Monday, April 25, 2011

Thanks, Julia!

My sister was hosting Easter dinner.  I asked her what she wanted me to bring.

"Well," she said, "I was flipping through the channels the other day and caught an episode of Julia and Jacques.  They were making gratins.  One version had onions and chicken stock, and the other one had cream.  They both looked really good.  How about a nice potato gratin?"

So after work that night I Googled "Julia Child gratin" and struck Yukon gold with the first 2 hits:  Julia Child's Gratin Dauphinois at (where else), and Julia Child's Gratin of Potatoes à la Lyonnaise at Soup of the Day.

(By the by, I consider myself a pretty decent cook, but these serious food blogs make me feel like a lowly hash slinger at some dive of a diner.  Reading them is a very humbling experience.)

Decided on the Gratin Dauphinois, mainly because the à la Lyonnaise involves putting the baking pan on the stovetop and bringing things to a simmer.  I was planning to use a stoneware pan and was not comfortable with the stovetop thing.

So here's what I made:

Julia Child's Gratin Dauphinois à la façon de Madame Micawber
(Julia Child's Gratin Dauphinois, Mrs. Micawber style)

Heat oven to 425°

Thinly slice and soak in cold water:
2 lbs. Russet potatoes (mine weighed a bit more and--quelle audace!--I did not peel them)

Other ingredients:
1 cup grated Swiss cheese (about 4 oz.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 Tablespoons butter
1 clove of garlic
1 cup boiling cream

Not too complicated, is it?

I decided to add some fresh thyme as well (which I chopped after taking this photo).

Julia says to rub the pan with a cut clove of garlic.  I didn't want to affect the flavour of future fruit crisps yet to be baked in this pan, so I saved the garlic to put into the boiling cream.  (We all love garlic in my fam and a soupçon is never enough anyway.)

Butter the pan with 1 Tbsp. of the butter (it will be pretty thick in the pan.)  Cut the rest of the butter into little chunks and set aside.  Drain the potatoes and dry them in a towel.

Layer 1/2 the potatoes, and half of the salt & pepper, cheese, butter, and thyme in the pan.  (I started heating the cream at this point.)  Spread the rest of the potatoes over this layer and sprinkle with remaining salt & pepper, butter, cheese and thyme.

Looks beautiful already, doesn't it?

The cream should be boiling by now.  Crush the garlic into it and pour over potatoes.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and the top is nice and crusty and golden.

I was running late at this point, and FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE OF THE BEAUTIFUL FINISHED GRATINQuelle folie!  By the time I thought of it, this was all we had left:

And boy, was it good.

Everyone had seconds.  Most of us had thirds.

If I were allowed only one word to describe this dish, it would be "unctuous".  In a really good, creamy, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth kind of way.

Would I make it again?  Oh, yes.  When I do I will probably use more cheese.  The middle layer just melted into the potatoes (which is a good thing), but the dish would have been even better with a bit more crusty cheese on top.

The best part, besides the sublime flavour and texture, was the ease of this recipe.  Simple, elegant, delicious.  Thanks, Julia.  Mille mercis.

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  1. Darn it! You've made me hungry!

    That sounds like a luscious dish. Thanks for the fun links, too!

  2. It was incredibly luscious but digestible too.


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