There's nothing more comforting (or impressive) on a cold winter night than a hot gratin from the oven. Here are 4 easy vegetable sides, a cheesy baked dip, and our favorite French Onion Soup -- gratinée, of course.• See more cheesy recipes from the Food52 community.
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An oldie but a goodie, this hearkens back to my cooking school days, with some thanks also to Julia Child. - Merrill StubbsServes 6
1 1/2 cup milk
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
2 cups grated Gruyere
Salt and pepper
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the milk in a small heavy saucepan and peel and smash one of the garlic cloves. Add it to the pot and then heat the milk gently until it starts to bubble at the edges. Remove from the heat and let steep while you continue with the recipe.
2. Peel the second garlic clove, cut it in half and rub the cut side around the inside of an oval gratin dish about 9 inches long and 2 inches deep. Rub 1 tablespoon of the butter over the inside of the baking dish.
3. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/8-inch-thick slices (I use a mandoline to get them nice and even), laying the slices on a kitchen towel to drain. Layer about a third of the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish, fanning them into concentric, overlapping circles. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and sprinkle a third of the cheese over them. Repeat with two more layers of potatoes, salt and pepper and cheese, making the top layer as neat and tidy as you can.
4. Remove the garlic clove from the hot milk and pour the milk evenly over the potatoes. Dot the top of the potatoes with the remaining tablespoon of butter and bake the gratin for about 30 minutes, until it's browned and bubbly. Let the potatoes cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Creamed spinach with a crunch, Lizthechef's gratin applies a layer of finesse to an age-old comfort food. A fragrant onion bechamel, made savory with a generous addition of Gruyere, envelops chopped spinach in its lush embrace without overwhelming it. We especially love the layer of buttery-crisp, salty panko crowning the top. Pair with some steak, a baked potato and a nice Cabernet, and you've got one heck of a meal. - Amanda & Merrill
Sweet potatoes are often made even more sweet using ingredients like maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, and even marshmallows. We like that apartmentcooker goes definitively in the other direction by adding bacon, parmesan, onion, garlic and a crème fraîche bechamel, while still paying homage to more traditional recipes (she adds a tablespoon of brown sugar to the bechamel, with delightful results). Thinly sliced sweet potatoes are layered in the baking dish (we used one dish big enough for two rather than individual ones) with bechamel, crisped bacon, and raw onions and garlic, which infuse the gratin with their fragrance. - Amanda & Merrill
The secret to a great gratin is not trying too hard. Potatoes are delicious; there's no need to smother them. And this is a point that AlexisC clearly gets. Her potatoes are gently scented with leek and garlic and enriched with cream and Gruyere. AlexisC has you bake the gratin at a fairly low temp - 300 degrees - so by the time the gratin emerges from the oven, the layers of potato are buttery in texture and topped with a crisp, caramelized crust. As for all gratins, buy yourself a mandoline (the best are the inexpensive Japanese-style ones) - it will preserve your sanity and make for uniform slices. - Amanda & Merrill
Most dips involve dumping a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and mixing them until smooth. If the ingredients are good quality, you'll end up with something worth dipping a chip into, but if you're like singing_baker and you tweak some of those ingredients, you'll end up with an unforgettable hors d'oeuvre. First, you roast the fennel and garlic, to bring out their sugars and intensify their flavors. You simmer the white beans (we used canned) in a fragrant garlic-and-rosemary oil. You blend the beans and fennel with more oil so the mixture lightens like a good whipped salt cod and potato puree. And, finally, you spoon it all into a baking dish, cover it with cheese, and slide it into a hot oven so the top of the dip toasts, leaving you with a crisp veil over the pillowy dip. You won't even remember the work that went into it once you're showered with praise. - Amanda & Merrill
This is almost, but not quite, the traditional French onion soup that comes to mind. It starts with a full 3 pounds of onions and some smashed garlic, which you caramelize slowly and thoroughly in butter and olive oil. You add thyme and bay leaf and some rich stock (homemade is highly recommended both by wcfoodies and by us), and then it's time for the crowning glory: 2 full cups of wine or beer. We used a dark ale and really liked the bit of kick that the finished soup still had after 2 plus hours on the stove. Take your time with the onions, and use the three-cheese combo instead of a deli slice. And don't forget to put a piece of toast in the bottom of each bowl -- it makes for a lovely surprise. - Amanda & Merrill