200 – Seafood Gratin (Gratin de Fruits de Mer)
- 5 tablespoons (70 grams) butter
- 2/3 cup (80 grams) all-purpose flour
- 4 1/4 cups (1 liter) cold milk
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 bay leaves, salt (to taste)
- 1 pound shrimp, 1 pound tilapia filet (you can use the fish / seafood of your choice)
- 2 tablespoons butter and 5 green onions
- 2 cups of cooked rice (basmati, white rice, brown rice, or any rice of your choice)
- Grated cheese (parmesan, mozarella, or any cheese of your choice)
Step 1: Making the Bechamel Sauce
1- First, we are going to make “Roux”, which is basically cooked butter and flour. In a saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the flour, and reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook the flour and butter for around 5 minutes until the flour loses its “raw” taste.
2- Once the surface of the “Roux” become bubbly, add the cold milk. It’s important that the milk is cold because the switch of temperature stops the flour from cooking further and get a smoother taste to the bechamel. Use a whisk to stir all the ingredients. Make sure that you stir constantly while cooking the bechamel to break all the lumps and get a smooth texture.
3- Add the salt, nutmet, and bay leaves.
4- Cook the bechamel sauce on medium-low heat for 5 minutes (when you add the milk) then increase the heat to medium and cook the bechamel until it becomes thick. Stir constantly.
5- Watch the bechamel very closely when cooking it. Make sure not to overcook the bechamel otherwise it will become very thick and pasty when it cools down. You want it to be thick but still liquidy, which is the consistency you would have if you stop cooking the bechamel when it reaches a boiling point.
6- If you want to keep the bechamel, place it in a bowl, and cover the surface with a plastic wrap (the plastic directly touching the bechamel surface) so it does not create a skin. Then place it in the frige for 2-3 days.
Step 2: Preparing the Fish
1- Cut the fish into medium sized pieces.
2- In a flat pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add chopped green onions (only the white part). You can replace the green onion is challots. Cook the green onions for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
3- Add the fish to the pan, season with salt and pepper. Do not salt too much if the bechamel sauce is too salty already.
4- Cook the fish on medium heat until the shrimp becomes slightly pink and the fish is half cooked. Do not overcook the fish, some pieces of the fish may be undercooked and that’s what we want. The fish will be baked and will finish cooking in the oven. If you overcook it at this step, the texture of the fish will become rubbery.
Step 3: Layering the Gratin
1- Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C).
2- Use a medium sized baking pan, preferably made of clay.
3- First, layer the cooked rice in the bottom of the baking pan.
4- Place the fish over the cooked rice. Do not add the ‘juices’ of the fish – make sure to separate the fish pieces from the juices where they cooked.
5- Add the bechamel sauce all over the fish.
6- Finally cover the top with grated cheese.
7- Place the gratin in the middle-rack of the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes then broil the top until it creates a crust of cheese with a golden brown color.
Serve hot (immediately) with crusty bread!