Laitues au Gratin

Laitues au Gratin (lay-too oh grah-tan) is an excellent, easy-to-make first course or vegetable accompaniment to roast or grilled meat or fish dishes.

1 oz. plus

1 teaspoon butter, cut into small pieces small firm round lettuces, coarse outer leaves discarded, washed, shaken dry and quartered

15 fl. oz. bechamel sauce

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 oz. Cheddar cheese, grated

4 tablespoons double cream (optional) 1 oz. Parmesan or Gruyere cheese, grated

A subtle blend of lettuce and shritnps makes Laitues aux Crevettes a delicious first course for a dinner party.

Preheat the oven to fairly hot 375°F (Gas Mark 5, 190 °C).

Grease a medium-sized baking dish with the teaspoon of butter. Place the lettuce quarters, cut sides down, in the baking dish. Set the dish aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the bechamel sauce, cayenne pepper and Cheddar cheese. Set the pan over low heat and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the sauce is hot and smooth and the cheese has melted.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cream if you are using it. Pour the sauce over the lettuce quarters to cover them completely.

Sprinkle over the Parmesan or Gruyere cheese and dot with the remaining butter.

Place the dish in the centre of the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the lettuce is very tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife, and the cheese is golden brown.

Remove the dish from the oven and serve immediately.

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