A fun French word for pizza, tart, or quiche crust + Mieux vaut tard que jamais
Why The French Won't Give You The (Entire) Recipe

Gratin & Traditional French zucchini casserole

My slowcooker has been on nonstop these past two weeks, as I've made a daily lunch for Jean-Marc and his stagiaire, or intern. For  today's recipe, however, you'll need an oven..... 

TODAY'S WORD: le gratin

    : a cheese-topped dish (also a dish topped with breadcrumbs)

In addition to being a dish topped with a browned crust, le gratin also refers to the upper crust of society. Another definition has it as "anybody who's anybody." Wikipedia adds:

The etymology of gratin is from the French language in which the word gratter meaning "to scrape" or "to grate" as of the "scrapings" of bread or cheese, and gratiné, from the transitive verb form of the word for crust or skin.

ECOUTEZ/LISTEN to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 or Wav file

Les oeufs au gratin Ne donnent pas de poussins.
Eggs in a casserole dish don't make chicks.


"Eggs in a Casserole Dish Don't Make Chicks"

    by Kristin Espinasse

I think I've correctly translated today's quote, and yet I still can't make out the meaning. Furthermore, I wonder if the traditional French gratin de courgettes calls for eggs or not....

Marianne had given me the recipe, verbally...but I don't remember her mentioning eggs...which, come to think of it, helps me to understand today's citation: it could be that it's a rhyme, helping cooks to remember whether or not to put an egg into a casserole recipe! 

So no eggs in Marianne's gratin. But I feel like adding eggs, so I will... (Does that mean we need to rewrite the popular dicton?)

    => Eggs in a casserole don't make FRENCH chicks. 


Being an American chick, I crack three eggs into a bowl, as Smokey observes the scene from the other side of the kitchen window.

Next, I add the contents of a small tub of crème fraîche , or sour cream. I salt and pepper this when a light goes off: noix musçade! A few grates of nutmeg might enhance this dish, just as nutmeg makes potato gratin so good!

In a frying pan, I sauté 4 cut-up zucchini and one chopped onion (yellow), adding more salt and pepper. When the vegetables are soft, I let them cool before mixing in the eggs and cream. 

Greasing a casserole dish with butter (or oil), I pour in the zucchini-onion-egg-cream mixture, and top it off with grated gruyère (swiss cheese will work, or name another....).

Because I cook au pifomètre, by guesswork, I'm never sure how hot I'll set the oven. I go for 175C (around 350F) and set the timer for 20 minutes (adding another 10 when a glance through the stove window shows the gratin is not yet golden.

*    *    *

The zucchini casserole made a delicious Saturday night dinner... and on Day Two, Jackie and her friends, back from clubbing all night near Toulon, happily ate some for lunch. (When a French kid likes my cooking, the recipe gets marked with stars!) On Day Three, Monday, I served the rest of the casserole to Jean-Marc, his stagiare, and me, placing a spatula full of gratin along side a plate of spaghetti and slow-cooked gigot (leg of lamb).

A French woman would never ever mix up food like that. But I am not a French chick. I am an American poussin!

Thanks for reading and for sharing this post.


I have gotten a lot of use out of my slow-cooker and my gratin dishes this week. If you are in the market for one of these and you shop at Amazon, please use one of the highlighted links, above, to enter the store. For your purchases, this word journal will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you! 

(Her) "Lemon pie, lemon curd, lemonade..."
(Him) "Tennis ball, tennis ball, tennis ball..."

Some of you commented that Max has really grown up. Our son was 7-years-old when this blog began. He turns 21 in a few months.

Jackie was 5... She is thinking of pursuing her studies in Aix, this fall. And she hopes to move into her brother's apartment (seen here), as he may be moving to another city.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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Hi Kristin,
Your posts are lovely and I enjoy the snapshots of a very grounded life. Seeing Smokey always makes me smile. I'm terrible at making the effort to write but once in a while I have to say thank you. So thank you, and please keep writing.

Gillian Foce

Hi Kristin,

Eggs in a Casserole Dish Don't Make Chicks

Could it have anything to do with the saying - Don't count your chickens before they hatch?

Love your site.



Hi Kristin, your pifomètre seems like a rather snazzy, deft tool, in the kitchen and in life. Where can I get hold of one of those? Je plaisante! Your life is so varied and busy, and yet you get through all that you have to do with grace and flair. You see lemon taste delights, he sees tennis balls- I see juggler's balls and yellow balloons. Et la lumière aussi.


Hi American Chick!

I enjoyed your post today and the recipe sounds delicious! I am in Atlanta visiting my mom and her oven is kaput, so I have been using her slow cooker for our meals. I made a yummy Crock Pot Lasagna Soup the other night. I am also missing the snow in Charlottesville. I talked to my husband yesterday and asked him to take some snow photos and he replied...."I will be plowing and shoveling and won't have time to take pics" haha...he will be playing with 2 feet of snow at least!

Have a great weekend!

Brenda Prowse

Thank you for the post, Kristin. I live in Paris and it has been cold enough lately to use the oven to augment the individual gas heat in our apartment. Yesterday I slow cooked ox tails with vegetables and wine for hours in it. The dish caramelizes and is so rich you only need a small amount with some pasta and grated parmesan. Today it's drizzling rain and gloomy so rice pudding will be the apartment warmer. I will invest in a slow cooker soon but for now the oven is keeping us cozy! I love that you "keep it American" with your cooking.

Robin Wyatt

Hi Kristin,

A "very grounded life" indeed! I agree with Ana... your life we see through photos and posts appears so well connected to the earth and wholesome! Excellent! Now if you could be so kind to pass along how you prepare the slow-cooked lamb I'd be most appreciative;-) Do you cook it in an actual slow-cooker and what spices/herbs do you use? thanks so much and as well, thanks for the peek into a French family's life! (Love the photo of you, Smokey and the lemons... it would make a lovely, dreamy painting)
Cheers from another American poussin, Robin

Robert Wildau

Kristi, you get better all the time. Much to chuckle about in this post.
Bonne continuation, Robe-aire


Eggs in a casserole dish don't make chicks. Could that mean that you could have all the parts for something (food, life?) but you won't have a finished project without some effort? Just my wild guess.

And how do you catch Smokey in all those great poses? When I aim the camera at my golden doing something cute, he stops what he's doing and faces the camera. I have a thousand shots of his nose!

Pamela Wing

I can't believe your "chicks" are leaving the nest already. They are lovely.

Courtney Wells

I so enjoyed your post this day. I love the family photos and the recipes!! Love, love the recipes!! Thanks for your time, wit and French!

Audrey Wilson

Definitely one to try . Sounds yummy. I have an invasion of four American teenagers from Phoenix this summer & this will be a great recipe to have in reserve. Thanks .
I love the double image of dear Smokey !


Today's topic made me chuckle. Hmm...there could be a pun in that sentence. That aside perhaps it refers to "don't put all your eggs in one basket"??? Just not sure about that phrase. The gratin sounds good, but I want to know how you do the leg of lamb or lamb shanks because I am terrible at slow cookers.


Merci pour la recette! I will definitely give it a try. My family loves leg of lamb cooked in the slow cooker, and I suspect it would go very well with the gratin.


Love the gratin recipe and since I need a recipe to cook by and have a hard time cooking au pifomètre I copied your instructions and will try it soon (though with smaller amounts as I don't have as many mouths to feed)! I hope you read all the comments each posting and realize how much you are loved. ❤️


I found a reference to a similar phrase dealing with patience:

La patience est la clé de toutes choses. Pour avoir des poussins, il faut faire couver les oeufs, pas les écraser.

Google translates it as:
Patience is the key to all things. For chicks, you have to hatch eggs, not crush them.

Jackie Clark Mancuso

Hi kristen. I'm surprised there were any leftovers! this sounds so good that I want to make it tonite. I am tempted to add breadcrumbs on top for crunch. 😍

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

I found a never used small slow cooker in my mother's shed. I've never used it, thinking it might sell better at a yard sale unused. Perhaps I need to rethink that and use it for myself :) I've just never felt comfortable with the thought of leaving anything slow cook while I wasn't home (as some people do). But perhaps on a rainy day at home with a good book.

Jane Hoppe

I like Smokey's reflection in the vase~clever photo. And I like the zucchini casserole. It is my French friend's specialty and every three or four years when we are able to get together, she cooks it for me. Oh, I can taste it now. Gratins can be considered quiches without crusts, and since I eat gluten-free, I can use all those quiche recipes I accumulated in the 1970s, though my faves are more modern gratin recipes because they tend to have more veggies in them. I have a question for you about "la mijoteuse." My dictionary uses a trademark symbol by this word for slow cooker, but my slow cooker box does not. Is mijoteuse a brand name? I have also used my slow cooker a lot lately. On busy days as I pop in and out of the house between activities and errands, the aroma of dinner tantalizes until dinner time, when it invites me to relax and enjoy wonderful taste blends. What a great invention!

Julie Farrar

I'm saving this entire post so I can make all the versions of meals you had. I actually was contemplating soupe du courgette this weekend. Maybe this instead. How would it taste with mushroom soup and good bread?


I read your quote as the French equivalent of "You can't have your cake and eat it, too."In other words, you must choose - something to eat now or chicks in the future. Interesting how different people interpret old sayings.

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

Oh, that's a good one, Judy.

John Patté

In the cover photo, le stagiare à fourrure looks more like un directeur! Show him how, Smokey!


Mixing it up in the kitchen just means you are a confident cook! That seems pretty French chick to me :-)

Nyla witmore

We Amercans have the joy of "left-overs"... And I am sure your dinner in photo was great. I am thinking that your recipe could as easily be done on top of stove...like a frittata. One flip over (omelette fashion" to produce a half circle would allow for browning further in the pan. Cut in half again to make two servings that appear as 1/4 of a pie.

Diane Young

Being lactose intolerant, I can't fix the recipe but it sounds like you're becoming a vrai chef francais. Like the way you stretch a dish! Can't believe Jackie and Maxa are getting that old! What does that say for some of your longterm readers like me! Bon appetit, avec des oeufs ou non.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for these wonderful comment. I am enjoying every one! Re how to cook leg of lamb in the slow cooker... Sauté all sides first (/having added salt, pepper, herbs... Then put it on a bed of carrots, onions or whatever vegetables might be good. Add a cup of wine. Cook in slow cooker for 4-5/hours. Tonight we are having slowcooker chili. I put some leftover grilled butternut squash in it. Delicious! Thanks again for your thoughtful notes, which are much appreciated. Wishing everyone a lovely weekend.

Thomas Johnson

Hi Kristin, I agree with Judy . It's the old economics question, guns or butter? You can enjoy your eggs now, but nothing will be preserved for the future.

Karen Mitcham-Stoeckley

The gratin wasn't a potato so adding it to another starch dish (spaghetti) was very acceptable along with the leg of lamb and yes a French cook would probably have served it all in courses. But as you say you are an American...and sharing the plate is even more American. We are sharers of recipes like none other!

Emilie Quast

I think you are exactly right. Two ways of saying the same thing.

Jane Marceau

My Grandmaman used to say this, and it means more or less the same thing as "you can't have your cake and eat it too" You can't eat all your eggs, and have all your eggs hatch into new chicks. You have to pick one or the other.


Our dear Kristi,
Once again(as always!) you have shown us what a master you are with both words and pictures!Today's post is not only adorable but absolutely one of your best!
Love this recipe!And what a pretty plate!Everything so inviting!(PS I have always used eggs in my zucchini gratin,and seeing it here today makes me want to have it soon again!)
It just doesn't seem possible that Jackie and Max are so grown up!Where has the time gone?For certain,the closeness you share is both a blessing and a gift!
You all are in my prayers every day.
Natalia XO

Kathleen from Connecticut

I will be having company in March and will make the zucchini gratin. Sounds good and looks great. Thank Kristin. Love that Smokey.

Mary Ellen Segraves

Kristin, I made your zucchini gratin tonight with roast chicken. It was fabulous. I don't often cook with creme fraiche, but wow! Next, I will try the lamb in the slow cooker. I am an "intuitive" cook also, so I like "loose" recipes!!

Betty Wood, New Orleans LA

Good recipe ! I have " winged it " --made a similar dish with crook necked squash for years. I add about 1/4 tsp sugar and have used parmesan cheese. My sons who as children wouldn't touch "squash " loved it. Please advise how much cheese you would use for the proportions use in this recipe.

Denise Spooner

The gratin, spaghetti, and lamb lunch looked divine! Thanks for the always thoughtful and sometimes amusing blog, Kristi. Happy 2016 to you and all your brood.


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