My Potato Gratin Quest
I’ve been on a hunt for a stellar gratin recipe for a while now. Ever since R had the most deliciously creamy and flavorful – and did I mentioned gorgeous? – potato gratin at West Town Tavern, I’ve been trying to recreate it.
(A quick side note for Chicagoans – West Town Tavern is one of the best kept secrets in the city, but its popularity is growing. Fabulously tasty and elegant food for such reasonable prices you’ll want to cry out for joy! You absolutely must try it!)
My first attempt at potato gratin had all the makings of a promising recipe. I had found it in Bon Appetit, the ingredients were simple and I had just gotten a new mandoline to test out. The recipe was for a Sicilian Style Potato Gratin and it didn’t call for much cheese, but instead it called for a good amount of chicken stock along with garlic, onions and capers. You’d think this would have been delicious, right? Wrong. The dish was liquidy, tasteless and just pretty bad. I was very disappointed. (The only reason I linked to it above is that maybe I just had bad luck and it will work out better for you all.)
After such a discouraging first try, I was hesitant, but determined, to try again. This time, I turned to the wondrous Alice Waters and her cookbook, The Art of Simple Food. Her recipe was just as you would expect – uncomplicated. Her original recipe does not add any cheese, but she does suggest variations such as rubbing the pan with garlic or sprinkling cheese between the layers. I, of course, chose to add cheese.
The prep time was very quick with my trusty mandoline and in less than 15 minutes I was sliding my gratin into the oven. The hardest part about making this was waiting the full hour that it takes to cook before I could eat it! The gruyere that I shredded on top turned a beautiful golden color that was just lovely. When the timer finally beeped, it was time for the moment of truth……
SUCCESS! Sort of. The gratin was delicious, make no mistake. It could have done with a tad more cheese and maybe a bit more salt and pepper, but overall it was creamy and delicious. It still wasn’t exactly what I’ve been trying to replicate, but it certainly was an improvement on last time! This recipe would be excellent for entertaining because it feeds a bunch, it’s quite lovely and the prep time is very quick.
Join me next time for: [cue booming movie voice] The Great Gratin Hunt.
If anyone happens to have a fantastic potato gratin recipe, please share in the comments below!
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced about 1/16 of an inch thick
4 Tbs. butter, separated
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 C. gruyere or parmesan cheese, shredded
1 C. milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice potatoes very thinly using a knife or mandoline. Grease an 8×8 inch pan. Lay potato slices in a straight line, overlapping slightly until the entire bottom of the pan is covered. They should look like shingles on a roof. Salt and pepper the potatoes and sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese on top. Repeat this process until you have 3 layers of potatoes with cheese in the middle. Reserve 1/3 of the cheese for the top. Salt and pepper the top layer, but do not add cheese.
Press down firmly to make sure all layers are compact. Pour 1 C. milk gently over the potatoes – it should come up just to the edge of the top layer. Bake in oven for 1 hour. Half way through cook time, take pan out of the oven. Using a metal spatula, press down on the top of the gratin to make sure all layers are compact. Return to the oven for the rest of the hour. Sprinkle cheese on top after 45 minutes and return to the oven. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.
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