If you are going to cook French food, then you must learn how to make a gratin. A seemingly unpretentious casserole, but, oh don’t be fooled. Most people think of those au-gratin scalloped cheese potatoes with lots of creamy cheesy goodness filling you with good and memorable feelings, n’est-ce pas?
Your momma’s church potluck, first place, blue ribbon casserole, has components that make up a gratin. Confused? Well, a gratin in it’s most raw definition means “scrapings”, the crusty edges around and in the bottom of the dish and when you scoop it out, you must scrape loose the crusty scrapings.
Cheese can lend it’s properties to the dish but is not part of the definition that belongs to the word gratin. The sauce used in a gratin recipe, is typically the bechamel sauce- a white or cream sauce and if you add cheese then it becomes a mornay sauce-now-hold high those cheesy creamy scalloped potatoes. Not every gratin uses the bechamel sauce as you will notice in my onion gratin but it does contain a sauce. For today, I will only highlight the recipe and will post on sauces later. French Cooking lesson complete for today.
I told you not to be fooled by this seemingly unpretentious casserole! Still learning.
The onion gratin was one of my very first French dishes that I made and I have a lot to learn from that early January breakfast. Someone needed to tell me not to cook an onion gratin for breakfast- cause we were hungry and I did not let it get scappy enough. It was good though, with my eggs and vinegar (another French dish). Also, after the recipe, check out other related links for various kinds of gratins.
Onion Gratin-Simple French Food (for 3 or 4)
1 pound walnut-sized onions (white spring onions or large sweet onions, thickly sliced or coarsely chopped) peeled
About 1/4 cup heavy cream
Butter for gratin dish
Parboil the onions in well-salted simmering water, counting about 5 minutes from the water returns to the boiling point for spring onions or up to 10 minutes for larger onions-the flesh should be limp but not soft. Drain well and pour them into a buttered gratin dish, large enough to put them in a single layer. Salt lightly and grind over pepper to taste. Stir in a tiny bit of freshly grated nutmeg into the cream and pour evenly over the onions, just to cover. Bake in 350 oven for about 45-50 minutes.