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A crispy, golden-brown crust fresh out of the oven
Whether topping a savoury dish off with a golden-brown layer of cheese, or a fresh dessert with a chocolate crust, gratin makes everything more delicious.
Gratin is a term used to describe a short grilling period on a high heat, which forms a golden, crispy upper crust. In most cases, this crust consists of cheese, but it is also common to use a mix of breadcrumbs and butter for a crunchy result. Gratin is not a cooking method – the dish itself should be precooked, or intended to be eaten raw, due to the fact that gratin is cooked for just a short period of time under a very high heat. The process is usually done with the grill in the oven.
This technique is not only used for the classic potato gratin, but also for dishes like a vegetable casserole, fish fillets or meat. Desserts also work well with, for example, a golden topping of whipped egg white.
The highlight of every gratin is of course the crust. The perfect gratin is light brown in colour, exudes a delicious aroma, and is crunchy to the bite. When making the popular cheese crust, the choice of cheese is quite important. For the perfect melting cheese, make sure to choose one with a high fat content such as cheddar, gouda, emmental or tilsit cheese. Mozzarella, parmesan and goat cheese are also a very tasty addition to any gratin. In case you are not the biggest fan of cheese, there are of course various other options:
· Breadcrumbs provide a delicious crunch, even without adding cheese
· A few knobs of butter also provide a golden layer, regardless of what the crust contains
· Another tasty option is some chopped nuts, which provide a rich and nutty aroma
When we talk about gratin, the first thing to come to mind is of course a potato gratin. Here are a few tips on how to prepare your own:
· First, thinly slice the potatoes (raw or precooked, depending on how much time you have)
· Place the potato pieces into a flat casserole dish
· Pour a mixture of cream, milk, egg and cheese over the potatoes
· Bake the dish for 10 to 15 minutes with both upper and lower heat elements
If using raw potatoes, the gratin must be baked for a longer period of time in the oven. For the majority of the cooking time, use the fan oven in order to ensure the equal distribution of air. Near the end, sprinkle the cheese on top, and use the upper and lower heat elements to finish it off. Make sure the cheese does not become too hard and tough.
If the gratin sauce is too thin, this means that you didn’t put in enough egg. One advantage to cooking the potatoes from raw is that the starch that is released helps to bind the gratin sauce together.
Gratin can also be the perfect finishing touch to many desserts. The crust can be made from caramelised sugar or whipped egg white. For the sweet gratin filling, try using chopped fruit such as apples or pears, or even a selection of berries, and pour a cream, crème fraiche, quark or sour cream-based mixture on top of the fruit. For binding purposes, try adding an egg.
To add more flavour, try using some vanilla, cinnamon or marzipan. Adding a dash of liqueur can round off the dessert nicely. Simply serve the dessert warm alongside a scoop of ice cream or a drop of vanilla sauce, and you have yourself a delicious dessert.
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