Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dining in Dauphiné Style - Gratin de Pommes de Terre à la Dauphinoise

It has been a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time since I have made a good Potato au Gratin. As a matter of fact, aside from the Fennel Gratinata I made several weeks ago, I have not Gratinéed anything in almost two years. So it has been a long time in coming.

Part of the reason I don't make au Gratin dishes very often is that, though they are delicious, they are almost always terribly high in excess fat calories. Much more so than the dishes I normally cook. Granted, there is nothing more luxurious than victuals smothered in Heavy Cream and topped off with cultured butter and/or cheese, but I have been trying to respect my arteries a little more in the last few years. ;)

That, of course, does not mean that I cannot indulge my longings for such a decadent dish as a treat for good behavior, right? So this evening was a foray into the enticing world of Gratin de Pommes de Terre à la Dauphinoise. What's that you ask? A simple yet elegant gratiné of potatoes in Heavy Cream, Nutmeg, Garlic and White Pepper. Nope, NO Cheese... Not even Gruyere.

There seems to be a nomenclature issue in the United States, "au Gratin" simply means "Top Crust" which can be achieved by anything from Heavy Cream to Bread Crumbs or Cheese. Somehow, in the U.S., au Gratin has come to mean "Baked with Cheese on top" . Trust me, you can make a heavenly yet sinful Gratiné without any cheese whatsoever.

Come... Let me bring you over to the dark side... Muah ha ha ha!

Pommes de Terre au Gratin Dauphinois

1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
2 lbs Russet Potatoes (although I have heard that Yukon's work well also)
3 TB European Butter; Divided (Yeah, your gonna want the GOOD stuff for this one)
2 Cloves of Garlic; divided
Kosher Salt or Fleur de Sel
White Pepper; finely ground
Freshly grated Nutmeg
optional - an additional 1/2 cup Heavy Cream (this will depend on your dish size)

First, you need to place 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream in a Large bowl.

Peel (DO NOT rinse) and slice the Potatoes into 1/8 inch slices (this is important for them to cook properly, and you are better off doing it by hand because most mandolins and food processors cut to either 1/16th or 1/4 inch thickness)

As you finish with each potato, toss the slices into the bowl of Heavy Cream and toss to coat. (this will prevent them from browning and allow the starch from the cut sides to move into the cream)

When you are finished slicing the potatoes, begin preheating the oven to 325 degrees and grab an au Gratin pan or a baking dish (make sure that it is deep enough, you only want the potato layers to reach the 3/4 mark, this leaves room for the cream to bubble a little without making a mess)

Cut 1 of the cloves of garlic in 1/2 and rub the inside of the pan.

Rub the pan down with 1 TB of the Cultures Butter.

Mince the remaining 1 1/2 cloves and sprinkle into the bottom of the pan.

Toss the Potato slices 1 more time to ensure they are well coated before layering.

Begin layering in a circle around the edge of the pan, slightly overlapping the previous potato slice. Once the outer ring is complete, simply fill in the middle with more overlapped slices.

Sprinkle the layer with Kosher Salt, White Pepper and freshly grated Nutmeg.

Repeat the last 2 steps, two more times, but layer the potato slices in the opposite direction giving you 3 layers of potatoes. (No more than 3 layers or it will take them way too long to cook)

Carefully pour the starchy cream from the bowl over the potatoes.

The level may not be quite high enough to just barely cover the potatoes, so you may have to add another 1/2 cup of heavy cream (I usually have to)

Dot the top layer with 2 TB Cultured Butter.

Bake for at least 1 hour, then check to see if the potatoes are tender, using a knife; If not bake for an additional 15-30 minutes (Low and slow is the key to keeping the resulting cream sauce from separating)

Serve with ....

Well, I guess it really doesn't matter what you serve them with, cause they are just plain awesome with everything!



Danielle said...

oh yum! Id have some for breakfast (instead of the lower sugar oatmeal that I bought by accident and am gagging down right now LOL). I love that crust!!

Bob said...

That is ridiculous. I love it. Gratins are a huge favorite of mine, but my girlfriend will only eat the box mix ones. :/

Patti T. said...

Gorgeous, simply gorgeous Shane. Mine almost always separates I usually bake at 350 I will try the lower temperature next time. I thought that it was just a local thing, when ever I serve this everyone always thinks it should have had cheese???