A lite version of vegetable au gratin. Question 1. Does it really taste as good? Question 2. Is it really lite or there is a trick somewhere? Anyone presenting a recipe of vegetable au gratin and claiming it to be a lite version of the standard recipe always faces this question. Heck, I am always at the forefront to be doubting all low cal recipes. But then well, I can’t help it. Nutrition is thoroughly ingrained in me. Let me not digress (I do tend to do so a lot considering the fact that I am a very verbose person..there, I did it again!), I made this vegetable au gratin yesterday to be precise. It was a beautiful winter day in Mumbai (oh yes, there still is a bit of a chill in the air) and I was done with having answered all the diet queries for the day; suddenly I realized that its 3 pm and I have still not had any lunch! Heck, I had not even thought about what I was going to eat. The perfect excuse to eat a whole lot of vegetables- but in cream sauce. Love it!
Now, two things are important to a good vegetable au gratin. Actually three. Ok wait, let me begin listing them first. The vegetables that you select have to be such that they should not have a high water content. So good vegetables for a au gratin are- peppers (red, yellow, green), potatoes (I know I know its not a vegetable!), fresh corn (shh.. you can add a bit of carbs too!), green peas, beans (any kind), carrots, brocolli, cauliflower etc. Secondly, the white sauce has to be perfect, smooth and thick and creamy and delicious! Thirdly, for a lite version, I use the trick called a cheese crust method. Something like the way one makes the famous American Mac n Cheese. Use bread crumbs just below the cheese topping so that you have a thick cheese crust, albeit using less cheese. And lastly, this is best served piping hot and freshly out of the oven. The stick it in the fridge and re-heat later version just does not work for me.
Before I take you to the recipe- Where in the world will you find a diet consultant who gives you the recipe for a creamy, cheesy vegetable au gratin? Only here. Thank you. 🙂
You will need:
3 large potatoes, cleaned and diced, parboiled
a handful of fresh or canned or frozen corn
1 tsp butter
1 tsp mixed dried herbs, you can also use fresh herbs if you have them (optional)
1 cup string beans (any beans), roughly cut and blanched
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup green/ red/ yellow peppers, diced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cube processed cheese (50g)
salt and pepper to taste
For the white sauce:
2 tbsp maida or all purpose flour
1.5 cup cold milk
1 tsp butter
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
For the white sauce- Preparing a white sauce is a hassle for a lot many people. It becomes lumpy, floury, burnt, nutty and what not. I make white sauce in a really easy no fuss method and I dare you to point out the difference in the taste of the sauce made like this and the classic butter-flour-whisk-milk-whisk-whisk-whisk method. You wont be able to find any difference at all.
So what you need to do is, warm the butter on a non stick sauce pan. Make sure that the butter is melted and not burned. Mix the flour in the cold milk to a smooth consistency, ensuring there are no lumps. Do not use hot or warm milk as that is a sure shot way to a lumpy sauce. Next add this flour and milk mixture to the butter and keep stirring constantly till it is cooked (it will start bubbling) and thickens. Take it off the heat and season with salt, pepper and a tea spoon sugar. Cover with a cling film and keep aside.
For the baked vegetables:
Grease the bottom of the baking pan with a teaspoon butter and then layer the potatoes and the corn on it. Grill this in the oven for 15 mins at 180 degrees till the potatoes are slightly browned.
Next, add on all the diced vegetables ensuring that all the veggies are even spread on all sides of the pan. Otherwise, you will end up with one side having only the peppers and the others just the beans. You can also add mushrooms to this.
The next step is to evenly pour the white sauce on top of the vegetables.
And now, its time for the cheese! But before that, scatter the bread crumbs on top of the white sauce to make an even layer and lastly, grate the cheese on top.
Bake this at 180 degrees for 15 mins. Enjoy the aroma of baked cheese in the house. Grab your glass of wine (ooopss…) or your glass of iced tea.
And now… DIG IN!
P.S. the same method can be used to make any pasta in cream sauce (lite version 😉 ). Enjoy!