A really delicious, creamy but summery side dish. It’s also great to serve as reheated leftovers with scrambled eggs for breakfast.
I’m addicted to any gratin, but this one uses intense, roasted tomatoes with fresh thyme. Well worth roasting the tomatoes yourself, as they’re so easy to do.
The roasted tomato recipe is below the main recipe.
Serves 6 to 8
30 oven-dried tomato halves
about 1/4 of loaf of bread: French, Peasant, focaccia, rosemary, etc.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1-2 tsp minced thyme leaves, preferably fresh
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp chopped chives or chervil
1/3 cup shredded Gruyère cheese or Parmesan
Prepare the oven dried tomatoes. See the recipe below called “Oven dried tomatoes” These dried tomatoes can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to proceed with the recipe.
Prepare croutons: Preheat oven to 300ºF. Remove crusts from bread. Cut into 1/3-inch slices, and then cut into 1/3-inch cubes. Spread cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake until cubes are dry and crisp, about 40 minutes. Toss the croutons with a spatula about every 15 minutes for even cooking. Cool completely and store for about a week at room temperature. As an alternative, you can also use homemade croutons for salads.
Prepare gratin: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9×12-inch oven-proof dish with at least 1-inch sides that is large enough to hold all the tomatoes in a single layer.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil, and add the garlic and time, and cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic is softened, but not brown. Add the dried tomato halves and 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook gently for a couple more minutes.
Add the cream and bring to a boil. Add the croutons and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to the prepared gratin dish. Dot with the the remaining butter and bake for about 40 minutes until bubbly and nicely browned. Sprinkle with chives and serve.
OVEN DRIED TOMATOES
Oven temperatures vary, so your tomatoes may bake faster or slower than what’s called for in the recipe. The longer and slower you can dry the tomatoes, the better, because the flavors become more concentrated the longer the tomatoes bake. Through this process, normally bland winter tomatoes become fairly edible and summer tomatoes become super intense, delivering an out-of-this-world taste experience.
39 large fresh plum tomatoes 2 Tbsps kosher salt
2 Tbsp granulated white sugar 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Line two cookie sheets with aluminum foil. Place a baking rack on each cookie sheet.
Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the stem core. Gently squeeze out most of the seeds and place the halved tomatoes closely together, cut side up, on the baking racks.
In a small bowl, combine the salt and sugar. Sprinkle generously over the cut side of the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature. The salt and sugar will help draw out the moisture in the tomatoes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 225ºF. Transfer the cookie sheets to the oven. Bake the tomato halves for 3 to 4 hours, checking about every 30 minutes. Rotate trays half way through for even baking. The tomatoes are done baking when they start to shrivel but are not completely dried.
When cook enough to handle, turn the tomato halves over and gently peel away the skins.
If you like, in a bowl, dress the tomatoes with the olive oil, freshly sliced garlic, black pepper and fresh thyme. Delicately layer the tomatoes in a flat container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Because all the moisture is not extracted, the tomatoes will spoil.