The Make-Ahead Cheesy Eggplant and Zucchini Gratin My Family Constantly Requests
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We love the texture and the unexpected crunch. This could work as a main dish but we usually treat it as a side, served alongside roasted chicken and/or pasta. This is especially great for potlucks or other holiday gatherings.
Tips for success:
- Be sure to cook the eggplant and zucchini until they are soft. It makes a big difference in the finished flavor and texture.
- If you’re short on time, you can prepare and mix the ingredients in advance, fill the baking dish and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it. The whole recipe can also be made a day or two in advance, then reheated or served cold with tomato sauce.
Prep time 30 minutes to 35 minutes
Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes
For the gratin:
medium yellow onion
medium to large eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds)
medium zucchini (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
- 1 teaspoon
each finely chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, and oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
- 2 cloves
garlic, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons
olive oil, divided, plus more for the baking dish
- 2 teaspoons
kosher salt, plus more as needed
freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 1/2 cup
whole or 2% milk
- 6 ounces
sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
For the bread crumb topping (optional):
- 2 teaspoons
- 1 cup
panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/4 teaspoon
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Meanwhile, coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Peel and dice 1 medium yellow onion and 1 large eggplant. Dice 2 medium zucchini. If using fresh herbs, finely chop 1 teaspoon each fresh thyme, rosemary, and oregano leaves. If using fresh garlic, finely chop 2 cloves.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add about 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil and the eggplant, and sauté until the eggplant starts to brown and soften, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and the zucchini and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.
Add the herbs (or 1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence), garlic (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder), 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are very soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables to a blender or food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add 1/2 cup whole or 2% milk and blend until smooth. Taste and season with more kosher salt and pepper as needed. Add 3 large eggs and blend until combined. (Alternatively, transfer to a large bowl and blend right in the bowl with an immersion blender.) Transfer the mixture into the baking dish and spread into an even layer.
Bake until beginning to brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, grate 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese on the large holes of a box grater (1 1/2 cups). If making the bread crumb topping, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 cup panko bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Cook, stirring often, until the bread crumbs are golden-brown and toasted, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Sprinkle the gratin with the cheese. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes more. Sprinkle with the toasted bread crumbs and let cool for least 15 minutes before serving.
Make-ahead: The gratin can be assembled in the baking dish (without the cheese and toasted bread crumbs) and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead. Let sit at room temperature while the oven heats, and the gratin may need a few extra minutes baking time.
Storage: Leftover gratin can be tightly wrapped and refrigerated for up to 4 days.