potatoes au gratin.

I've been around the block and back with potatoes, there's not too many ways that I won't eat them. Mashed, roasted, hasselbacked, twiced-baked, or fully loaded, you can't go wrong with the humble potato. We've had our share of mishaps, especially when I try to go the scalloped route. We never, ever ate the box mix of cheesy scalloped potatoes with a sauce the color of Velveeta cheese, chewy slices of potato underneath a crispy crust. The only time I ever ate them was at my middle school friend Lauren's house and her Mom would make them alongside a roasted chicken every now and again.

But at our house, they were always mashed. Sometimes my Dad would put a scoop of sour cream or cream cheese into the bowl of the stand mixer and let the hot, boiled potatoes soften them before we're start smashing, and our mashed potatoes were never without garlic or salted butter or milk, but there were always mashed - that part stayed the same. The first time I remember having roasted potatoes was at my Aunt Daniela's parents house - her father is from Sicily and her mother is from London and between the two of them the meals created in their kitchen are beyond fantastic. Nearly ten years ago, my aunt and uncle were in an awful car accident and spent their days at her parents, recouping and eating ice cream and various other chew-free foods when I came to stay with them for a few days.

After blending macaroni and cheese and making the most tender pancakes I knew how, I was desperate for some real food. Let me tell you - nobody makes roasted potatoes like the British. (According to Aunt Daniela, she grew up on a split diet of roasted chicken and potatoes and pasta.) They were a rich golden brown, not at all like home fries, each nub of potato was crunchy all the way around with a creamy interior, gently scented with rosemary and olive oil. I must've eaten my body weight (all 90 pounds at the time, that's still a lot of potatoes) in starch that night.

I've eaten copious amount of roasted potatoes since then and it's time for a change up. I was recently given a review copy of Simply Suppers and I immediately set to work on testing it out. It was a tough call between the corn chowder, shrimp scampi, Brussels sprouts with bacon - but potatoes hold a soft spot in my heart. I had attempted to make au gratin potatoes before but my attempts didn't involve a crucial step - parboiling the potato slices in milk before baking. I feel like smacking myself in the forehead - how did I possibly think that I could get creamy, silky potatoes without milk? I ended up with potatoes that were hard as nails in the center, nearly flavorless, and gloppy with oily shredded cheese.

But let us move on to better days. These potatoes were beautiful, garlicky and buttery, silky and creamy, cheesy and toasty all at once. A scoop of these alongside a serving of lemon-thyme chicken and roasted broccoli and you'll be singing the au gratin praises right along with me.

A quick note: A lot of recipes with heavy cream ask for a pinch or so of nutmeg - I think it is supposed to do something magical, but I am never able to taste it after it's baked. Feel free to leave it out and this dish will be no less delicious.

Potatoes au Gratin
Adapted from Simply Suppers, by Jennifer Chandler

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy creamy
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
5 medium baking potatoes (I used Yukon Golds)
1/2 cup grated cheese (like Gruyere)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

In a large saucepot combine the milk, cream, butter, garlic and nutmeg. Peel the poattoes and cut into slice about 1/8 inch thick. Add the potato slices to the milk mixture to prevent discoloration.

Over medium-high heat, bring the milk mixture to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are slightly tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish, arranging the top layer of the potatoes in a overlapping pattern, if desired. (I was lazy and just dumped them all in there.)  Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and cover with a buttered piece of aluminum foil, buttered side down.

Bake until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the potatoes are golden brown and the cheese is a little crisp, about 20 minutes.

Serves 6 - 8.

1 comment:

  1. Yummy! I'll have to try to make these. The little spuds are a family staple for me, too!


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