Gratin de Christophine (Chayote Squash Recipe)
Gratin de christophine originates from the French island of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Whether it's called chayote in English, christophine in Creole and French or trái su su in Vietnamese, the vegetable is from the same family as squash. I steam them with apples for added sweetness, then mix in creamed pearl onion sauce and finally bake until golden.
If you're looking to spice up your Christmas meal, you should try this Creole dish. It’s familiar and fresh all at the same time.
Yields: 6 servings2 chayote squash
1 Fuji apple
2 cloves garlic , finely minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, warm
2 teaspoons coarse-grained mustard
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
3 tablespoons caramelized onions (click on the link for the recipe)
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces frozen pearl onions, thawed at room temperature
2 teaspoons palm sugar, freshly grated
1 sprig thyme
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley (without stems), chopped
¼ cup Gruyère cheese
Prepping the chayotes and apple: Peel, core and slice the apple, lengthwise, into 8 pieces. Peel, stone and slice the chayotes the same way.
Steaming the chayotes and apple: Bring a pot with a little water to a boil. Add a steamer insert, place sliced chayotes and apples in the steamer and steam for about 20 minutes. Remove them from the steamer and let cool a bit. Once they are cool enough to handle without discomfort and have dried thoroughly, transfer to a baking dish (previously greased with olive oil), fanning the slices and alternating 2 pieces of chayote with 1 piece of apple, just as you would an apple pie. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Prepping the filling: In a non-stick pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sprig of thyme. Cook until fragrant. Add the pearl onions. Toss until slightly browned. Add sugar. Cook for about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and the caramelized onions. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Remove and discard the thyme.
In the same pan, melt the butter over medium-low so it won't burn. Cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Bring the heat back up to medium-high (the butter should be hot and golden) and add the flour. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon for approximately 2 minutes. The flour should absorb the butter and form a paste. Add the warm milk in 3 stages. Increase the heat while constantly stirring for about 4-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add mustard and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute. Add the pearl onions and stir well. Let the sauce rest until it's time to assemble the dish.
Spread ladles of the béchamel sauce to cover the chayotes and apple. Finish with a layer of Gruyère cheese.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 400°F and broil for about 2-3 minutes to get a nice golden top. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm.
Serve with white meat.
I love the addition of the apple between the chayote slices. Like many kind of squash, chayote is a bland vegetable, so the apple adds extra sweetness to the dish. You could also add corn.
It's important to remove the chayote from the steamer once they're cooked, so as much liquid evaporates as possible; otherwise the gratin becomes very watery and soggy.
If you want to prepare the dish in advance, place the vegetables in the baking dish but only add the sauce and cheese right before placing in the oven. Bake the gratin dish 20-30 minutes before you're ready to serve.
To get a smooth béchamel sauce, all the ingredients should be at the same temperature, so make sure you warm the milk in the microwave (or in a pan). If you get lumpy pieces in the sauce, don't hesitate to use a handheld blender.
The thyme is not essential to this dish; I just like adding it to flavor the pearl onions.
If you have béchamel sauce left-over, don't discard it. Just store it for later and use it as a sauce for a croque-monsieur sandwich (ham and cheese sandwich).
Little reminder on how to caramelize onions: Heat olive oil in a pan. Sauté sliced onions in the oil over low heat for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the onions from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown and the onions are tender. Season with salt. Transfer to a plate.Published By: on December 5, 2010.