Creamy, crispy, and good enough to eat for breakfast the next day

By Stacey Ballis
April 21, 2020
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So, you are standing and staring into your fridge and are faced with a sad truth. Some of your vegetables are a bit past their prime, some might be leftover cooked vegetables that are not sparking joy. Maybe you overbought something and now are looking at a glut and have no idea what to do with it.

Gratin will always have your back.

What is a gratin?

Essentially all vegetables can be gratinated (yes, there’s a verb for that!). Making a gratin—layering raw or cooked items in a baking dish and cooking in creamy liquid with a crispy topping—is a guaranteed way to make them extra delicious with very little effort on your part. It can elevate something your kids might dread like broccoli or cauliflower into something luscious and crave-worthy. You can take something you think of as an ingredient in other dishes like leeks, shallots, fennel, or celery and turn them into the stars of the show. Even items you normally think of as things you eat raw in salads, like endives or radicchio, can be elegantly made into a gratin. If you have joined a CSA and are readying for boxes of unfamiliar vegetables at scale (looking at you, kohlrabi), the gratin is your best friend. You can keep it pure and simple with a single vegetable or make a mélange of whatever you have lying around.

And since it is really just an eyeball cookery method, you can make a gratin as easily for two as for twenty and use up as much or as little of what you have hanging about. The basic technique couldn’t be simpler!

How to make a gratin from any vegetable

Ready to join the gratin fan club? Here’s what to do:

1. Cut a garlic clove in half and rub the cut side around the inside of whatever oven-safe shallow baking dish you are going to use. This rubbing will give the merest hint of garlic flavor to your final dish without getting overpowering. (If you’re not a garlic fan, feel free to skip this step.)

2. Whether you skip or do Step 1, now grease your baking dish with butter, oil, or spray.

3. Then put in your vegetables. They can be chopped, halved, or left whole, depending on how you envision serving them. Here are some prep suggestions:

  • Leeks, endives, or fennel: Halve or quarter them.
  • Potatoes: Slice thinly.
  • Brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, and the like: Cut into florets.

4. Give your vegetables a good seasoning with salt and pepper, plus any other spice you like. Thyme is great in a gratin; so is ground coriander or a hint of nutmeg.

5. Add heavy cream or half and half to the dish just to the level of the vegetables. (The top layer of vegetables should be poking up, not floating.)

6. Give the dish a generous topping of breadcrumbs, panko, or crushed crackers: something to make a crispy topping.

7. Drizzle with melted butter or olive oil and bake at 400 degrees for between 30 minutes and an hour depending on the size of your baking dish. The vegetables should be tender, the cream thickened and bubbling and no longer soupy or loose, and the topping should be crispy and browned. Serve hot.

Ready to Get Your Gratin On?

Here are a few delicious recipes to get you started:

And a parting bonus tip: Leftover gratin makes an amazing breakfast the next morning: Just reheat with a fried or poached egg on top!