historical recipe collection of the Fazenda Capoava Ranch and Hotel in São Paulo state (as reimagined by chef Heloísa Bacellar) is an interesting combination between a traditional French vegetable gratin and a souffle. And the choice of chayote (chuchu in Portuguese) as the principal ingredient makes it thoroughly Brazilian as well.
The dish combines the bechamel sauce, grated cheese and bread crumbs that are integral parts of a gratin with beaten egg yolks and white that lighten it in the style of a souffle. The result is a substantial and rich side dish, one that adds some punch to the subtle delicate flavor of chayote. The dish could probably be made successfully with other vegetables if you can't find chayotes in your local market; however, this native American vegetable can increasingly be found in supermarkets everywhere, and can easily be sourced in Latin American markets.
RECIPE - Chayote Gratin (Tigelada de Chuchu)
2 medium to large chayotes, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk, wamr
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 whole eggs, separated
softened butter and dried breadcrumbs to grease and prepare the bowl
salt to taste
Prepare a deep ovenproof bowl or dutch oven by greasing it thoroughly with softened butter, then dusting with dried bread crumbs. Reserve.
In a medium saucepan with a lid, melt half of the butter, then add the onions and garlic and cook over low heat until they soften and just begin to brown . Stir in the cubes of chayote, cover the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, or until the chayote is softened. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and reserve.
In a small saucepan, prepare the bechamel. Melt the butter, then slowly add the flour, blending completely to avoid lumps. When you have a thick paste, begin to add the milk, stirring constantly. When all the milk has been added continue to cook until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and combine with the reserved chayote. Stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt. Reserve, letting cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). In a large bowl beat the egg whites to the firm peak stage. Stir the lightly beaten egg yolks into the chayote mixture, then carefully fold in the egg whites, taking care not to deflate the beaten eggs. Spoon or pour the mixture into the prepared ovenproof bowl. Smooth the surface gently, then sprinkle bread crumbs over. Put in the preheated oven and cook for 40 minutes, or until it has risen, and turned golden.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately in the bowl it was cooked in.