December 13, 2012
‘Tis the Season for Side Dishes
No matter what you plan on cooking over the holidays; turkey, beef, lamb, goose or just plain chicken, the best part of any holiday meal is, for most people, the side dishes. The more the merrier I always say. Although most people would rank stuffing at the top of any list (with mashed potatoes a close second), it is always a creamy, cheesy, bubbly and crispy-on-the-top dish of scalloped potatoes that make people sit up and mention how long its been since they’ve had that 50’s culinary icon, au gratin potatoes. So here’s a great, simple recipe that never fails to please and goes with just about everything.
If you’ve always been curious about the difference between au gratin potatoes and “scalloped” potatoes, here’s the scoop: the term “au gratin” is from the French, “to gratinee” or to top with cheese and/or bread crumbs and brown under a broiler or in the oven until brown and crispy. So anything from fish with bread crumbs or Oysters Rockefeller with hollandaise Sauce can be “gratineed” in this fashion.
The term “scalloped” is more of a verb, again from our French culinary ancestors, “escallop” or to slice thin or to pound a slice of meat thinly or in this case thinly sliced potatoes. But for this type of dish, both terms can be used interchangeably, either with or without cheese. Once you’ve mastered the recipe below, try using ½ rich chicken stock in place of ½ of the cream. Not only will it be lower in fat, but will have a richer more savory flavor. In fact, one of the most amazingly simple and stunning dishes of this type I ever made was a garlic studded leg of lamb, roasted on top of a bed of sliced potatoes layered with sautéed onions, garlic and parsley, moistened with a rich chicken stock and no cream or cheese at all! As the lamb cooked, its juices flowed into the potatoes and turned those most humble tubers into a magnificent side dish! Called Pommes Boulangere, this method is similar to the popular Potatoes Lyonnaise, but with a bit more finesse!
Simple Potato Au Gratin (Pommes Dauphinoise)
- 2 pounds potatoes, (preferably a “moist” heat potato, like a Yukon Gold) peeled and sliced into thin slices
- 2 ½ C half and half
- 2Tb Butter, softened
- Garlic clove, 2 ea
- 1 C Grated Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar, Gruyere or Parmesan
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg, Rub 6x9in casserole dish with the garlic cloves, than mince and add to the potatoes that have been placed in a medium saucepan, along with the half and half, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and than bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened. (about 5-8 min).
Meanwhile, butter the dish, than place half the potatoes in the pan, sprinkle with half the cheese, top with remaining potatoes, liquid and remaining cheese. Bake until golden, at 350, for about 1 hour. For a crunchy crust, add a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a little parmesan just before finishing. Let rest before serving. These potatoes also work well with most other types of cheese, such as Goat Cheese with Lamb or Roquefort with Beef.