Monday, December 10, 2007

Oh, Potatoes!

I have a new favorite recipe for potatoes. Forget the roasted baby reds, leave the mashed pots on your plate, and say goodbye to homemade fries. This one takes the cake. This one is so good it practically is cake. And it's extraordinarily simple. Wonderfully simple. You won't even need to write it down, as long as you can just remember the liquid to pound-of-potato ratio. And then you can resize it any way you want. But the reason this is my favorite potato recipe has nothing to do with its simplicity: it's because it tastes so good.

What makes a potato dish (yes, I said "dish", because this is sort of after the order of a casserole) exceptional? It needs to be rich without knocking you over. It shouldn't feel greasy. The potatoes need to be cooked properly. It needs to be salted perfectly. And it should have some slight - very slight, since potatoes are easily overpowered - flourish in the ingredients that adds a touch of complexity to the flavor. Check, check, check, check, check. I'm not a potato person, but I'll back these potatoes up. And, since they're casserole-style, they're great for the holidays, guests, or anytime you're hoping for some leftovers. While they are delicious, since they're also quite rich, I would count on about half a pound of potatoes for each hungry adult.

One last note: this is a great recipe if you have a food processor or a mandolin, but I probably wouldn't do it without those options, unless you're just going for a pound or so of potatoes, as it could turn out to be a lot of work.

Potato Gratin

4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes (Russets should also be fine if Yukons are unavailable)
2 c. milk
2 c. cream
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. Gruyère, grated
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Butter a 9" x 13" baking dish and set aside.

Peel the potatoes, then slice them as thin as possible. I think my food processor's thinnest disc had a 1/8" slicer, and that worked out very nicely for me. If you're doing this by hand, go for 1/4".

Preheat the oven to 350°F. (This is versatile, so if you've got something else going at 400°, that's fine, too.)

In a large saucepan or pot, set the milk, cream, garlic, and potatoes over medium heat for about 5 minutes, watching it very closely, stirring often, and being sure to get all of the potato slices separated. After the liquid is starting to warm, turn the heat to medium-low, put a lid on it, and return to it to stir it about every 30 seconds. The milk, cream, and potatoes are all very anxious to burn and I promise you they will not miss their opportunity to ruin your evening if you are not extremely cautious. Also, add a few turns of pepper and a teaspoon or so of salt (to taste).

After the mixture is actually simmering, cook the potatoes, still stirring very frequently, until they mostly done but still a bit undercooked. This will take (after it begins to simmer) anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, depending on how low you have your burner set (I erred on the side of caution tonight, just to be sure, and I was very happy with the results). Test again for salt.

Turn the potatoes out into the baking dish and spread the cheese evenly over the potatoes. Bake until bubbly and nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Let them set 10-15 minutes before serving.


No comments: