Monday, March 18, 2013

Potatoes Au Gratin

Taking a short break from this month's medieval theme, I needed something simple to make on Sunday after a long and exhausting weekend signing autographs and sketching at a Magic: The Gathering tournament in DC. I had a great time, but after 10+ hours working plus commute time both days, I didn't want to expend too much energy in the kitchen.

Sunday was also St. Patrick's day. I'm neither Catholic nor of Irish descent, so I don't celebrate the holiday in its intended form, but a lot of folks seem to have adapted it into an informal celebration of Irish culture and beer. I decided to make a classic and simple potato dish. Au Gratin was originally a French style, but has been adapted by many different cultures over time. I thought au gratin potatoes were awful growing up because the first ones I tried were from a box (my nickname for them as a kid was "ugh, rotten!"). I can't begin to explain how much better it is made fresh.

Potatoes Au Gratin

Ingredients (makes 4 generous servings):
  • 3 medium red skin potatoes, peeled
  • 8 oz soft cheese (havarti, gouda, etc.)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped spring onions (for garnish, optional)

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Using a mandolin slicer, slice the peeled potatoes as thin as possible. Set aside.

Begin making a cheese sauce by heating the heavy cream over low heat. Grate or cut up the havarti cheese into small pieces, and add to the heavy cream. Stir the cheese as it melts- the trick here is to let the cheese melt slowly. You do not want the cream to boil or burn while you make the cheese sauce. When the cheese is completely melted, add the salt and pepper and remove from heat.

In a 9 inch glass pie dish (or other glass bakeware) greased lightly with butter, create a layer from 1/3 of the potato slices. Pour 1/3 of the cheese sauce, then a pinch of the rosemary and thyme on top of the potatoes, and repeat twice more until all of the sauce, potatoes, and spices are layered in the dish.

Bake for 1 hour. When done, the top should be browned and crispy but the layers below should be soft, creamy, and easy to cut with a knife. This is a dish best served the same day it's made, since the cheese sauce can separate overnight and become oily. Once cooled for about 15 minutes, garnish with spring onions and enjoy!

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