Sunday, December 26, 2010
The Alchemy of Chance Recipes - Potato Gratin
There is something wonderfully simple about potatoes. It takes almost nothing to take them from everyday to extraordinary with only basic ingredients. When Didier and Maria started their meal with a potato gratin I could almost imagine the incredible smell that permeated the kitchen. The best part is it comes together so quickly that there is time to relax with that glass of wine Marie was pouring. I make potato gratin often, sometimes in a large dish that is placed on the table for everybody to pass carefully around or when I want something a bit more formal I make individual dishes, which I turn out on the plate. As with everything in Pete's book the recipe is pretty simple and you just adjust amounts to fit the size of the dish you need. I have used ramekins as small as a 3 1/2"creme brulee dish to a 4 1/2" ramekins for individual servings; it all depends on what else is for dinner. The important thing when make small servings is to line the dish with parchment paper on the bottom and the sides. It is a bit of work but it makes the end results much better as the potatoes slide easily from the dish to the plate; I have also lined a large casserole dish for serving 10 to 12 people; I still like to use parchment on the bottom of the dish because the potatoes take on a beautiful golden colour. I have even turned the large dish out on a serving tray and arranged other roasted vegetables around it.
The important thing to remember is that the first row of potatoes will become the top of your dish, if you are turning it out, so take the time to make it look good. I generally place a couple of small sprigs of thyme on the bottom and then start to place the potatoes in concentric circles around the dish overlapping just a bit. The great thing about cooking like this is that you can adjust the dish as you like, sometimes I alternate layers with sauteed mushrooms or with other root vegetables such as turnips, sweet potatoes or parsnips; no matter what else I put in it I always use onions. I tried a recipe in a magazine recently where you alternated layers of potatoes with oven dried yellow and red tomatoes;it was delicious and gorgeous on the plate.
2 cups whipping cream
3 pounds potatoes, Yukon Gold work well but you can use any good potato. Try to get them roughly the same size.
1 small onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
enough soft butter to coat the dish
Thinly slice potatoes and onion using either a mandolin or a good sharp knife. If you are making individual servings line the bottom and sides of your dish with parchment paper and butter the paper; or, alternatively, butter the bottom and sides of a 9" x 13" casserole dish. Arrange three layers of potatoes around the bottom of the dish, overlapping each potato slightly then add a small layer of onion. Top the third layer with onions and some of the salt, pepper and thyme. Continue layering potatoes and onion, sprinkling the onion layer with salt, pepper and thyme until complete.
Place dish on a cookie sheet, to catch any of the liquid that may boil over. Gently add the cream, pushing down on the potatoes to almost cover them. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until potatoes are tender. If you are using individual ramekins reduce temperature after 20 minutes and continue to cook until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes more. The cream will be almost completely absorbed. Let the gratin rest for 15 minutes before serving.
This dish can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 350 degree oven until heated through, making it a great dish for taking to friends or to get a head start for a dinner party. Enjoy