Food lovers; your search for the tastiest and sexiest gratin stops right here!!! This chicken and broccoli gratin is by far the nicest I have ever had the privilege to make and it leaves you wanting more and more despite how much your belt buckle is hinting that there is no more room left at the inn.
For those that are not familiar with gratin, ‘Au Gratin’ originated from French cuisine and it’s basically a technique where food is placed in a shallow, oven-proof dish and then topped with cheese, breadcrumbs, egg and/or butter. It is then browned in the oven. Gorgeous, simple and yummy.
Me likey a good gratin and this is it! I first made this in June for my friends, Suzy and Brendan. They just had their first daughter and it was Brendan’s birthday so I figured they could do with a treat. Therefore, I threw on my chef apparel and acted as personal cook for the evening. They thanked me in wine. I was happy with this exchange.
It was a hit all round and second helpings were a given. It was also the first time I made my own chicken stock for a recipe and for those non-believers of homemade bouillon out there, try it and you will be converted to the church of homemade stock. It’s healthier and literally changes the quality of the dish from tasty to ‘Oh my God, this is the meal to end all meals’. Sadly, it has now turned me into a chicken stock snob and Knorr bouillon cubes just don’t cut the chicken anymore.
This gratin is quite simple to make but it does require some time to put together if you want to do it right and not cheat. That means no processed stock cubes, making the stock from scratch by using a whole chicken, leaving it to sit overnight and making your own roux which is so easy even my 13 week old Goddaughter can master it.
My inspiration for this recipe comes from the Avoca Cookbook and they regularly serve their version of this in their café in Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow; http://www.avoca.ie/home/explore/stores/?id=3. I have changed it by adding button mushrooms to the gratin and garlic and dried mixed herbs to the stock, leaving it to marinate overnight. In addition, I insist on using a whole, uncooked chicken for the stock and not skimp with just a couple of chicken breasts. The bones from the whole chicken make the skin so tender which adds the full amount of flavour to the bouillon.
Enjoy making this! I am jealous of your finished product already. Oh yes, it is THAT good!!
Prep and cooking time: 3.5 hours spread over 2 days
Sous-Chef/Photographer: My ball and chain
Music I listened to: X-Men: First Class soundtrack by Henry Jackman
Wine I drank: I was actually in the mood for some beer so I had a few Coors Light
- 1 whole, uncooked Chicken
- 1 Onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 Celery sticks
- 2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped in half
- A few sprigs of Parsley
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 tbsp dried, mixed Herbs
- A few black Peppercorns
- 600ml/1 pint Chicken stock reduced from the prepared above
- 300ml/1/2 pint double Cream
- 110g/4oz Roux (please see below for ingredients)
- 1 whole shredded Chicken from above stock ingredients
- 100g button Mushrooms, cut in half
- 1 large head Broccoli, divided into florets
- 85g/3oz Butter
- 140g/5oz Breadcrumbs
- 50g/2oz Butter
- 50g/20z plain Flour
Day 1…. The Stock!
Put the whole chicken in a large saucepan with the onion, celery, carrots, garlic cloves, parsley, bay leaf, dried mixed herbs and peppercorns and enough water to cover.
Bring to the boil slowly, then reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked. This should be about an hour. Take away from the heat and remove the chicken from the saucepan and leave to cool.
Once cool, strip the meat off the bones, dice and set aside to cool then cover and place in the fridge for use in the gratin the following day.
Cover the cooking liquid and leave to cool overnight. This will allow the flavours to intensify and come together naturally. That’s it for this evening! Sit down, relax and think how gorgeous dinner is going to be tomorrow.
Day 2…. The Gratin!
It’s gratin dinner night! Now get down to business; boil the reserved stock that you prepared the day before until it is reduced by half then strain the liquid. (This basically means taking out or sieving all the cooked vegetables from the stock). Then bring to the boil again until it is reduced to 600ml/1 pint. This whole process may take over an hour.
While the liquid is reducing, make the roux with the flour and butter outlined above in the ingredient list. Melt the butter, add the flour and cook gently over a low heat for 5 minutes. Be sure not to colour the roux. Set aside and allow to cool. It’s that simple.
Now, back to the liquid! Once it has reduced to the required amount, add the cream and return to the boil. Reduce to a low-medium heat and whisk in the roux a little at a time. You will notice the sauce start to thicken.
Stir in the chicken you set aside in the fridge the day before and the button mushrooms with broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste… yes; TASTE! This is when you first get the chance to sample what is about to come!
Once you have stopped sticking your spoon or finger into the sauce (purely to make sure the seasoning is correct of course…), pour the mixture into an ovenproof dish.
Now for the topping; Melt the butter and mix with the breadcrumbs. Spread over the chicken mixture and bake in a preheated oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for 20-30 minutes or until brown and bubbling.
NOTE: You don’t have to throw the gratin in the oven immediately. When I have friends over, I make this ahead, leave it aside and put it in the oven when we are ready to eat. I recommend you increase your cooking time from 20 mins to 25-30 mins if you do this.