Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coastal Living 2, part ii

For our New Years weekend, we somehow ended up with the theme of "80's Cuisine." How did this happen? Naturally, it was decided over a few bottles of wine. I took over dinner duty on Thursday night and eased into the theme with a ham, broccoli salad, braised cabbage and a potato gratin dauphinoise.

The cabbage and broccoli are both adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc. The ham came from my pig and was cooked, covered, in a 325 oven for a couple hours, glazed with mustard and brown sugar and finished with the potatoes. The gratin was one of the best I've ever made, and had I remembered the nutmeg it would have been even better. The key is to cook the potatoes in cream before baking the dish. The beauty of a gratin is that it can withstand high or low oven temperatures and unpredictable cooking times; if souffles are the Veronica of the baking world, gratins are a true Betty.

The next day, I combined the leftover potatoes, cabbage and ham and improvised my own version of bubble and squeak, a British Empire comfort food, for lunch. With some dijon on the side, this was almost better than from whence it came:

Potatoes Gratin Dauphinoise

butter for gratin dish
2lb potatoes
3 C. heavy cream (yes, you can cut with milk, but at this point, why?)
2 cloves of garlic
salt, pepper, fresh nutmeg
1 C grated gruyere or comté

butter a gratin dish and set an oven to 375. Gently begin heating cream in a big enough pot to hold the potatoes. With a mandoline, slice potatoes to about a 1/8" thickness. You want them as thin as they can get without falling apart before they make it into the dish. Add the potatoes to the cream as you slice, and avoid letting them sit out lest they oxidize and turn grey. Let the cream and potatoes come to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes, without letting them get to a hard boil. Season with salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg. Pour the potatoes and cream into your dish, spread the cheese on top, and then bake until brown and bubbling, maybe 30 minutes, but don't sweat it. It's ready when you are.

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