Weeknight grilled-in-the-frying-pan gratin
Gratin, while not difficult, is not a typical weeknight dish. In fact, most things involving the oven have really stopped being weeknight meals for us, unless we’re planning to eat right before bed. Somehow, oven meals often end up taking twice as long as I originally think they will (especially quiche and roast potatoes), even when you’re throwing in something ready-made to heat up. Well, this gratin will be a tasty exception to that rule. You make everything in one pan, “bechamel” and all, top with cheese, and grill. It probably would take you longer to reheat one of those horrible store bought lasagnas from a cold oven.
You could easily make this into a full meal by boiling up some potatoes or pasta and stirring that through, turning it into a vege-studded macaroni cheese or cheesy vegetable bake. Best of all, it doesn’t compromise on taste or flavour – in fact, cooking the veges in butter and the browning of the butter adds to the richness of this dish without needing any more fat than the average gratin. It also saves energy, because you’re not transferring the contents to a ceramic baking dish that cools everything down a notch and then needs to be heated up again. I love that you still get to use the grill, and the nice part is that you can still do that comforting stand-by-the-oven-going-mmmm thing on chilly nights.
Sorry if this is all old news to you by the way…and sorry if you’ll want to plan a dairy detox meal the next day :P
makes as much as your frypan will fit
- as many vegetables will fit in your frypan – see this post for rough cooking order/time indications. I used broccoli, cauliflower and cubed red onion
- enough butter to generously coat the bottom of the pan once the veges are in (I use about 20-25g)
- sprinkling of flour
- about 1/2 c – 1c milk, enough to half-immerse your veges (add more if you liek your gratin sauce thin)
- onion or garlic powder, if not using the fresh version as part of your vegetables
- plenty of black pepper and some salt to taste
- grated cheese (I use a mix of colby and parmesan, if you’re feeling fancy you could use slices of taleggio or fontina, or similar), breadcrumbs if you want
- optional: cooked pasta or boiled cubed potatoes (these need to fit snugly in with your veges in the frypan)
Add half your butter to the pan with a sprinkling of salt, then your vegetables, and cover. Turn the heat up to medium. Cook vegetables along this guide, and once they’re almost done (try a piece to see), crank your grill up to high with a rack on the top shelf (leave a gap large enough for your frypan to fit without the top of the veges being closer than 2cm to the element).
Add any pasta or potatoes you’re using, then the rest of the butter and a sprinkling of flour, the milk, pepper and garlic/onion powder if using. Reduce heat to low. Stir to develop a sauce that will cling to the veges, adding more milk if things start getting too dry. Turn off heat, sprinkle over your cheese (and breadcrumbs if using) in an even layer, and place under the grill – if your frying pan handle is plastic/rubber, place your finger on the bit nearest the element, and move this point of the handle far enough from the grill element so that it doesn’t bubble like your cheese! Basically if it’s too hot for your finger to withstand hypothetically for ten minutes, it’ll be too hot for the plastic/rubber. Don’t worry, the cheese will still bubble on that side of the pan. Grill (with oven door completely open) until the cheese is melted and golden (usually about ten minutes, depending on how close the pan is to your grill and how hot your grill goes.
I usually take the lazy route and serve with bread so I don’t have to cook anything else! This is where the “weeknight” part comes back in :D
*No ice cream maker, no stirring after it’s in the freezer, and absolutely HEAVENLY. It’s super silky and smooth – not really crystally at all. Fortunately it’s so rich I can really only handle one scoop at a time (unfortunately Will can handle more than that…disturbingly more in my eyes), but instead of gulping it all down you take little jabs at it and savour the maximal flavour from each little melty morsel. Utterly worth the fact that I went a bit overboard with the thickening of the custard, which may have taken more like forty minutes of stirring. Ah well, I shall know for next time, and the time after that…