If words like “creamy,” “cheesy,” “crunchy,” and “bubbly” make your mouth water, then you are most likely a gratin lover.
Simply put, a “gratin” is any food with a golden brown crust on top, usually involving cheese and breadcrumbs. The word comes from the French, gratter, “to grate.”
This is serious comfort food. Read our ideas for getting more gratin in your life…
Tips for Great Gratin
That signature brown crust can be achieved in a number of ways. The top of the dish can be generously sprinkled with breadcrumbs, cheese, or smothered in a cream sauce. Add eggs to the cream sauce for a richer, more custard-like texture.
Gratin makes a simple one-dish meal, because it goes from the oven right to the table, and is served straight from the dish. You can make a gratin large for a family-style meal, or small for individual servings. Easy cleanup!
Gratins are perfect for a make-ahead meal. Assemble the entire gratin in advance and store in the refrigerator. Just pop it in the oven to bake when mealtime approaches.
If the gratin is hot and bubbly in the oven, but the top hasn’t yet browned, the gratin can be finished under the broiler to get a little color on the top.
All the Vegetables
Vegetable gratins make an excellent side dish for a roast chicken or roast beef tenderloin. We often think of a potato gratin (also called potatoes au gratin, scalloped potatoes, or gratin dauphinois), but many other vegetables are suited for gratins, such as leeks, fennel, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, greens (e.g., spinach or Swiss chard), or butternut squash.
Slice the vegetables thinly and arrange them in layers in your gratin dish. After each layer, sprinkle with cheese, dot with butter (we like truffle butter), or even toss in a few breadcrumbs for texture. You can also sneak in herbs, garlic or pieces of cooked bacon. When you are done layering, pour a cream sauce over the top and finish with more cheese or breadcrumbs. Stick with a solo vegetable, or mix a few together for variety.
Make Ours with Meat
However, gratins aren’t just for vegetables. Our recipe for Potato and Leek Gratin with Pancetta is a version of scalloped potatoes, with an extra flavor boost from ventrèche, which is crisped before being layered between creamy potatoes.
Pack some protein in those layers to make it a meal. Here are some ideas for meaty gratins.
- Shred roasted chicken and layer with broccoli, then blanket with a Parmesan cream sauce and baked until bubbly and browned.
- Try Greek moussaka with eggplant and ground lamb (or beef) with a top layer of creamy custard that is browned in the oven.
- Make a cross between shepherd’s pie and potato gratin by layering thinly-sliced potatoes, or the root vegetables of your choice, over ground beef flavored with onions and herbs.
- Don’t forget baked mac ‘n cheese! Add chunks of ham, bacon, or spicy sausage and top with buttered breadcrumbs that crisp up as it bakes.
Our Duck Confit and Porcini Shepherd’s Pie Recipe has a golden crust on top, so we are calling it a gratin for the purposes of this post.
What’s your gratin pleasure? Tell us here or find us on social media … we love to dish about food. Tag @dartagnanfoods on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. We also love pinning! Explore our tasty boards on Pinterest.
Fun Fact: The term le gratin signifies the “upper crust” of Parisian society.