Monday, October 27, 2008

Gratin Dauphinois

I don't make a gratin dauphinois very often but when I do, it disappears quickly. The region where I'm from, Le Dauphine, is very famous for this dish. It's very basic and easy: potatoes are cut thinly, layered and cooked very slowly in a mixture of milk and/or cream. I made it once for a friend's potluck here in Austin and someone said: "Oh it's just scalloped potatoes", so I don't want to sound all French and snobbish here, but I simply want to share a recipe that is a HUGE part of my culture. So please, allow me to introduce the pride of my region.

Gratin Dauphinois is commonly served along meat entrees in restaurants around Le Dauphine. There are different version of potato gratins all over the region. Some put eggs in it, some put cheese, some think it's a sacrilege (the real Gratin Dauphinois does not contain any cheese). My recipe below is the gratin dauphinois of my childhood, and what the real gratin dauphinois really is to me.

My dear grandma -who I call Mamie- used to own a hotel/restaurant/cafe in my village and always told me that the secret of the delicious potato gratins like the ones served in restaurants is the fact that they pre-cook the potatoes in milk and then put them in the oven to become a gratin.

I always saw my mother and grandmothers making it the same way and that is: 
  • Bake the gratin in a porcelain clay dish that has been rubbed with garlic.
  • Cut the potatoes thinly and stay consistent with the size so it cooks evenly.
You know you have a good Gratin Dauphinois when the top is grilled, brown and crusty. It goes wonderfully well with sauteed chicken or turkey (Thanksgiving dish anyone?) and it's even better the day after (what isn't?). I made it the other day with breaded chicken and lemon juice and it was a delight!

Gratin Dauphinois ( for 4 people)

4 large white potatoes
2 cloves of garlic
4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp of butter
salt and pepper

Pour the milk in a saucepan, season with salt, pepper and a small pinch of nutmeg. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and slice them thinly. Try to be consistent with the thickness of the slices. When the milk is boiling, add the potatoes. Cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven at 35o F. Slice a clove of garlic in half and rub it all over a 12 x 9 rectangular dish (type lasagna dish). Lastly, butter the dish. Chop another clove of garlic thinly and reserve. When the potatoes are cooked, strain them over a bowl to keep the milk. Arrange one layer of potatoes in the dish. Season with just a little bit of salt, pepper, nutmeg and some of the chopped garlic. Repeat and season until you have no more potatoes. Pour the heavy cream plus 1 cup of the leftover whole milk, until the potatoes are just covered. Scatter tiny dices of butter all over the top and bake for 1 hour 1/2. Turn up the oven temperature to broiler and allow the gratin to get brown and crisp for 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it won't burn and rotate mid-time. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Hi Laetitia,
I found your blog through The Polski Blog's blogroll and I'm so pleased I did! I love France, French cuisine and am engaged to a very French Monsieur, so I hope you don't mind if I add you to my blogroll. We're having people over for dinner on Saturday and I'm going to try your dauphinoise. YUM!

Laetitia said...

Oh great!! Let me know how it turns out!! And I'm adding you to my blogroll as well. Always so excited to meet new friends! :)

Parsec said...

Hi...I found your blog in a comment on "Cannelle et Vanille". You really have some great recipes!

That is so cool that you are from le Dauphiné! I visited France for the first time this past summer, and stayed there for three weeks in a village called Dolomieu. I visited towns including Morestel, St. Savin, La Tour-du-Pin, Crémieu, Bourgoin-Jallieu, and many others...I was stunned by the countryside, with its coquelicots, its grand old farm homes, and the pretty tree-lined roads.

What also amazed me was the dish you have described here: le gratin dauphinois! The first time I had it, it was pure heaven!

This blog is awesome...I look forward to reading it in the future and I'm adding it to my blogroll :)

Parsec said...

P.S. When I was in le Dauphiné, I was told that the difference between the gratin dauphinois and the gratin savoyard is that the savoyard has Gruyère cheese while the dauphinois does not. Is this true?