Whew…it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve written. A week away in L.A. for work at a giant, giant geek convention. It was incredible, but alas, not much time for exciting eating, or really eating of any kind, outside of the convention center and one of the 4 Starbucks between it and the hotel.
It’s been busy at home at well…it happened last fall as well – a renewed focus on working on interior projects to actually get this 150 year-old house turned into what we want it to be. So I’ve got to strike a balance – if I’m not reading/writing and cooking as much as I’d like to be, it’s because there’s some sort of battle going on with plaster or ancient plumbing pushed to its limit.
Anyhow, back to the food. Gratin – a wonderful thing – always associated with potatoes – often goes by potaotes au gratin (pronounced with a nice twangy ‘a’ here in Buffalo). The French name for this most well known of gratins is gratin dauphinois. I like the sound of that. Call me snobbish but I think the name “scalloped potatoes” is about the stupidest thing ever.
Gratins go beyond potatoes, although that happens to be what I’ve made here. Anything layered with a creamy (and/or cheesy) sauce and baked is probably within reach of gratin status. I’ve even seen macaroni and cheese referred to as Macaroni Gratin. Let’s face it – we can call it whatever the hell we want – it’s cheesy, creamy and baked and for that alone should have our undying respect.
So we had some potatoes, a few leeks (a potato’s best friend some say) and heavy cream in the fridge. The mission was clear.
I brought the mandoline to bear on about 4 large potatoes, peeled (russets are what we had)- honestly, it would be some painstaking and potentially painful knife work to get 1/8 inch thick, perfectly uniform slices from slippery, peeled potatoes by hand. Possible for sure, but the mandoline is a joy for stuff like this.
While those were being sliced, there were 2 leeks – just the white parts, quartered lengthwise, chopped, rinsed well, and sautéed in butter over medium/low heat with some salt until soft.
Into a buttered dish, I added a layer of the potatoes, overlapping, topped with some salt and pepper. On top of that, a layer of the leeks (about half). Another layer of potatoes (more salt and pepper), then the rest of the leeks, then the rest of the potatoes.
For the sauce, I ended up with about 1 1/4 C of milk, 3/4 C of heavy cream and 1/4 C of beer. I brought it to a simmer and poured it slowly into the potatoes – it was just enough to come up to the top layer.
On top, a nice layer of cheese. This was about a cup of grated cheddar and swiss.
Baked at 350 for as long as possible. Until the cheese was about to burn. It makes an awesome crust on the top, and you want to make sure the potatoes are tender. I’ve had (and made) undercooked gratins before. Hard potatoes BAD.
You could knock on that crust like a door. A big, old wooden door. That needs refinishing. Off I go.