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How-To

Baking Golden Vegetable Gratins

All sorts of vegetables, from potatoes to artichokes, taste delicious under a crust of breadcrumbs or cheese

Fine Cooking Issue 17
Photos: Laurie Smith
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Vegetable gratins have magical properties. Their beautifully browned crust and wafting aroma make them irresistible; and people who swear they hate artichokes or turnips will gladly eat them once they’ve been moistened with a little cream, topped with cheese, and baked. If that’s not magic, what is? Most people think of potatoes when they think of gratins, but many vegetables–and combinations of vegetables–work well in gratins; in the same way, we tend to think of gratins as side dishes for grilled and broiled meats, while Madison likes to serve them on a bed of braised greens as a main dish.

The only tool you need is a gratin dish. As the name tells you, it was designed with a particular purpose in mind. It may be rectangular, round, or oval, and may be made from clay, glass, porcelain, or metal, but it must be shallow–no more than two inches deep–with a wide surface area. Then Madison takes over, and teaches you how to make gratins–not just how to make gratin from a recipe, but how to improvise a gratin. For example, she’ll tell you which vegetables absorb a lot of liquid (and therefore will benefit from precooking), which vegetables give off liquid when baked (and can be gratinéed raw), how to substitute for cream, when to vary the way you slice your vegetables, how to use stock as a liquid, and the many materials you can use to make a crust. Featured recipes: Celery Root & Potato Gratin; Butternut Squash Gratin with Onion & Sage; and Artichoke Gratin.

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