Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I remember going to a restaurant called Bill Knapp's when I was growing up. We would only go after church on Sunday and I would only order the au gratin potatoes. I liked to call them "oh rotten potatoes" because I thought I was funny. Now that I think about it, they weren't all that gratinéed, but I do remember that they were one million degrees, (probably from being put under the salamander right before being served) and they were definitely bubbling, cheesy potatoes with a bruléed top.
That was the start of all things au gratin for me. I remember making an awesome leek gratin for Thanksgiving one year and now there's this tomato gratin that I made at the beach this past weekend. I actually had it for the first time a few weeks ago when I made these Cowboy Cookies, and my friend had made the recipe for the first time. It was super delish and looked EXACTLY like the photo in her cookbook. Three of us devoured the entire dish in a matter of minutes, so we decided to make it again to go with our freshly caught Montauk sea bass. My friend mentioned that it had taken a while to prep everything so I offered to help, and then ended up making the whole thing.
Grilled Montauk Striped Bass
The first go around my friend seeded all of the tomatoes. This time we decided to seed only half of them, figuring that the juices would be soaked up by the bread cubes. And they were. The recipe doesn't call for seeding the tomatoes, and it doesn't really matter if you do, but if you are using extra-ripe, end of summer tomatoes, you might want to seed at least half. After you've finished your prep work and thrown the tomatoes in the oven, pour yourself a glass of rosé and get ready for the cheesy goodness.
(Adapted from Ina Garten)
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups (1/2-inch diced) bread from a French boule, crusts removed
16 plum tomatoes (or heirloom tomatoes), cut 1/2-inch dice (about 2 1/2 pounds)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.
2. Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.
3. Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.