Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Au Gratins

Some people think that if you put grated cheese on top and stick any dish under the grill- you have made a ‘Gratin”. While that is not far from the truth, but here are three FEVI (Fairly Easy  - Very Impressive) gratins that work well with a salad and a light red wine for a light meal or as a side dish to dress up a simple roast.  I like to serve the zucchini with lamb, the cauliflower with roast beef and the Mac & Cheese with roast chicken!  

Zucchini Au Gratin
3 lbs of zucchini
3 eggs (beaten)
8 oz Crème Fraiche (Vermont brand, I buy at Adam’s – or mix 4oz  of heavy cream with 4oz of sour cream).
5 oz of grated Swiss Cheese
Butter, Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
Rinse and dry zucchini (do not peal). Cut into large cubes. Cook in salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and squeeze in a colander to remove excess water. Place zucchini in a buttered oven dish and mash with a fork. In a separate bowl mix beaten eggs, cream and ¾ of the cheese and some salt, pepper and nutmeg.. Add mixture to zucchini and mix with a fork.  Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Place in preheated oven (350F) until it is golden brown. (30- 40 minutes)

Cauliflower Au Gratin
1 large cauliflower
2 cups of milk (I use skim)
1½ cups grated Swiss Cheese
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons of butter
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
Break cauliflower into pieces (”florets”) and steam or boil in salted water until tender but not mushy.  Drain. Allow to cool.  In a heated sauce pan mix the equal parts of melted butter and  flour. Whisk together adding the milk a ¼ cup at a time. Keep whisking as it becomes a smooth creamy mixture. You just made a Bechamel!  (See that was not hard was it?).  To the béchamel add one cup of the cheese. Stir and when melted remove from the flame. Add salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. In a buttered flameproof dish place the cauliflower and pour in the béchamel sauce. Stir so the sauce is evenly distributes through the cauliflower. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and place in preheated 350F oven until golden brown (about 30 minutes)

Killer Mac & Cheese with Ham
2/3 cup diced onion
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 2/3 cups milk
1 1/3 cups cream
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns 
11/2 cups grated (mix swiss & cheddar cheese)
1 box of elbow macaroni
1 cup good-quality ham (I love the Farmland’s Pit Ham at Quattros)
2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs
salt, pepper grated nutmeg
In a very large heavy-bottomed saucepan melt the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute gently for 2-3 minutes.  Add the flour and stir well, never allowing the flour to brown.  Switch to a whisk and slowly add half the milk while whisking constantly.  Add all the cream while still whisking, then the rest of the milk.  Bring to a simmer, add the bay leaf.  Turn the heat as low as possible and simmer the sauce, whisking occasionally, for 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 375, slice ham in long pieces. Butter the casserole. Cook macaroni in salted boiling water until tender, then drain and run cold water over it to prevent sticking.  Remove the sauce from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove bay leaf. Add ¾  of the cheese, and whisk until it’s all melted.
Add the macaroni and ham stir to incorporate.  You’ll notice the sauce is very loose--the pasta will absorb much of it in the oven.  Pour into buttered gratin dish, or individual large ramekins.  Sprinkle with cheese, breadcrumbs. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes.  Turn on the broiler if it’s not browned.  (This is inspired by a recipe from Thomas Keller’s – of Per Se and French Laundry Fame!)

Gerard’s Wine Suggestions
While these gratins all have melted cheese on top, it is the main ingredient inside that will guide our choice of wine.
Zucchini gratin : Languedoc Cotes de Tongue 2009 –a young fruity wine with soupple tannins to pair with the vegetable’s delciate flavor. $10 at Village Wine in Millbrook
Cauliflower Gratin : Côtes-du-Rhône Domaine d’Andezon 2009 –notes of berries that will stand up to the rich flavors of the cauliflower. $12.99 at Arlington Wine & Liquor
Mac & Cheese: Valpolicella Allegrini 2009 Light bodied with notes of cherry. To be chilled before serving.  - $13.99 at Arlington Wine & Liquor

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