Gratin is a French cooking technique in which an ingredient (typically vegetables) is topped with a toasted crust. Often the gratin is browned with cheese, breadcrumbs or egg. This recipe is one I made up on a busy day back from running errands and pick up/ drop off from kid activities…OK, let’s be honest I had to get dinner on the table quick and use up my veggies before they went bad.
I’m going to be using roasted eggplant, portabella mushrooms and, roasted peppers topped with layers of cheese, pasta and béchamel sauce. It’s similar to a vegetarian lasagna but without the pasta sheets.
You want to start by making your béchamel sauce (a fancy French word for white sauce). It’s simply made by making a roux (thickening agent) with milk and you add your seasonings. For this gratin recipe you want a thicker béchamel sauce rather than the typical runny sauce. You want to start out by using equal parts fat to flour. So I melted 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan then added equal amount of flour. Let it mix and cook until it’s nice and bubbly then add about a cup of milk. Mix well, and then add salt/freshly ground pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg. Cook until it thickens then set aside.
**You can easily make this Gluten Free by using almond flour, coconut flour or omit the bachamel sauce all together and use riccotta cheese.
**Be sure to taste to make sure you have enough salt.
For the roasted veggies I used 3 medium sized baby eggplants and 2 portabella mushroom caps. Just dice them into big cubes and toss them on a greased baking sheet, seasoning liberally with salt/pepper. Now spray over them with some olive oil and bake on broil for 10 minutes or until they get a nice golden color.
In the meantime get your baking dish ready. I put some basic tomato pasta sauce in the bottom of my 9x9 casserole dish. Then add half of your roasted eggplant and mushrooms. Dice up 2 roasted garlic peppers (I used jarred) and add half to your veggies. (You can always make your own pasta sauce and roast your own roasted peppers…but I was on a time crunch).
Now remember the béchamel sauce you set aside? Dollop half of the white sauce over the veggies, and then add a few dollops of the tomato pasta sauce over top as well.
Top the veggies and sauce with freshly grated parmesan cheese and then add freshly grated cheddar cheese. Now repeat the layering one more time with veggies, roasted peppers, sauce and cheese. But this time instead of cheddar use mozzarella cheese.
I like to garnish with fresh herbs like parsley or basil and then give a squirt of siracha sauce for a kick of heat.
**You can always layer this a day before and store it covered in the fridge.
Now add your gratin to a preheated 400 degree (Fahrenheit) oven and cook for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and golden.
**Add extra cook time if cooking the next day.
And there you have it…your cheesy, golden, bubbly gratin is ready! Serve it alongside some toasted garlic bread for a complete weeknight meal! :)