French Cooking: Gratin de courgettes

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According to botanists, zucchini came originally from Central America. The Indians named it “askutasquash”. The Europeans discovered it when they came to the New World. In Europe, zucchini flowers are highly prized. When stuffed they are a rare and refined dish. I had my first stuffed courgette flowers in a seaside restaurant in Cannes. They were an absolute delight!  A favorite in Southern France is baked stuffed zucchini. A Niçoise recipe is sliced zucchini with tomatoes, garlic and parsley. Zucchini is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and plays an important part in making ratatouille (see my recipe under French Cooking in Bonjour Paris). Zucchinis are mild and usually need to be given a little boost during cooking – garlic, thyme, rosemary, etc. Look for firm zucchini with a shiny skin. I prefer the smaller zucchini because as they get bigger their flesh becomes stringy and bland and the seeds toughen. Store them in a dark, cool place or in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. They will keep for 4-5 days. They do not like the freezer (due to high water content) or room temperature where they will soften quickly and dry out.  Zucchini can be steamed, braised, fried or sautéed. Don’t cook them in salted water. Add salt at the end so that they will retain their texture. Actually, it is best not to boil them at all since they become tasteless. I am a lover of zucchini gratin and am offering two different recipes this week. Both are excellent and sometimes I enjoy them as a meal in itself along with a nice garden salad. Flan de courgettesBaked Zucchini CasseroleFor 4-6 personsCooking and preparation time :  40 minutes 2 tbsp. Olive oil 2 tbsp. Vegetable oil 2 tbsp. butter 1 red onion (peeled and chopped) 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced) 2 lbs. zucchini (washed, unpeeled and shredded) 3 slices stale sandwich bread, crumbled 2  eggs, slightly beaten salt and pepper, to taste 1/4 cup fine bread crumbs Preheat the oven to 350°. Oil a baking dish with a little of the olive oil. Heat the vegetable oil and 1 tbsp. of the butter and cook onions for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat.  Add the zucchini and mix well. Add the crumbled sandwich bread and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in the beaten eggs. Add salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Dot with the remaining butter and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes. The top should be golden brown. Gratin aux courgettesZucchini GratinFor 6 personsCooking and preparation time :  40 minutes 2 tbsp. Butter 6 medium zucchini (washed, unpeeled and sliced) 2 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon (or 2 tsp. dried) 1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup whipping cream 2 eggs, slightly beaten salt and pepper, to taste Preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Butter a 9-inch diameter deep dish glass pie plate. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the zucchini and sauté until golden (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Layer half the zucchini in the buttered dish. Sprinkle half of the tarragon and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Repeat layering with zucchini, tarragon and 1/2 cup cheese.  Combine the milk, whipping cream and eggs in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the custard over the zucchini. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top. Bake until the gratin is set in the center, about 35 minutes. Et voilà!!
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Comments

  • kenton harry
    2016-06-09 04:49:53
    kenton harry
    Excellent dish

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