Best Summer Tomato Gratin

We set out to deliver a summer tomato gratin with concentrated, bright tomato flavor and contrasting texture from the bread, rather than the mushy results of most recipes. Starting on the stovetop initiated the breakdown of the tomatoes, drove off some moisture that would otherwise have sogged out the bread, and shortened the overall cooking time. We then finished the dish in the even heat of the oven. We found that toasting large cubes of a crusty artisan-style baguette ensured that the bread didn’t get too soggy once combined with the tomatoes. After toasting the bread, we set it aside and added the coarsely chopped tomatoes as well as garlic, a small amount of sugar, and salt and pepper. Just before moving the skillet to the oven, we folded in most of the toasted bread and scattered the remainder over the top along with some Parmesan to create a crusty, savory topping that contrasted with the custardy interior. A scattering of fresh basil provided color and an additional layer of bright flavor.
Photo by Lil B.

PREP TIME

--

minutes

TOTAL TIME

--

minutes

SERVINGS

8

servings

PREP TIME

--

minutes

TOTAL TIME

--

minutes

SERVINGS

8

servings

Ingredients

  • tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 6

    ounces crusty baguette, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (4 cups)

  • 3

    garlic cloves, sliced thin

  • 3

    pounds tomatoes, cored and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

  • 2

    teaspoons sugar

  • 1

    teaspoon salt

  • 1

    teaspoon pepper

  • 1 1/2

    ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)

  • 2

    tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Directions

For the best results, use the ripest in-season tomatoes you can find. Supermarket vine-ripened tomatoes will work, but the gratin won’t be as flavorful as one made with locally grown tomatoes. Do not use plum tomatoes, which contain less juice than regular round tomatoes and will result in a dry gratin. For the bread, we prefer a crusty baguette with a firm, chewy crumb. You can serve the gratin hot, warm, or at room temperature. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat ¼ cup oil in 12-inch ovensafe skillet over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add bread and stir to coat. Cook, stirring constantly, until bread is browned and toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer bread to bowl. 2. Return now-empty skillet to low heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden at edges, 30 to 60 seconds. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have started to break down and have released enough juice to be mostly submerged, 8 to 10 minutes. 3. Remove skillet from heat and gently stir in 3 cups bread until completely moistened and evenly distributed. Using spatula, press down on bread until completely submerged. Arrange remaining 1 cup bread evenly over surface, pressing to partially submerge. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. 4. Bake until top of gratin is deeply browned, tomatoes are bubbling, and juice has reduced, 40 to 45 minutes; after 30 minutes, run spatula around edge of skillet to loosen crust and release any juice underneath. (Gratin will appear loose and jiggle around outer edges but will thicken as it cools.) 5. Remove skillet from oven and let stand for 15 minutes. Sprinkle gratin with basil and serve.

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