Tomato gratin is an old-fashioned dish – why was this ever forgotten? It can make even supermarket tomatoes taste good, but when made with dead-ripe garden tomatoes, it’s sublime. Layers of garlicky toasted bread crumbs absorb juice and provide a nice crunch.
This is an unapologetically summer dish, as it needs really ripe tomatoes. For a similar dish in winter, use cherry tomatoes in this Jacques Pepin recipe. Do not use plum tomatoes here; you need regular ‘slicing’ tomatoes for the best result.
This tomato gratin is an easy and forgiving dish – but don’t try to make a huge pan of it! It’s better, if you’d like to double this recipe, to make two smaller dishes rather than one large one. In order to cook long enough to get the center of a large (13×9) pan of gratin thoroughly hot, the tomatoes at the edges would cook too much, and their taste and texture would suffer.
Core the tomatoes and slice them. Set aside while you preheat oven to 400˚F and prep garlic bread crumbs. Mince garlic, make rough crumbs out of the bread. Heat a bit of oil or butter (or both) in a small skillet, cook garlic until it is very fragrant but NOT brown. Add bread crumbs and cook, tossing, until the bread crumbs are coated. Set aside while you grate or finely chop the cheese. (I like gruyere or aged Gouda best but Parmesan or Romano work very well also.)
Butter a small gratin dish. Put a layer of tomatoes in the bottom – use the ugliest pieces lowest down. Season with salt and pepper, add half the cheese if using, then 1/3 the bread crumbs. Repeat, so you have layers of tomatoes and crumbs, crumbs on top.
Bake in the hot oven just until the crumbs are browned, the cheese is melted, and you can’t stand the good smell any more and have to attack it.
- 2 large tomatoes, very ripe
- 1 large slice sturdy bread
- 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 Tbsp butter or oil
- salt & pepper
- 1-2 ounces cheese, grated
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Lightly grease a small shallow baking dish 7-8 inches in diameter.
- If you have large bread crumbs stored, you’re in business! But if you don’t, they are easy to make. Take a slice of sturdy bread, and grate it, or chop it, or whiz it in a blender, to produce rough craggy bread crumbs. Mince the garlic.
- Heat a bit of oil or butter (or both) in a small skillet. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it is very fragrant but NOT brown. Add the bread crumbs and toss gently until the bread crumbs are coated. Set these aside while you grate or finely chop the cheese. (I like gruyere or aged Gouda best but Parmesan or Romano work very well also.)
- Core the tomatoes and slice them about ¼ inch thick. Arrange half the tomato slices on the bottom of the dish, overlapping them only slightly. Use the ugliest pieces on the bottom, where they won’t be seen. Season with salt and pepper, add half the garlicky bread crumbs, then half cheese. Repeat: you’ll end up with two layers of tomatoes, each layer topped with bread crumbs and cheese.
- Bake in a hot oven just until the crumbs are browned, the cheese is melted, and you can’t stand the good smell any more and have to attack it - that'll be about 15 minutes.