Monday, August 27, 2012

For the Love of Zucchini- Part 3: Zucchini & Potato AuGratin

Yes, we're still on zucchini. Those of you stuck with bushels full of 'em will hopefully thank me. Those who don't-- hopefully you're getting some ideas to take advantage of this underappreciated veggie! Paired up with a nice piece of grilled salmon, this dish makes for a simple entertaining supper or a great way to perk up a boring Wednesday.

This recipe is pretty simple. Even simpler if you have a mandoline or other slicing machine. The thinner the slices, the faster it will cook and the more attractive the presentation will be. You can, however, pull this off without a specialized piece of equipment. A little bit of time and a sharp knife will net you equally lovely results.

I know it seems like a lot of work. It does take a little time to assemble but you can do this in advance. The day I cooked this,  I knew was going to be super busy. So I prepped the whole thing in the morning, covered it in foil and popped it in the fridge. Later in the day, I pulled it out to let the glass dish warm a bit before throwing it into the oven. You could probably even prep this the night before, so long as you really wrapped it tightly and kept it refrigerated!

Recipe: Zucchini & Potato Au Gratin

2-3 zucchini
4-5 peeled potatoes (russets or yukon golds work great here)
2 Tbs butter + more for pan
2-3 Tbs flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
salt/pepper to taste

1)Melt 2 Tbs butter in the bottom of a medium sauce pan on med/low heat. Add flour until a thick paste (roux) is formed. Cook paste for 1-2 minutes. Add milk all at once and WHISK to remove lumps. Cook, stirring continuously until sauce starts to just thicken slightly-- you will start to feel a resistance against the spoon and the sauce should coat the spoon. Don't over thicken! Remove from heat and set aside.

2) Generously butter bottom and sides of casserole. For a small family dinner, I used a glass 9x9 brownie pan.
3)Thinly (between 1/16 & 1/8th of an inch) slice 1 potato. Arrange slices in a single layer across the bottom of the dish.
4) Thinly slice one zucchini. Arrange slices in a single layer over the potato slices.
5) Lightly sprinkle zucchini layer with salt and pepper.
6) Repeat slicing, layering & seasoning until you reach about 1/2 -3/4 of an inch from the top -- this ended up being 8 layers for me (4 each of zucchini & potato)
7) Carefully pour prepared white sauce over layers.
8) Sprinkle parmesan cheese over top.

9) Bake in a 375 F oven for 30 minutes. Check for doneness. A knife should slide in pretty easily. If there is a lot of resistance, continue baking, checking every 5 minutes. Times will vary depending heavily on thickness of slices and number of layers. The thinner the slices and shorter the stack, the faster the whole thing will cook. (Mine took about 45 minutes) If the top starts to get over browned, simply cover with foil and continue baking until done! (If you want a more elegant presentation, let the whole thing cool for 10-15 minutes so it sets up a bit instead of plopping it on a plate and eating it hot out of the oven, like I did)

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