Thursday, November 1, 2012

Casserole or Gratin

Whether you call a dish a casserole or a gratin may rather depend on whether you like it or not. Needless to say there is some history around tonight's offering. A whole lot of unrelated events combined to make this a must do.
First, there had been the threat of cold weather and we had a massive amount of basil. Needed to get it in so it wouldn't go to waste. I made basil oil from it. Second, we had some stale bread - no surprise there given the amount we make. Third, Fine Cooking came and it had some gratin recipes. Fourth. Madame has said that she would like more veges. 5th, we had some zucchini, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and onions left over from a farmers' market trip.
Now making vegetable gratins is a bit of an art. because the veges can have a lot of water, it is possible to end up with a rather sorry puddle of water with some limp vegetables lying in it. Now that is a casserole!
The trick for this dish is to roast the watery vegetables first in a pretty low oven - not so much for browning, more to drive off some liquid.


3 Tomatoes, chopped into medium dice.
1 sweet potato peeled and sliced very evenly and thinly
1 large zucchini, peeled and sliced more thickly than the sweet potato
2T neutral oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced and squeezed
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 thyme sprigs
1/2t pepper
1/2t kosher salt
a little adobo from canned chipotles in adobo
1 cup breadcrumbs (freshly made from stale breadmentioned earlier)
3T basil oil
2T chopped parsley


Place the tomatoes, sweet potato and zucchini on an oiled baking sheet, add the thyme, salt and pepper sprinkle with oil and bake at 250F for 90 minutes - uncovered. Just to dry out. When dried, remove from pan, remove the thyme sprigs and place in a bowl with the raw onion. Add the cream, stir and allow to cool so the flavors come together.
About 45 minutes before serving, heat the oven to 450F. Place the vegetable/cream mixture in a grain dish. Warm the basil oil slightly. Combine the breadcrumbs, chopped parsley and basil oil and toss. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the vegetable mixture. Bake at 450 for about 30 minutes - covering with foil if the top browns too quickly.
Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and serve.
As you can see there was no nasty pool of liquid. Also, Madame pronounced it delicious (not, "We can serve this to people" delicious though).
Bottom line - definitely a gratin

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