Every Tuesday I choose a different friend to be my tutor for a day: I select one of their original recipes, I make the recipe following my friend's instructions, I snap a multitude of pictures, I scarf down as much as my belt-line will permit - and then I share everything I love about my friend's recipe. Learn More
About the Author
- "I do most of the everyday cooking in our house. I’m good at it, and I like doing it. But usually not desserts – that’s my wife’s bailiwick. I often adapt recipes on the fly – riff – when I’m cooking. Baking requires more precision – there’s chemistry going on! Unless you’re a really experienced baker, you need to follow the directions to the letter – and following directions has never been something I’m good at. There are several desserts I make that my wife doesn’t – Chocolate Mousse, for example – but most of the desserts you see on the blog were made by her."
- "It was recently Julia Child’s 100th birthday, and there was lots of media noise about that. Well-deserved noise, I think. If it wasn’t for Julia – does anyone not call her by her first name? – I probably wouldn’t be cooking. I remember watching her original PBS shows in the 60s and was instantly smitten – here was someone who thought every meal should be a tasty feast, not just holiday or special occasion meals. Back in the 60s most American didn’t know much about food other we needed it to survive. Julia taught me that well-prepared food didn’t need to be fancy in order to be good and pleasurable. And that food should be pleasurable! And since I needed to eat several times every day, why not eat well? She’s the one that got me to set out on a life-long quest for flavor."
- "One of the hardest things for me to learn about cooking was how to season well, particularly how to use salt. So many people under salt their food! The trick, I’ve learned, is to build layers of seasoning as you cook. Need to brown some onions? Add salt to them as you brown them, so the salt can bring out more of their flavor. Don’t add a lot of salt – a pinch is usually enough. Keep adding pinches of salt as you add additional ingredients to a dish, so those ingredients become seasoned. The end result is a dish that’s well seasoned because each ingredient has been properly seasoned, and you’ll need to add little, if any, at the end when you “adjust seasoning.” If you don’t add salt as you cook and wait until the end to add it, you’ll always end up using way more than if you incorporate it in the dish as you prepare it – and it still won’t taste exactly right."
- "I have way too many cookbooks – close to 300! I’m one of those people who’ll read a cookbook in bed at night, just because. My favorite type of cookbook is one that’s long on technique and theory. Recipes? Of course I want those, too, but once you learn technique and understand what makes a dish work, recipes are kind of secondary. Which is the exact opposite of how I used to be – at first it was all about the recipe, and learning how to make specific dishes. I was always going to the grocery store with a list of what to buy so I could make dinner. I still do that, of course, but more often I’ll go to the store, see what looks good, then figure out what to make."
- "One of the most interesting things I’ve learned through blogging is how hard food photography is. Many foods are colorful, so you think it would be easy to take good photographs. It’s not – and if you look at the early pictures on my blog, you’ll see how miserable I was at it. I’m lucky in that I’ve been interested in photography for a long time and had a decent camera and knew how to use it – but I’ve had to learn entirely new things for food photography. The lighting is totally different – in most cases you want the light coming from behind the subject, for example. This helps shape the food and make it more 3-dimensional. Or if you want to show texture, having the light coming from the side is a good technique. I’ve gotten much better but I still have a long way to go. But the most important thing I’ve learned is it’s not about the camera. It’s all lighting, and without decent lighting you’re not going to take good pictures. Oh, and it doesn’t matter if the light is natural light or artificial – neither is inherently better. It’s learning how to work with what you have."
How to Make: Gratin Dauphinois
|Whichever dish you select, butter the dish with a tablespoon of butter|
|Your dish should be very generously buttered as shown.|
|Nutmeg is optional, but I really like the flavor with potatoes, cream or cheese, so I recommend|
adding some. Use fresh nutmeg if possible, but a dash of ground nutmeg will also work
|To grate the nutmeg, just use a rasp or zester. I used about 1/2 teaspoon of packed freshly|
grated nutmeg. If you're using ground nutmeg, you will only want to use about 1/4 teaspoon.
|Next come 1 clove of garlic|
|Mince the garlic...|
|Next is the optional hot sauce - I use Frank's Red Hot sauce as I'm ok with the ingredient list...|
|Add the nutmeg, garlic and hot sauce to the half and half and give it a stir. Let the half and half|
continue to heat while you grate your cheese and prepare your potatoes.
|John recommended gruyere cheese so that's what I used. But you could really use your favorite|
hard cheese that packs a flavorful punch. Like cheddar or swiss or fontina...
|You'll need about 8 oz of grated gruyere|
|To help provide a crispy topping, you will want to use some parmesan cheese as well. I recommend|
a parmesan from Italy.
|You will need about 2-3 oz of grated parmesan...|
|Scrub your potatoes. I left the skins on mine because a lot of the nutrition in a potatoes is in|
the skin, but you could also peel these potatoes in you prefer.
|You want to keep your slices as thin as possible, no thicker than approx 3/16 of an inch. So|
take your time and slice carefully with a very sharp knife. If your knife is dull, thin slices will
be near impossible...
|You will arrive at a surprisingly big pile of potato slices. This pile took me about 15 minutes|
to slice with a sharp knife.
|...then a seasoning with cracked black pepper and a generous seasoning of salt. I used about|
1/8 teaspoon of pepper and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt for each layer of potatoes.
|Next sprinkle a layer of grated gruyere over the potatoes...|
|You can see my layers of potatoes came right up to the edge of my baking dish. This is where|
a larger baking dish would be helpful.
|Add the remaining grated gruyere cheese...|
|...Then top with the grated reserved parmesan cheese... The dish is ready to bake.|
Thoughts while scarfing...
- Layers of cheese and potatoes held together with thickened cream - what's not to love about this classic dish? But since it's such a rich dish, I recommend serving with a light entree like soup. Or grilled chicken. Or fortified greens salad. Because once you take a serving of these potatoes, you WILL want seconds.
- Because of the crispy cheese topping, these potatoes are really best the same day you make them. Sure, you can reheat, but they're just not quite the same. I find the best way to reheat is to scoop into individual ramekins and place in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes until heated through.
- As you can see in a couple of the photos, the fat in the cheeses tends to separate out in an oily film during baking - you might be able to avoid some of this separation by not adding the final topping of cheese until the potatoes are cooked through. You could then top with the remaining cheese and place until the broiler to brown. However, this won't result in quite the same crispy crust...
- Use a bigger dish - the CorningWare F-6-B is an 8.5 inch x 11 inch x 2 inch dish, but the cream and fat from the cheese bubbled over the sides and made quite a mess of the baking sheet. I recommend using a 9 x 13 baking dish or a deeper 8 x 11 dish.