Chayote is a new ingredient for me. I’d seen them in the grocery stores and at the farmer’s market, but I’d never bought one. Frankly, I had no idea how to use this unusual ingredient until our vacation last year in Martinique. I know…. Martinique….
A beautiful, lush Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles – home of Mount Pelee, a volcano that decimated the city of Saint Pierre in 1902.
Martinique is also home to my extended family, who welcomed us with open arms!
I have a whole list of unique Caribbean fare that I’m dying to make for you as a result of our visit, but for now, let’s talk about this gratin. We were having dinner in Parnasse with our host Serge and friends Francis and Corrine.
They served a dish, that I was completely unfamiliar with. They called it gratin de christophines – or christophine gratin. I didn’t know what “christophine” was.
Turns out christophine is actually chayote squash here in the states. Great. I was just as foggy on chayote as well.
But the gratin was so swoon worthy, I had to familiarize myself with it — and the technique to recreate this amazing gratin at home.
My hosts shared the basics and I realized how simple it was. Mixing the chayote puree with a creamy béchamel, adding cheese (gratins should always have cheese) and baking it off in a casserole dish.
Instead of a big casserole, like they used, I decided individual ramekins would be fun.
Fresh breadcrumbs and a bit more cheese top off the gratins and then it’s into the oven to bake.
It is lush, creamy and utterly divine. My Mom, Emily and I kept going back for more. Seriously.
I became obsessed with all the things I could gratinee the way they had — by blending vegetable purees with béchamel and cheese. During the week, we also had a aubergine gratin – that was outstanding. I’m sure you’ll be seeing that one soon!
This creamy gratin uses an often overlooked vegetable -- Chayote squash!
- 2 chayote squash
- 2 shallots minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 11/2 teaspoons salt divided
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped
- 1 cup shredded gruyere emmental or comte cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs or dried
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray four 1/2-cup ramekins with vegetable spray and arrange on a baking sheet, set aside.
Fill a medium saucepan 3/4 full with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.
Slice the chayote in half lengthwise and remove the seed. Add the chayote to the boiling water reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes or until tender. (Test tenderness by poking the squash with a sharp knife -- if the knife comes out easily and without resistance, the squash is cooked.) Transfer the squash to the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to puree. If squash is very liquid-y and loose, pour it into a fine mesh sieve and strain the excess liquid from the puree. Transfer the puree to a bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter and add the shallots. Saute the shallots until tender and translucent. Sprinkle in the flour and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir to coat the shallots, cooking for about 1 minute. Add the milk, stirring constantly and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for one minute and remove from heat. Stir in the chopped thyme and 3/4 cup shredded cheese. Add the béchamel sauce to the puree and stir to combine.
Divide the gratin evenly into the 4 ramekins and top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until gratin is bubbly and breadcrumbs are toasted. Let the gratin sit for 10 minutes before serving.