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~ Festive Seafood Gratinee (Gratin de Fruit de Mer) ~

IMG_7207When the Chrismas and New Year holidays draw near, my mind wraps itself around plans for festive meals that pair well with Champagne:  perfectly roasted beef Wellington or prime rib, creamy pasta dishes like Bolognese lasagna or Tuscan ravioli, and, butter-poached lobster or seafood-Newburg crepes.  If you ordered any of these exquisite meals in a restaurant, they'd set you back quite a few dollars.  If you have the skill to make them at home, what they save in money, they cost you in time.  As it turns out, I just happen to have a couple of festive, easy-to-prepare, budget-friendly recipes for you that are perfect to serve at any holiday gathering, and:

My seafood gratinee (grah-tee-NAY) is "a party in your mouth"!

In French, "gratin de fruit de mer" simply means "A gratin made from fruits from the sea (seafood)".  You can put any seafood or combination of seafood in it that you like, have on hand, or can afford:  crabmeat, lobster, shrimp and/or scallops are all wonderful.  I almost always have a bag of easy-peel shrimp in my freezer, which is what I'm using today, and, the fact that they've been frozen is absolutely no compromise to this creamy, steaming hot, seafood-lovers dinner!

IMG_7201A bit about gratins:  The French word "gratin" is derived from the English word "grate" and means to scratch or scrape.  Back in the 16th century, it referred to the crusty part of any cooked food that stuck to the side of the pot, pan, or dish it was cooked in and had to be scraped ("gratte") loose so as not to waste it. Nowadays, no-stick cooking sprays have made this task easy for us, but we still want that crunchy, golden topping on each and every serving!

6a0120a8551282970b017c321a8a6d970b-320wi"Gratin" refers to both the food being prepared and the dish it gets cooked in.  Gratins can be baked in large or individual quantities, but in either case, they require a wide, shallow dish that increases the surface area, which insures a crispy portion for everyone.  The food being cooked is cooked slowly in a thickened liquid or sauce, which results in the top developing a crisp, golden brown crust!

The "gratin effect" can also be achieved by sprinkling dried breadcrumbs, cheese, or a combination of both over the the food to produce the signature golden top.  When this is done, the dish is referred to as a "gratinee" or an "au gratin"!

Let's start the seafood-lovers gratin party!

IMG_7036 IMG_7045I make an easy, French white sauce, Béchamel (bay-shah-mehl), to make gratinee.  It's nothing more than a mix of butter, flour, milk and spices.  It only takes about 15 minutes to make, and, you can do it a day ahead of time if you want to. My recipe for ~ How to:  Make a Classic Béchamel (White Sauce) ~ is in Categories 8 or 15!

3  cups Béchamel sauce, prepared as directed in above mentioned recipe

6  cups steamed white rice, preferably jasmine or basmati (3 cups uncooked white rice) 

1 1/2  pounds (after removing any shells), fresh or thawed seafood:  jumbo lump crabmeat, lobster, shrimp, scallops, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1  cup finely-diced yellow or sweet onion

4  tablespoons salted butter

freshly ground peppercorn blend

1/2-3/4  cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or, 1/2 cup French-Style breadcrumbs, or, a combination both, for topping, your choice

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing gratin dish

IMG_7056~ Step 1.  Prepare the Béchamel sauce as directed.  Set aside.

~ Step 2.  In an electric rice steamer, or on the stovetop, cook the rice.  Transfer to a 2-quart gratin dish that has been sprayed with no-stick spray.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

IMG_7065~ Step 3.  Prep the seafood and the onion as directed and set aside.

IMG_7064~ Step 4.  In a 12" skillet, melt butter on low heat. Season the butter with freshly ground peppercorn blend.  Add the onion. Increase heat to saute until the onion softens, about 2-3 minutes.  

IMG_7080 IMG_7069~ Step 5. Add the seafood. Continue to saute, until it is partially-cooked through.  This will take about 2-4 minutes, depending on the type of seafood you have chosen and the size of your bite-sized pieces.  Do not fully-cook or overcook.  The seafood is going to finish cooking in the oven.

IMG_7082~ Step 6.  Remove seafood from heat.  Using a large slotted spoon, transfer and distribute all of it evenly over the rice in the gratin dish.  

Note:  Allow any excess moisure the seafood has exuded to remain in the bottom of the pan, and discard it at your convenience.

IMG_7101 IMG_7108~ Step 7. Evenly distribute 3 cups of the Béchamel sauce over the top of the seafood.  Note:  Refrigerate the remaining 3/4-1 cup of béchamel, to use in another recipe -- experience has taught it does not freeze well.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy it is over poached eggs on toast points in the morning.

IMG_7119 IMG_7126~ Step 8. Using a microplane grater, finely grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano and evenly sprinkle it over the top of the Béchamel.

Note:  At this point, the gratin can safely sit on the countertop for 30 minutes prior to baking according to the following directions:

IMG_7184~ Step 9.  Bake, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven, 30-35 minutes, until bubbling around the sides and golden brown on the top.  Rest 30-45 minutes prior to serving:

Serving suggestion:  For a casual weeknight meal, we like this gratin with a Caesar salad (that has a few halved grape tomatoes tossed into it), and, a frosty mug of beer or two.

Serve at festive occasions w/bloody Mary's or champagne:

IMG_7212Festive Seafood Gratinee (Gratin de Fruit de Mer):  Recipe yields 6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  2-quart gratin dish; electric rice steamer, or 4-quart saucepan w/lid; plastic wrap; cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; large slotted spoon; large spoon; microplane grater  

6a0120a8551282970b0147e13c129b970b-800wi 6a0120a8551282970b0168e9aeb54c970c-800wiCook's Note: For another one of my gratin recipes, that comes in handy around the holidays, you can find my recipe for ~ Perfect Potatoes au Gratin (Scalloped Potatoes) ~ in Category 4!  

They go great with my recipe for ~ Perfect "Prime" Rib Roast (Standing Rib Roast) ~, which you can find in Categories 3, 11 or 21!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 


Many thanks for prompt response. Jill

Sorry Jill -- it does not freeze well. ~ Mel.

Can your Fruits de mer au gratin be frozen?

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