Slices of green tomato are cooked in a creamy mornay sauce with a crisp panko crust in this unconventional green tomato gratin.
With the weather up in the high 80's here in in Manhattan over the weekend, it really feels like we've skipped past spring and have headed straight into summer. This is quite unfortunate as these fleeting days between winter and summer are a rare respite from the otherwise atrocious weather we get here.
To reassure my senses that the withering heat of summer is still a few weeks off, I picked up some springy green tomatoes at the farmers market. If you haven't guessed by now, I have a penchant for unripe fruits and veggies, as evidenced here, here, and here, and love green tomatoes something fierce.
Many would regard unripe fruit and veggies as a result of corporate farms that are more interested in things like shelf-life and yield rather than trivialities like flavour and texture. Maybe I'm just weird (this is a well established fact), but I like to look at pre-maturely picked fruit a fun challenge. Green tomatoes are commonly fried and eaten in southern cooking, so this wasn't too much of a stretch for me.
A gratin is a French casserole, traditionally involving potatoes layered with either a béchamel or mornay sauce and baked until bubbly with a golden crust on top. They're rich, creamy and can be quite heavy. Inspired by my bag of gorgeous green tomatoes, I decided to apply the technique to my firm verdant jewels of spring.
The result was like a more refined version of fried green tomatoes with a country gravy. With a cheesy mornay sauce bubbling up between layers of tart green tomatoes, and a crisp panko crust, it's pure artery clogging heaven on a plate. I used this as a side for dinner, but I can't stop thinking about how awesome it would be on a bed of home fries with a poached egg on top.
This riff on the classic gratin also got me thinking about other possibilities. What about a green peach "gratin" made with slices of unripe peaches and crème anglaise topped with buttered cinnamon sugar bread crumbs? Okay, so maybe the crème anglaise would curdle, but it could be thickened with a roux rather than yolks for this purpose.
For breadcrumb topping
- Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 450 degrees F.
- Mix all the ingredients for the breadcrumb topping together and set aside.
- To make the mornay, put the butter and shallots in a small saucepan and saute over medium heat until the shallots are very fragrant. Add the flour and stir for about 1 minute. Whisk in the cream then add the cheese, salt and nutmeg. Continue whisking until the mornay thickens, then take it off the heat.
- Dip the slices of green tomato into the mornay and arrange in a small oven-safe casserole dish. Spread any remaining sauce on top of the green tomatoes. Sprinkle the breadcrumb topping evenly on top then place the dish in the oven.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden brown.