Potatoes Au Gratin
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Have you ever made a cheesy potato dish that you love, only to have it curdle or end up topped with an unappetizing pool of grease? There’s a lot of variables at play – the amount of starch in the potato, the proteins in the cream and cheese, how well the cheese melts. Anytime you are making a tricky dish, you can count on America’s Test Kitchen to sort out those variables for you. What I learned from reading their recipes:
- You need starch and more starch. Use russet potatoes – other potatoes will not work.
- The potatoes need to be sliced thinly and evenly. Use a mandoline or a slicer attachment on a food processor for the best results.
- Do not rinse the potatoes after slicing them. That removes some of the starch.
- The proteins in milk will curdle. Don’t use milk – use heavy cream. To keep it from being too rich, cut the cream with chicken broth.
- Before adding the grated cheese, toss it with more starch to prevent it from clumping as it melts.
So, with those guidelines in place, I set out to make au gratin potatoes with some local smoked Gouda that I picked up at the farmer’s market. It turned out creamy and cheesy, but wasn’t too heavy. Best of all, the leftovers withstood being reheated on other nights with no greasiness oozing out!
This Benriner mandoline from Japan is not real sexy looking, but it is heavy duty, sharp, and sturdy. It’s a great mid-priced tool, and I use it fairly frequently. If you are accident prone, you may want to invest in a cut-resistant glove as well!
I added shallots for a little extra flavor. Fresh herbs, such as thyme or rosemary, would also be a tasty addition. I didn’t peel the potatoes, opting for a more rustic dish. Instead of using a casserole or gratin pan, I baked the potatoes in an enameled cast iron pan. The cast iron works wonderfully for crisping up the bottom and edges of the au gratin, especially when going for a more rustic presentation.
Ingredients: (serves 6)
- ~2 pounds organic russet potatoes (2-3), scrubbed and trimmed of any spots/sprouts
- 1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon butter (bacon grease, or fat of choice)
- 3 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, grated
- 3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 1/2 teaspoons potato starch (or tapioca starch, cornstarch, arrowroot starch)
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup chicken broth
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Sprinkle of nutmeg (optional)
- 1 T fresh herbs, minced (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Select a casserole or pan for baking. I used a 12-inch pan. (Smaller dishes will have more layers, but that’s okay.)
- Saute the shallots in butter until soft and lightly browned.
- Pour the cream and chicken broth in a measuring cup. Place the cooked shallot in the cup with the cream mixture. If using the optional nutmeg or minced herbs, add these to the cream mixture here; stir to mix.
- Grate the cheeses and mix together in a large bowl. Toss with the 1 1/2 t of starch until the cheese is evenly coated.
- Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes around 1/8-inch thick (8 slices stacked together will be an inch tall – adjust mandoline as needed.)
- Line the baking dish/pan with about half the potatoes, overlapping them like shingles on a roof. Top the potatoes with about 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with about 1/2 t salt and a few shakes of pepper. Repeat with the remaining potato slices, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and more pepper.
- Give the cream mixture another stir, and pour evenly over the potato slices; using your fingers or a fork, evenly distribute the shallots and herbs (if they bunched up). Top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 60-75 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and will cut through easily with a spoon, and the cheese is browned on top. Cooking time will vary depending on how deep your potato layers are (smaller dish may need more time. The potatoes cooked in the 12-inch cast iron were done at 60 minutes.)
- Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
With the passing of Thomas Erdelyi- Tommy Ramone- this weekend, the original Ramones are no longer. Sad day indeed, but they left a body of work that truly changed the world, and it all started with Ramones their first album. “Blitzkrieg Bop”, “Judy Is A Punk” and their cheeky remake of “Let’s Dance”, the brothers brought us punk. Gabba gabba hey!