Chicken Gratin with Spinach and Roast Tomatoes

I can’t stress enough how simple and simply delicious this gratin is. The starting point for the recipe was the need to make a hot meal from leftover roast chicken. Again. In my fridge I happened to have eight roast tomato halves and a small bag of young spinach. The former were skinned and cut in half then loaded over the chicken in a gratin dish, the spinach soaked briefly in boiling water until wilted, then drained, patted dry and piled over the tomatoes. Half a glass of white wine went into a Dijon mustard and onion flavoured béchamel sauce finished with a couple of tablespoons of grated semi-hard cheese. The sauce was spooned over the chicken and left to cool then covered with more finely grated cheese (I used Comte but Emmental or gruyere or Parmesan would be ideal) mixed with equal quantities of breadcrumb. You can see how it came out of the oven; crusty, golden and gorgeous, wolfed down with green beans and a few blanched, roast potatoes cooked alongside the gratin. I’ll be making this again and recommend you do too. Preparing roast tomato halves, incidentally, is easy and very worthwhile. I give details at the end of the recipe. And, I don’t recommend those orange breadcrumbs you can buy. Just make your own whenever you have a crust you don’t fancy or stale bread. Tear into the bowl of a food processor, blitz and freeze in a plastic bag until required.

Serves 2, generously
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 35 min

1 onion
20g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
100g baby spinach leaves
300g (approx) roast chicken
8 roast tomato halves
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 glass white wine
200ml milk
5 tbsp finely grated semi-hard or hard cheese
3 tbsp breadcrumbs

Halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Melt the butter in the olive oil in a medium-small pan over a medium heat and stir in the onion. Add a pinch salt and cook, stirring often, as it bubbles and softens, adjusting the heat so the onion hardly colours. While that is happening, boil a full kettle. Place the spinach in a mixing bowl, cover with boiling water, leave for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Drain, spread out to cool and pat dry with kitchen paper. Slip the tomatoes off their skins and cut in half. Pile the chicken into a ceramic or earthenware gratin dish (mine was 30x18x5cm), season with salt and pepper, cover with tomatoes and then with spinach. Now back to the sauce. Stir the flour into the softened onion, stirring until disappeared. Stir in the mustard and then the wine, stirring briskly. Add the milk and keep stirring, lowering the heat so the sauce simmers gently for about 5 minutes. Stir in half the cheese. Now spoon the sauce over the spinach and leave to cool and harden. Mix together remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. When cool, spoon crumb mix over the top. Place the dish on an baking tray/shallow roasting tin. Bake at 200C/gas mark 6 for 20-30 minutes until crusty and golden, the sauce bubbling up round the edge. To roast tomatoes, halves: slice tomatoes in half round the middles (lengthways if plum tomatoes) and place, cut-side up, on foil-lined, shallow roasting tin. Smear with a little oil and roast at 150C/gas mark 2 for an hour, or until squidgy and soft when gently squeezed. I tend to leave them in the (turn off) oven to cool but when cool, cover with the foil and keep in the fridge in a plastic bag or box for up to 3 or 4 days but ready to use immediately.