Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dinner at Home: Tuna and Cannellini Bean Gratin

It's been a while since I last wrote about my experiments in the kitchen...And, an experiment this was. I'm not afraid to admit that not everything I make turns out perfectly. In fact, I've made some real doozies. Thankfully, this doesn't fall in that truly terrible category. With the exception of one ingredient, I think it was quite good...

I decided to try a recipe I found in the Lunds and Byerly's fall 2011 real food magazine. I was intrigued by the quite tasty looking photo of:

Tuna and Cannellini Bean Gratin with Red Onion, Fennel and Crisp Cheese Crumb Topping
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped fennel
1 cup chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, grated and divided
2 15-ounce cans cannellini or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 5-ounce cans of tuna in olive oil, drained
1/4 cup fennel fronds (optional), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 cup heavy cream, or 3/4 cup sour cream thinned with 1/4 cup milk
2 cups soft coarse bread crumbs
1 cup grated Asiago, Pecorino Romano, or Parmigiano-Reggiano

You start by combining two tablespoons of oil, fennel and red onion in a medium skillet, cooking and stirring for about three minutes, until crisp-tender. Then add one clove garlic and cook over low heat for one minute. Then add the beans, tuna, fennel fronds, salt and pepper and stir over medium-low heat for about two minutes, until blended and heated through. Stir in cream and taste, add more salt if necessary. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a skillet, heat remaining two tablespoons of oil and remaining garlic over medium-low heat until sizzling and softened but not browned. Add breadcrumbs and stir to blend. Cook, stirring, over medium heat, just until crumbs begin to turn golden, about five minutes.

This turned out to be my main misstep in the cooking process. As you can see below, that's a heck of a lot of bread crumbs. I measured out the two cups it called for, but it ended up being way too much (as you'll see in the end).

Spread mixture in shallow baking dish. The beans should be at least one inch deep so they don't dry out while the top is browning. Spread bread crumbs on top of beans and top with grated cheese. Bake until cheese is a light golden brown and beans are heated through, 20 to 25 minutes.

And, voila! Here it is fresh out of the oven, looking quite crumby but delightfully golden.

To accompany the gratin, I roasted brussels sprouts. This isn't the first time I've shared my love of these little green veggies. I like to experiment with ways to make them more and more delicious, but this time I went with the simple route of roasting in olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper.

And the final product. Here's where you get an especially good glimpse at the abundant bread crumbs. Once I pushed some of the extra crumbs off to the side, I found the dish to be quite good. The flavors mixed together well and the cheese was delicious (I used a blend of Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Provolone from Trader Joe's). And, the sprouts were awesome.

I find that I enjoy cooking much more in the fall/winter, so look forward to more frequent tales from the kitchen. :)

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