Potatoes, Cheese, Cream – Need I say more?????
When I want to make an elegant side dish Gratin Dauphinois is one of my go-to dishes. I’ve made this for classes and guests alike. This is always gets rave reviews.
The potato is not native to France, but was introduced in the 17th century. Interestingly enough, the “potato war” in Germany sparked the French adoption of the potato. A. Parmentier had been a German prisoner of war and was forced to survive on potatoes. When he returned to Paris, he lauded the potato as a food that would help feed the masses. During this time, Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers in her hair and King Louis XVI wore them as a boutonnieres. Barely 100 years later, the potato was firmly in the French cuisine. In 1767, Mr. Parmentier created a feast with just potato dishes. The US Ambassador to France at the time, Benjamin Franklin was a guest at that dinner.
From this troubled beginning, the potato caught on all across Europe. It’s hard to imagine Irish, French or German cuisine without the potato.
While the classic Gratin Dauphinios does not include cheese, but according to Larousse Gastronimique, cheese is “permissible” (Gotta love the French!), but only grated gruyere. According to Larousse, two layers, one on the bottom and a second one on top. I tend to ditch the bottom one and just put all the cheese on top. That way, you end up with a bubly, brown and crunchy cheese topping that just seems to be what this decadent dish calls for.
Check out the video from “The Home Chef” webseries to see how to make this fabulous side. This video is part of the Valentines Dinner menu from February 2014.
C.C. Fridlin, The Home Chef, prepares Gratin Dauphinois
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 pounds potato, sliced 1/8″ thick
2 1/4 cups half and half
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound gruyere cheese, grated
Prepare a large shallow gratin or casserole dish – large enough to hold the potatoes in 2-3 layers. Smash one clove garlic and rub over the dish. Once the garlic dries, rub half of the butter over the dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice potatoes into 1/8 inch thick slices. For Russet or other thick skinned potatoes, peel them. If using red new potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes, you can either peel them or leave the skins on – whatever your preference.
In a large sauce pan, add the remaining garlic, half and half, salt, pepper, nutmeg and potatoes. Bring just to a boil and simmer gently for about 2 minutes.
Pour the mixture into the dish and spread out the potatoes using a fork so the slices are arranged and covered by the cream mixture. Dot the top with the remaining butter and sprinkle the grated cheese.
Bake in the middle of the over for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown. (Yes, let it cook that long or longer if the top isn’t golden brown and delicious yet….) Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. The rest will let the cream sauce thicken.