Thursday, October 7, 2010

Potato Gratin

Have you ever noticed that a potato gratin and a cured ham make a lovely pairing? I highly recommend that you try it, perhaps for Christmas or another special occasion, or maybe for no occasion at all.

I generally save this dish for special occasions because au gratin potatoes are just too good, not to mention the fact that they're not particularly healthy. I love love love this side dish, and I completely lack self-control when in its presence. Seriously, I can eat 2 pounds of it, easy. 

There are times, though, when you just need to break out the special occasion dishes on a normal day, and we happened upon one of those occasions recently when we came home with a little dry-cured ham.
After some Epicurious-searching, I found what seemed to be the perfect potato gratin recipe for this particular night. It's rich and creamy, but because it contains mostly milk and only a little bit of cream, it's not too heavy or fatty. (We'll save the hard-core gratins for the holidays.) The flavors in this version are simple, but you still get that perfect creamy, nutmeg-y, toasty, potato-ey flavor.

So now that the weather is getting a little bit cooler, and some warming foods are in order, I highly suggest that you try these potatoes, whether it's a special day or just any old day.

Potato Gratin
(From Epicurious)

  • 3 pounds russet (Idaho) potatoes of uniform size
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 medium garlic clove, crushed through a press
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups half-and-half or milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche (optional)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Peel and wash the potatoes and slice them into rounds 1/8 inch thick, using a mandoline, the slicing disk of a food processor, or a sharp knife.

Generously butter a 9 by 12-inch heavy shallow baking dish, preferably earthenware or cast-enamel, or an oval gratin dish of comparable size. (You can also use a 12-inch cast-iron skillet.) Rub the dish with half of the crushed garlic.

In a large saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a simmer with the remaining garlic and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the potatoes in one overlapping layer on the bottom of the dish. Season the layer generously with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Arrange two more layers on top, seasoning each layer liberally. Press the layers down to compact them. Pour in enough half-and-half to come up just a little below the top layer of potatoes. Set the baking dish on a larger baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake until the potatoes feel tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

Raise the oven temperature to 425°F, remove the foil, and bake until the top begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Pour just enough cream to cover the top, dab it with crème fraîche, if using, and sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan. Bake until the top is brown and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let the potatoes stand for 10 minutes to absorb the cream. Cut into squares and serve.


Garrett said...

My favorite! You know the only thing better than potatoes is cheese and gooey stuff on a huge pile of potatoes. I look forward to several pounds of these in one sitting this Christmas. Damn you, fitness!

Leah said...

That's right!
Since you love potato gratins as much as I do, I'm going to have to make a REALLY big batch.
Calories don't count on Christmas.