Sunday, 11 May 2014

Gratin Dauphinoise

Recipe for Gratin Dauphinoise

Now this is a totally self indulgent accompaniment to any dish. It is one inspired for me by the small village restaurants where my parents and I used to eat when I was little, and we would spend weeks and even months at a time with my Mum's family in Burgundy. I remember one place in particular on a cross roads of two roads that went to nowhere in particular. From the outside, it looked more like someone's house than a restaurant. And when you went in, it still looked like someone's house. Except there was small bar that was being propped up by a farmer with blue over-alls, a ruddy complexion, clutching a glass of red wine. He mumbled something at us through his bushy moustache, drained his glass and then stumbled out to his tractor which he had left with it's engine running outside.

My other over riding memory of this particular place was that there was a TV mounted on the wall in the kitchen (which was in clear view from the restaurant) which was showing an episode of "Starsky & Hutch" dubbed into French. And I will never forget the shock of hearing the bloke who was voicing the dub for Huggy Bear. He had a really deep, sophisticated French accent and from the moment he started speaking I could not focus on anything else as it just seemed so wrong.

Preparation and cooking time:

Allow 20 minutes prep and and hour for cooking.


500g potatoes (preferably Roosters, Desirees or Rudolphs) peeled
100 ml of double cream
1/4 pint of full fat milk
25g unsalted butter cut into tiny 2mm cubes
A small garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
100g of mild cheddar or Gruyeres cheese grated


Pre-heat your oven to 150o C. Take a deep dish (the one I use is 20cm X 13.5cms square and 13.5cms deep) and rub the two halves of your garlic clove, cut-side-down, all over the base and sides as this will secrete the juice of the garlic, and will infuse the dish as it cooks. Then grease the dish with butter.

Next you will need to cut your peeled potatoes into wafer thin slices. If you've got the knife skills to do that then good for you. If not, a kitchen mandolin is a great tool that achieves what you want quickly and easily. And if you don't have one of those, you've probably got a cheese grater with different cutting edges on different sides. In which case the side with the wide slice cutters does the job just as well. Lay your wafer thin potato slices in over lapping rows along the base of the dish until the whole of the bottom is covered. Then sprinkle your tiny butter cubes, dotting across the rows, sprinkle a bit of your grated cheese sparsely over the rows, drizzle with a bit of cream and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Then repeat and start on the next layer of potato wafers. Once you've finished that layer, before sprinkling your butter, cheese, cream, salt and pepper, just push the whole surface of your new layer flat with your fists. Add your bits, then continue until you either reach the top of your dish, or you run out of potatoes. When you reach your top layer, as well as the butter, cream, salt and pepper, also chop up your what's left of your 2 halves of garlic clove into tiny bits and sprinkle that over the top. Then pour your milk over the layers until it comes to just below the level of the top layer. Then sprinkle all the cheese you have left over the top. If you don't have enough left to make a proper crust, grate a bit more to make sure you do. Put your dish on a baking tray and place it in the middle of your oven and leave it in there for an hour.

And that's pretty much it. Serve with a rare steak and salad.

Dauphinoise can be prepared the day before you are going to actually serve it. Just make sure you let it cools thoroughly before covering it in cling film and popping it in the fridge. You can then just heat it up at 180o for 20 minutes. If anything, it actually tastes better the next day.

Now my family have always described this potato accompaniment as "Gratin Dauphinoise". Something I have continued unquestioningly. But I have heard those arguments from others who say that this is not a "true" gratin. So to those people, let me just say "bollocks! It bloody is! Right!" and let that be an end to the matter.

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