I made a Carrot & Béchamel Gratin. I felt compelled to do it because there was a mighty chill in the air this morning at the Hollywood Farmers Market. The kind of cold that makes you hunger for “real food”.
I blame Noelle Carter for both the weather and the hunger. You see she wrote an article for this week’s LA Times Food section about the simplicity, versatility, and comfort of gratins. Noelle made a very convincing (or do I mean conniving??) case in favor of the humble gratin. Which she described as, “Aromatic vegetables suspended in a rich sauce, maybe a little melted cheese, all of it hidden under a crisp golden brown crust. Behold the glory that is the gratin.”
I think she chose those words very carefully. Especially that word “glory”. Because what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “glory”? Yep. The Big Guy (or Gal) upstairs.
My theory goes like this. Noelle’s article caused all of Los Angeles to crave something hot and creamy. When millions of people start yearning for the very same thing– all at the very same time, I believe God listens and sends (in this case) snow. Because there was snow in Studio City! Snow anywhere in Los Angeles County is mind-boggling. Snow in Studio City seems like nothing short of a miracle.
Besides. Her name is Noelle. That can’t be a coincidence, can it? I bet she’s got a direct line to powers that be…hmmm. At least she is using her powers for good and not evil.
- 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 T shallots, minced
- 2 T all-purpose flour
- 2 c milk
- salt and pepper as needed
- 2 T unsalted butter
- 1⁄2 c panko breadcrumbs
- 2 lb carrots, sliced crosswise into thin rounds
- 2 t fresh marjoram leaves, minced
- 2 t chives, minced
- 1⁄2 c gruyère cheese, cooled then grated
Prepare the béchamel. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the shallot, and cook, stirring, until softened, about three minutes. Stir in flour, and cook, stirring, for about three minutes until smooth and bubbling but not browned. Whisk in the milk all at once, and bring to a simmer, whisking continuously, until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn the heat to very low, and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and lost its raw flour taste. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat set aside.
Prepare the topping. Melt the butter in a small saute pan set over medium heat. Add the panko breadcrumbs and stir to coat. Continue stirring occasionally until the breadcrumbs are light golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon marjoram.
Make the gratin. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a 2‑quart gratin dish. Fill a medium saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and then the carrots. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer the carrots for 4 minutes or so until just tender. Whisk 1/2 cup of the cooking water into the reserved béchamel, then drain the carrots. Transfer them to a large bowl. Stir in the remaining marjoram, chives, salt and pepper to taste, the béchamel and Gruyère. Scrape into the baking dish.
Place in the oven, and bake 20 to 30 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the gratin is bubbling. Remove from the heat, allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD