Summer Squash Gratin
I’m happy to have recently connected with an old schoolmate. John Currence was a couple of grades ahead of me at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, now chef of four immensely popular eateries in Oxford, Miss. Look for his September article in Food & Wine Magazine about lying in a hospital bed, recuperating from a near-fatal pancreatitis, musing about how to give his favorite dishes (that had nearly killed him) a healthy make-over. While stuck on his backside, he discovered Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, which I like very much as well. Last summer I made her Summer Squash Gratin recipe and couldn’t wait to try it again. I served it last week for a very special occasion…a dinner party in honor of Scott’s birthday, with my mother and siblings and their spouses. It is absolutely delicious — both decadent and bright at the same time, with the boost from the lemon zest and herbs. (I was introduced to this recipe and to the blog by Juliette Levy (aka, David Millman’s better, oops, other half).
Last night, for dinner in our home, I served the same gratin recipe to our wonderful French friends and top Burgundy producers, Thiébault Huber and Catherine and Patrick Essa, alongside some home grown Burgundy beans and some fresher than fresh Chinook Salmon (cured first with sugar, salt and pepper, then grilled). See below for further notes on the gratin recipe.* For dessert? A fresh fruit tart. I recommended last summer that you make it. It’s still a hit and nothing could be simpler. (Really. It is without a doubt the absolute easiest, quickest dessert in my collection of recipes, yet guests will think you are a pastry wizard).
Anyway, it got the French guests dancing! (OK, perhaps what got us dancing were the lovely Huber-Verdereau rosé, the 2000 Drappier Grande Sendrée Champagne, the 2006 Domaine Buisson-Charles Meursault Bouches-Chères 1er Cru, 08 Audrey, etc, etc.)
*Gratin recipe notes: I’ve prepared the gratin ahead of serving time in two different ways. One, I prepared according to recipe, bread crumb topping and all and froze. After reheating, I drizzled with the additional herb oil. It worked. It was roundly well-regarded and dug into for seconds. Maybe better though is to prepare the gratin minus the bread crumb topping, cook (maybe slightly less than recommended). Cool. Freeze. Thaw. Reheat with bread crumbs, then drizzle with the extra herb oil. By the way, I just drizzled some leftover herb oil onto briefly steamed fresh green beans. Delicious!
If short on time to make the gratin, how about sautéing squash in a large skillet, and topping with a sprinkling of grated gruyère, the herb oil and the toasted breadcrumbs or crushed up croutons?