Gratins: the b.a. – ba

Gratin de Kale (c) Jules CC BY 2.0

Gratin de Kale (c) Jules CC BY 2.0

Kale gratin (c) Jules CC BY 2.0

Crunchy on top, mellow inside, the gratin

has no equal for sublimating flavors.

Le gratin has a simple principle: protected by a thin layer (of cheese, breadcrumbs, cookie…), the ingredients cook slowly in the oven, mixing their aromas (finishing under the grill is optional). In the mouth, it crumbles and melts. Tasty and invigorating, the gratin is also an excellent way to cook vegetables (and fruits), whether or not combined with meat or fish, for the whole family.

The potato in its kingdom

Thanks to it, the gratin dauphinois, is the king of gratins! The potato is the essential ingredient in this emblematic dish of the Grenoble tradition. For a firm texture, the “steamed, browned” variety (Amandine, Annabelle, Charlotte, Pompadour…) is essential. For a more melting result, prefer the “oven, purée” category (Agata, Marabel, Monalisa, Samba…).

The secret of a perfect fondant lies in the cooking time: 1h30 minimum if the potatoes are not pre-cooked, cover them ¾ and leave the rest uncovered to gratinate.

Gratin savoyard (c) Sara Maternini CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Gratin savoyard (c) Sara Maternini CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Gratin de courgettes (c) Migle CC BY-SA 2.0

. Thermostat 6 (180 °C) is recommended for even cooking. The time varies depending on the ingredients, whether they are pre-cooked or not, etc. In general, count between 45 min. and 1 hour 15 min. for raw, non-pre-cooked products. For individual ramekins or desserts au gratin with fruit, the cooking time will be reduced. To ensure a smooth gratin, start the cooking process (30 min) by covering the dish with aluminium foil or baking parchment. Finish cooking without the foil to brown the gratin.

  • . Review your ingredients first before adding milk, cream or broth as needed. When cooking in the oven, it is important to know that eggplant and carrot dry out, while zucchini and tomato give off water. It is advisable to fry them in a pan in a little fat and remove the excess water before adding them to the gratin; or combine them with the eggplant which will absorb the excess water.
  • The crispy . There are several schools but know that cheese is the ideal ingredient for an outstanding crispness and a gourmet aroma. For this, grated gruyère and emmenthal hold the upper hand. For a “crispy-melting” texture, you can add thin slices of mozzarella. If you don’t use cheese, you will bring a crunchy note with breadcrumbs, crushed dried fruits (nuts, hazelnuts, almonds…) or crispy sliced onions. You will make the latter by frying small onions in a pan in hot oil. Once the onions are well browned, drain them in paper towels and dry them by passing them 10 min in the oven (th. 6, 180 °C) before sprinkling the dish at the end of cooking.



  • . Before spreading the preparation, rub the dish with a clove of garlic, a shallot cut in two, fresh ginger … to subtly flavor a gratin dauphinois or a gratin of seasonal vegetables. At the time of serving, think of scenting with freshly chopped aromatic herbs: parsley, dill, chives, coriander…

The essentials and their variants

You will find below a list of great classics and their alternatives :

Le Gratin invites itself to dessert

Gratin mascarpone framboise (c) Pinot dita CC BY-NC 2.0

Raspberry mascarpone gratin (c) Pinot dita CC BY-NC 2.0

Apple, pear, red fruits, mango… Blends are welcome! For an express recipe, dice 2 apples and fry them in a little butter. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. To make caramelize 10 min. Divide into 4 ramekins and sprinkle with Breton palets or crumbled speculoos. Brown for 5 min under the grill.

More refined, the gratin inspired by the sabayon also accepts most fruits. It then takes the form of a cream made from egg yolks, single cream, sugar and cornstarch. This cream is poured over the fruit and then grated for 5 minutes under the grill.

Apart from these two classic preparations, there is no shortage of original ideas. Such as Noémie Vieau’s sweet potato gratin with marshmallow.

Cook 1.5 kg of sweet potatoes in water or steam, mash them with a fork with 120 g of butter, 30 cl of orange juice and season them with pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour the preparation into a gratin dish, gratinate for 15 min, add marshmallow cubes over the whole surface, and gratinate again until the cubes take on a brown color.

Click here to discover all my recipes for gratin both sweet and savory.

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