Friday, February 25, 2011

Gratin Goodness

Classic Potato Gratin

I love the potato.  The French get so many food things right, but especially when they named the potato “pomme de terre” meaning “apple of the earth”. Baked, roasted, sautéed, boiled, fried, mashed, stuffed, or any way you can imagine, they are, on their own, delicious.  As a vehicle for other flavors, they can soar.  Probably very near the top of my list of potato favorites, if not directly on top, is The Gratin.  Literally, the word gratin comes from the French word meaning to scrape.  If you’ve ever been the lucky person serving a gratin, you will know that this means the act of scraping all of the baked on Gruyere cheese goodness from the (traditionally) earthenware dish manufactured for this purpose.  A humble yet luxurious dish, the gratin has only 7 ingredients (not including salt & pepper, which are key).  Each ingredient relies completely on the others, so it is important to use the best quality ingredients available.  I like to use Idaho Potatoes, as they are starchy and turn into the most silky texture when baked with freshly smashed garlic, unsalted European butter, aged Gruyere cheese, fresh heavy cream, whole fresh nutmeg (grated a la minute), sea salt & freshly cracked, fragrant, Tellicherry (from the Telicherry region of Southern India) black pepper.  I have seen many recipes which call for pre cooking the potatoes in milk and other variations, but my desire for ease of preparation, coupled together with conversations I’ve had with chefs in the French countryside, led me to my favorite simplistic version.
As an added incentive, (as if one were needed) your home will smell absolutely heavenly while baking this dish of deliciousness.