February 21, 2011

Pommes Dauphinoise

I love reading Nigel Slater's cookbooks. His recipes are wonderfully written. Take, for instance, his recipe for Pommes Dauphinoise in Appetite; he titles this recipe "a creamy, unctuous potato dish." Slater writes:
A shallow earthenware dish of gratin dauphinoise is a perfect thing, the slices of potato scented with garlic and wallowing in cream, its top lightly browned. It seems sacrilegious to add or subtract from the classic recipe. [...] Despite the almost obscene quantity of cream, there is still a frugal simplicity in this dish.
Pommes Dauphinoise is a French dish from the Dauphiné region, near the Italian border. It consists of thinly sliced potatoes layered in a shallow buttered dish with sliced garlic, topped with heavy cream, and baked until brown & bubbling.  According to Gourmet Britain, "The dish should be perfumed with garlic, plenty, not just a token amount - and please, no eggs or cheese toppings."

I made this tonight to go a long with a big, juicy, grilled T-bone steak. I ate about half the steak and saved the rest of my appetite for more of these potatoes, proclaiming "The French sure do know what the fuck they're doing!"

A Creamy, Unctuous Potato Dish
(aka Pommes Dauphinoise)
from Nigel Slater

Enough for 6 as a side dish

potatoes — waxy-fleshed if possible, about 2 pounds
garlic — 2 large, juicy cloves
butter — just enough to butter the baking dish thickly
heavy cream — enough to cover the potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups)

You will need a moderate to low oven, so set the heat at 325F. Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly. This, by the way, is one of those dishes where you really must peel: strings of brown, “healthy” skin are totally at odds with the gratin’s hedonistic overtones. The slices should be no thicker than 1/8 inch. If the garlic is really juicy, cut the cloves in half and rub them around an earthenware or enameled cast-iron dish, pressing down hard to release the juices. Otherwise it might be better to slice it thinly and tuck the slices between the potatoes.

Smear the dish generously with butter. Please don’t be stingy — you are only cheating yourself. Lay the potato slices in the dish, orderly or positively hugger-mugger, it matters not, seasoning with salt and black pepper as you go along. Pour the cream over the potatoes — it should just come to the top of the slices. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, until the potatoes are virtually melting into the cream.

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