by Cat, Nov 2007 (Photo, right, by Cat)
See also: Potato Douphinoise (Potatoes Au Gratin)
Gratins, other sites: 1. Classic Potato Gratin; 2. Potato Gratin with Gruyere, Bacon & Leeks; 3. Three-Cheese Potato Gratin; 4. Sweet Potato Gratin with Dijon Crust; 5. Squash, Apple, Leek & Potato Gratin
Gratin is a very old dish, dating before the time when potatoes were introduced to Europe. In those olden times, turnips and parsnips were used for making gratin, and to this day, turnip gratin is my favorite of all.
I highly recommend using a mandoline (not mandolin, the stringed instrument) to slice turnips or potatoes (equally good for most other veggies as well). It is very difficult to slice as thin as needed, with a knife. I use my Mom’s stainless steel slicer from the ‘50s, just like the one in the photo, left. It is very efficient – just watch your fingers near the slicing edge. (Photo, left, from Lehman’s (2))
(Photo, right, from Museums Online South Africa (1))
If turnips have you making faces try this using half turnip, half potato.
This recipe is very French, but similar dishes are found in other European cultures as well. Adapted from A Passion for Vegetables, by Vera Gewanter (3), it serves 4 as a main dish; 8 – 10 as a side dish. It’s a tradition for my Christmas Day dinner, and is also what I bring to Thanksgiving Pot Luck. But it’s excellent as a potato substitute dish for any occasion.
Gruyère cheese is essential for the true French flavor. It is in the Swiss cheese family, so other swiss cheeses could be substituted. Grated Romano cheese can also be used, for a different flavor.
I don’t use the breadcrumbs from the original recipe, but I include them as an optional ingredient, and I prefer to grate the cheese, rather than arrange thin slices over the dish.
I prefer summer savory (dried) for the herb, because fresh chervil is only available in summer and doesn’t dry well. Sometimes I make this just with the savory (skipping the dill).
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 2 cloves garlic, cut in half
- 3 Tbsp butter (approximately)
- 1 ½ pounds young turnips, well scrubbed (or a mix of turnip and potato)
- Unrefined sea salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tsp fresh (or ½ tsp dried) chervil or summer savory
- ½ tsp dill weed
- 8 Tbsp thinly sliced Gruyère cheese (or about 1/2 cup, grated)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup breadcrumbs (optional)
- pinch ground nutmeg (optional)
- shallow ovenproof gratin dish, casserole or baking pan
- mandoline or sharp knife
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Rub the gratin or baking dish with the cut garlic. Let the dish dry, then grease well with butter. If desired, mince the garlic finely and set aside.
- Slice turnips very thinly, using a mandoline if you have one. Do the same with the potato(s) if using.
- Arrange the veggie slices in a layer, slightly overlapping each. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs. If you minced the garlic, scatter half over the veggies. Cover with 2 or 3 more layers of veggies, sprinkling each with salt, pepper and herbs, and the reserved minced garlic over the middle layer.
- Cover with the sliced or grated cheese. Pour the cream all over, and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs (if using). Dot the top here and there with butter, and sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg if desired.
- Bake, uncovered for about 45 minutes, until golden and the turnips are tender.
NOTE: If you try to make a low-fat version by using milk instead of cream, you will have to use a lower oven temperature (300°F) to keep the milk from curdling, and bake for a longer time. But I don’t recommend using milk, as the flavor will not be as rich. This is a holiday dish, after all.
Assembly or Serving Suggestions
- Set the dish on the table and garnish with finely chopped parsley or green onion tips.
- A Passion for Vegetables, by Vera Gewanter