wine night: seafood gratin

It hass been a while since we've had a real Wine Night post on here.  Partly because it's been a weird few weeks with our summer schedule and our Wine Nights at home have been a little rushed or take place over delivery pizza at 10:30pm when we get home from work.  BUT, it's back to "school" and back to our routine - both at home and on the blog.

We hosted friends for dinner a few weeks ago and as I perused my cookbooks looking for the perfect dish, I stumbled across Ina Garten's Seafood Gratin in her Barefoot Contessa at Home (perhaps my favorite of her books).  It had all the elements I wanted for a dinner party menu - it could be made ahead of time, it had "special" ingredients (I consider lobster and saffron "special" in that they cost a bit more than ingredients I would use for a just-us dinner.  That and they're fancy), and it was pretty much the meal in of its self (i.e. no side dishes to make just a salad and bread).  It also gave me a chance to use the gratin dishes we received from our wedding registry.  Making these as individual dishes made them even more exceptional - I highly recommend it, although making it in a large cast iron skillet or baking dish would work just fine.  

^^ Saffron.  It is special.
The gratins exceeded my expectations.  The seafood was succulent and the sauce just rich enough.  While I consider seafood dishes more of a summer-time thing (no clue why? maybe because the lobster is cheaper?), you could definitely make this year round.  Some of the reviewers online said they even make this every Christmas Eve (love that idea!).  To me, this is perfect for an end-of summer/early-fall menu.  It has the fresh seafood combined with the rich cream and savory carrots and leeks that make it comforting for nights when there is a chill in the air.  No matter what time of year you make this, it is a dish that would make your Wine Night/holiday/special occasion dinner a huge success.  It's quite impressive without a lot of effort.  Just how I like it.

Seafood Gratin
Adapted (only slightly) from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home
Serves:  4
Total time:  1 hour (40 minutes hands-on, 20 minutes baking)

  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc), divided
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoons saffron threads
  • 8 oz. raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 8 oz. raw cod, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 8 oz. cooked lobster meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large leeks, light and green parts, washed and julienned
  • 3 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place 4 individual gratin dishes on sheet pans and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine stock, cream, 1/2 cup of wine, tomato puree, tomato paste, and saffron.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.
  3. Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes.  Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl.
  4. Add cod to the stock and cook 3 minutes and then remove with slotted spoon and place in bowl with the shrimp.
  5. Add cooked lobster to the bowl with the cod and the shrimp.
  6. Cook the sauce until it reduces by half, about 12 minutes.
  7. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mash 1 tablespoon of butter with the flour.  Whisk the butter-flour mixture into the sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.
  8. In a large saute pan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Add leeks and carrots and cook for 5 minutes until softened.  Season with salt and pepper.  
  9. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of wine.  Cook five to ten minutes until vegetables are tender.
  10. In a small bowl, combine the panko, parmesan, parsley, tarragon, and garlic.  Melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and mix it into the crumbs until moistened.
  11. Divide the seafood evenly among the 4 gratin dishes.  
  12. Add the vegetables evenly on top of the seafood.  
  13. Pour sauce equally over the seafood and vegetables.   (It is at this point if making these ahead that you can set aside or refrigerate before your guests arrive.  I don't like putting the breadcrumbs on while they sit because I feel like the crumbs get soggy.  If you refrigerate, just make sure to bring to room temperature before popping in the oven.)
  14. Spoon the panko crumb mixture evenly on top.
  15. Bake for 20 minutes until brown and bubbly.  
  16. Serve immediately.  (I served ours with an arugula salad with lemon-mustard vinaigrette  crusty bread, and a crisp ros√©).

{photos by me}
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