic Cloves, Smashed
2 Sprigs Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
4 Ounces Gruyere Cheese, Finely Grated
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
A Few Cracks of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Butter, for Greasing
Combining the Milk & Cream
Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit. In a large saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a low boil over medium heat and then add garlic, herbs, and seasoning. Make sure to stir occasionally to ensure a film does not form on the surface. Once boiling, immediately lower the heat and let simmer gently for two to three minutes.
Preparing the Squash & Potatoes
While the cream is heating, go ahead and peel the squash and potatoes and discard skins. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly slice the squash into 1/8-inch even pieces and then cut the potatoes in the same way.
Next, carefully slide the squash and potatoes into the cream and simmer for about seven minutes until the slices are just barely tender. Make sure they hold their shape and retain a bite. Use a large slotted spoon to remove the vegetables from the cream and set them on a large baking sheet or dish to cool slightly. Reserve the remaining seasoned cream for constructing the gratin.
Assemling the Gratin
Grease an 8×8-inch or 9×6-inch baking dish lightly with butter. To assemble, alternate between squash and potatoes, lay one slice at a time down into rows, making sure that the vegetables are all slightly overlapping one another.
Once you have completed constructing the bottom layer, covering the entire dish, drizzle about two tablespoons of reserved cream over the vegetables, followed by a sprinkle of a quarter of the cheese (about one ounce). Repeat this process with the remaining vegetables, topping each layer with more cream and cheese, until you have at least three layers and no vegetables remaining. Finish by pouring about 1/4 cup of the cream over all the vegetables, followed by the remainder of the cheese.
Bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown. If the cheese is not fully browned on top, broil on high for about one minute, keeping a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. Allow to stand for ten minutes before serving.
Making the Crispy Shallots
While the gratin is baking, go ahead and prepare the crispy shallots. Begin by placing the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Then line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Next, use a mandolin or a very sharp knife and cut the shallots into very thin rings. They should be about 1/8-inch thick. Use your hands to separate the rings. Add the shallots to the hot oil and let them brown gently. Stir occasionally so they don’t stick together, and cook for about three to five minutes until golden brown. If you find that the shallots are browning too quickly, turn down the heat.
Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the shallots from the oil. Carefully shake off any excess. Then transfer the shallots to the paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with kosher salt. Set aside until ready to use.
Once the gratin has rested, top the dish with crispy shallots and serve.