Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I have one more recipe for you that can be made ahead with local ingredients.

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When I first started cooking I was pretty careful to follow recipes. Even now I’m pretty careful to follow a recipe the first time I make it - unless I find a lot of different versions of the recipe. The internet can make recipe hunting overwhelming sometimes with all the options available online. I’ve found Pinterest to help narrow the search. If I need to broaden I can always go back to the Google.

Potatoes au Gratin, also known as Gratin Dauphinois, is serious comfort food with all its starchiness and creaminess. For years I tried the Joy of Cooking’s recipes for Potatoes au Gratin to the letter (pre-internet). The methods were complicated and the results were hit or miss. Either a roux-based white sauce was used or flour was sprinkled between the layers of potatoes to created a roux, depending on the recipe.

Then Jack Bishop’s recipe arrived in our kitchen. So simple: potatoes, cream, a little cheese, a smidge of garlic and butter on the dish, and salt and pepper to taste. A long cooking time but not a long prep time - with the right tools.

Cutting two pounds of potatoes thinly with a knife, even a good knife, can get tiring quickly. I finally got a mandoline slicer and it is so much easier, faster, and more consistent. I purchased the OXO Good Grips - it’s a reasonable price and has worked well for the slicing I’ve done so far.

I wondered, after my success with make-ahead mashed potatoes, if potatoes au gratin would be a good make-ahead dish. Turns out, yes. According to The Kitchn, “...it only gets more oozy and delicious the next day.” Also, apparently cheese is not traditional, so Bishop’s recipe could be even simpler!

Cheese is an excellent and common addition, though. Choose your favorite cheese, though a variety that melts well is a good choice. I had Fontina on hand, but you will often see Gruyère recommended. Sequatchie Cove Creamery’s Gruetli is a good local option.

Although I like simple recipes I decided to add a few flavors and some extra butter since I’m planning to reheat it. The extra fat really helped the mashed potatoes reheat well.

I used a recipe from Recipe Tin Eats that is pretty similar to Bishop’s, with more butter, cream, and also some thyme. It is rich! A little serving goes a long way so this is a good recipe for a crowd.

A couple of notes: according to The Kitchn, a shallow pan or dish is best for cooking. I found mine came out fine in a deeper dish. I could have filled mine fuller, too, as the potatoes sink into the dish, not rise up (mashed potatoes rise). In the space where they sank the butter browned pretty dark. I might wipe my dish if I have space left over next time.

 Photos by  Zachary Cross

Photos by Zachary Cross

Although gratin recipes give temperatures from 350-450° F, I think lower and slower is best, especially for potatoes that you are planning to reheat. The higher temps brown the butter faster, possibly faster than the potatoes can cook. However, there are so many gratin recipes at the higher temperatures that you can choose to cook at whatever temp is convenient. Keep an eye on it at the higher temperatures.

I’ll list Bishop’s recipe and then options from the other recipe I used. Happy Thanksgiving week, whatever you choose to cook!

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Simplest Potato Gratin

From Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

1 large garlic clove, crushed and peeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut crosswise into ⅛ -inch rounds
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded, about 1 ½ cups
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Rub the garlic clove around the inside of a 9-inch cake pan or gratin dish. Smear the butter around the bottom and sides of the dish. Layer one quarter of the potato slices into the dish so that the slices overlap slightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and ¼ cup of the cheese. Drizzle ¼ cup of the cream over the potatoes, making sure to coat each potato slice. Repeat two more times. For the fourth and final layer, arrange the remaining potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste as well as the remaining ¾ cup cheese. Drizzle the remaining ¼ cup cream over the top.
  3. Bake, uncovered, until the top layer of potatoes is crisp and nicely browned, about 50 minutes. Let settle for several minutes, then cut into small wedges and serve immediately.


Options, inspired by The Kitchn and Recipe Tin Eats:

  1. Omit the cheese for the simplest gratin.
  2. Chop the garlic clove and add a ¼ of it to each layer.
  3. Add fresh thyme to the layers and the top, up to 2 tsp total.
  4. Use a combination of milk, cream, and butter, per the linked recipes or to taste. Use up to 1 ½ cups cream.
  5. To make ahead: assemble except for the final layer of cheese, bake covered 50 minutes, then cool to room temperature. Add the final layer of cheese and a little extra cream, then cover and refrigerate. The day you serve, bring the dish to room temperature, 30-60 minutes out of the fridge. Reheat covered about 30 minutes until hot. Brown uncovered as desired, either at oven temp or under the broiler, but watch very closely if you use the broiler! Or, bake as directed, then reheat as directed with no need for additional browning.


Printable recipe here

Heather Cross