Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Great Scrape: Chicken Gratin

Before this week, I couldn't have defined "gratin" except to tell you it was something baked in a casserole dish. But while looking for a recipe to use up the rest of my rotisserie chicken after making enchiladas, I came across a turkey gratin recipe in the "One Big Roast, Three Great Meals" chapter of one of my Cooking for Two cookbooks.

It sounded delicious, but I still needed to know exactly how a gratin was defined. I did a little research and discovered that it's a typically French technique in which a dish is topped with a browned crust (using breadcrumbs, cheese, egg or butter). It's often heated under a broiler and served in its baking dish. Sounds like a pretty broad definition, but it satisfied my curiosity!

As I kept reading, I learned that "gratin" is from the French language in which the word "gratter" means "to scrape" as of the "scrapings" of bread or cheese. Being a words gal, the origin of the word interested me ... and made this dish that much more understandable! After making it, though, I've decided "gratin" must actually be French for "pot pie." Take a look at the recipe and that will be obvious!

Chicken Gratin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 celery rib, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper
2 cups French or Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 garlic clove, minced

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrot, and celery, and cook until vegetables are softened and well-browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir int he flour and cook for 1 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup broth (you can also use white wine, but I was out), scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Whisk in the remaining broth and cream, bring to a simmer, and cook until liquid has thickened slightly and measures about 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir int he chicken and peas and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the chicken mixture to an 8-inch square baking dish. Toss the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, then sprinkle over the top. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the bread topping is toasted and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

So as you can see in the picture, I scorched the bread a bit ... which is sad because the bread WAS the gratin! But I didn't toss it well enough to actually coat the bread in the olive oil. Had I done that, I'm pretty sure I would have avoided the random burnt crusts.

Scorching aside, this was so delicious I was actually angry at Bill for eating the leftovers. It truly was like a crust-less chicken pot pie ... with chunks of garlic bread sprinkled on top! It was creamy and savory and so, so yummy.


  1. I actually think the super crispy bread on top looks good! But I'm one who likes fireman special toast :p

    You could do this with just about any vegetables, right? And mix-ins, sort of like stuffing?

    I had no idea what gratin was either, but cheese, bread or butter topping just about anything baked... bake a flat tire with cheese and butter on top and it'll be edible! Haha. I'm sure this dish tastes much, much better though ;)

  2. Yeah, I was thinking it would be delicious to add mushrooms. Or even make a ham and cheese version of something like this. Might have the try that next week!