I’ve been wanting to make a gratin since reading sweetness & lightning… Gratin is pretty much all about the cheesy topping and, after a little experimenting, this is what I came up with. It looks quite fancy, but once you break it down it’s really quite simple!
You will need:
- a sharp knife
- a chopping board
- two pans
- an oven-proof dish
and the ingredients (for 4 people):
- 4 chicken (or Quorn) fillets
- 8 medium, or 16 small, mushrooms
- 300-350ml milk
- roughly 1tsp cornflour
- 1/2 chicken stock cube
- 1 onion
- hard cheese such as cheddar
- crackers or oatcakes, the kind you like with cheese
Start by putting your chicken on to fry. (We’re using the same technique I wrote about earlier this month, so if there’s anything you’re not sure about, see my earlier post here.)
Chop your mushrooms into cubes, or slices if you prefer (you can find instructions for both here). Then, add them to the frying pan.
Let the chicken and mushrooms cook while you work on your sauce. (This is a white sauce, so if there’s anything unclear, check out my post on white sauces here.) You can also turn on the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C (180°C fan), so it has time to preheat.
Place your saucepan on a gentle heat, and dice your onion. (You can find more detailed instructions here: onions). Add a little oil (less than a teaspoon is fine), followed by your diced onion.
Give your onions a few minutes to gently fry, and soak up the oil, then add the milk. (If you want to save on washing up, you can use your serving dish to measure – you want about half as much milk as you’re going to have filling.)
Crumble half a stock cube into the milk, and add the cornflour to thicken the sauce. (Remember to mix the cornflour into a little cold liquid first to avoid lumps!) Let it gently simmer (you should see small bubbles, but no large ones) for 5-10 minutes.
During this time, crush your oatcakes or crackers. My favourite way to do this is to put them in a plastic bag, squeeze out the air, and smash them with a rolling pin. Or you could use a food processor. Grate your cheese, then mix it with the crushed biscuits.
Taste the sauce (this is why I like to cook it separately from the chicken). If it tastes like it’s lacking something, you could try adding a little salt, pepper, or grated cheese.
Make sure the chicken is cooked and chopped into chunks. Mix together the chicken, mushrooms, and sauce, then add to the oven-proof dish. (I like to use individual dishes for serving – to make them easy to take in and out of the oven, pop them all on a baking tray.) Try and flatten the chicken mixture roughly level.
Top with the mixture of cheese and crumbs. To crisp up the top, place them in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes. If you’ve forgotten to preheat the oven, you can do this under a hot grill instead.
And it’s done! This is quite a rich dish, so a simple side of steamed or boiled vegetables or even a salad is perfect. And if you’re looking for more variations, there are plenty! You could add blue cheese to the sauce, swap the mushrooms for bacon, or simply add a little parsley to the sauce.