French Friday’s with Dorie: Pommes Dauphinois

November 5, 2010

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I have a serious problem with this dish.  I am embarrassed to say that I ate 25% of it  before dinner was served last night.  I am scared to put on my jeans.  Instead of walking my usual 2.5 miles today, I am going to have to double that!  What was I thinking?

The real problem here is that these are so utterly good, that one cannot just take a small portion. With that said,,  eating 25% of the pan, isn’t all that unreasonable.  Is it?  In the past, I have always made Patricia Well’s recipe, Gratin Dauphinois from her book At Home in Provence.  I adore her books and have made many of her recipes, but her particular dish requires one to cook the potatoes in the cream and milk mixture, on the stove, before layering the pan, etc.  An unnecessary step.  Dorie’s recipe beats out any other potato dish of this kind and this is my new “go-to” dish for those nights when I just don’t have time to mess in the kitchen.

Potatoes au Gratin or “scalloped potatoes” as my dad endearingly referred to them as, was one of my dad’s favorite dishes.  He loved his food.  And he loved his restaurants. He was a carbs kind of guy. Happily I admit, I am as well.  As I tempered the cream and sliced the potatoes, all I could really think about was my dad.  He would have loved these potatoes.  And he would have told all his friends about them and he would have talked about them for weeks!

I  got my passion for food from my dad.  I can remember, even at 10 years old, a huge desire to go to the best restaurant I could find.  If someone had mentioned something being the “best”, I would make a mental note and hint a little hint to my dad. Growing up we were in no position to eat in these types of restaurants.  But, there were those rare occasions when he’d step out and indulge.

I felt such pride the first time I ate at Scandia, Chasens, The Bel-Air Hotel, Spago, The Palm, Musso and Franks, and countless others.  And as much as I enjoyed putting on my best outfit, my dad enjoyed it even more.  He looked so good in a suit and the smile that stretched from ear to ear, knowing how excited I was, is a memory etched in the back of my brain.  I know, if he could have, he would have done it a lot more than he had.  Yet, just as much as my dad and I loved dressing up and going to the finest, we also loved a good burger at The Apple Pan, the fried eggs and salami at Nate ‘n Als, the fried zucchini circles at The Hamburger Hamlet and the french onion soup at La Frite.

My life today, centers around food, the home, and my kitchen.  At age 7, when I whipped up that first cake, from scratch, for my dad’s birthday – the feeling was no different.  So as I take another bite of these delicious potatoes, I say thank you to my dad for sharing his passion with me and I also say thank you to Dorie for bringing me back to a place in my life that I hold very, very near and dear to me.

Potato Gratin (pommes dauphinois)
recipe from around my french table

1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1/4 lb(1 cup). Gruyere cheese, grated

• preheat oven to 350*.
• butter a 2 quart, heavy duty baking dish. place on a silpat lined rimmed, baking sheet.
• in a small heavy duty saucepan, put the heavy cream and the garlic. bring to a simmer and keep warm while you prepare the potatoes.
• peel your potatoes and place in cold water until ready to slice. I use my mandoline to slice the potatoes.
• arrange the potatoes, overlapping, in your prepared baking dish. season with salt and pepper. pour a bit of the garlic infused cream over the potatoes, just to cover.
• repeat this until you have filled up the pan with your ingredients. if you have more potatoes than cream, add a bit more cream so you can see it around the edges.
• sprinkle the grated Gruyere over the top and dot with a bit of unsalted butter(about 1 tablespoons)
• bake for 45 minutes. the dish is done when a knife is easily inserted into the potatoes.
• if you need more cooking time, cover with foil and bake until tender.
• remove from the oven and let rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving.