Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Gratin Dauphinois (Potato Gratin with Garlic and Cream)

Gratin Dauphinois (Potato Gratin with Garlic and Cream)This week's class about browning has us making another of my all-time favorite food: scalloped potatoes. But it's not just any scalloped potatoes. It's Gratin Dauphinois prepared with love using the delicate Le Cordon Bleu method. Layers of flavor are built, and not just by layering the potatoes. Oh no. That would be too easy.

Steep the milk
The first step is to heat the milk and then steep it with a Bouquet Garni, salt and nutmeg. Sounds easy enough.
[And you must not burn the milk, as I did … twice. Burnt milk doesn't smell good. My house has a lingering burnt milk smell that will take days to fade away since yesterday it was rice pudding problems and today it's scalloped potatoes. I'm wondering if the skim milk I used was the reason and if whole milk has a higher smoke point. Ever heard of smoke points in milk? Any tips on getting burnt milk off the bottom of a stainless steel pot and while you're at it off a smooth top range? I guess I'm taking this class on "browning" too literally!]
Par-cook the potatoes
After the [third batch of] milk has steeped, then you add [the second batch of] thinly sliced potatoes [since I didn't notice the milk had burnt during steeping until after adding the potatoes for the first batch]. The potatoes steep and get partially cooked in this milky [unburnt] goodness.
[Actually, after the first two mishaps with the milk, I resorted to the microwave to heat the milk. Then, I let it steep on the counter for 10 minutes. When I put the potatoes in the pot to par-cook, I left them on the lowest setting and added more time. I was intent on not burning another batch of milk.]
Next, you drain the milk. DRAIN. I couldn't believe it. Such waste [that's 9 cups of milk in my case, and I was making a half recipe, thank God!]. It was a shock after saving and using so many parts of vegetables and chickens (namely, feet) in previous classes to make stock. As I'm writing this, I'm thinking that next time I should save that milk [not the burnt milk!] and make another, less wasteful batch of scalloped potatoes with it.

Prepare the gratin dishes
The garlic is even wasted. You must cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the gratin dish with it. What do you do with the rest of the clove of garlic that doesn't get rubbed into the dish? You throw it away. After smearing some butter in the gratin dish too, it was ready for the delicate layering of potato slices and sprinkling of salt and pepper in-between.

Heat the cream and finish with cheese
Instead of the flavorful milk that you just drained, you must scald some fresh, unflavored cream [next time I'll mince the leftover garlic and throw it in with the cream] and pour this over the potato slices. Finally, you top it with sprinkled cheese and it's ready for a hot oven. I used old cheddar, but you could use Gruyère cheese, which is traditional but not appreciated at our house.

The ingredients shown in the photo are for a half recipe (serves 3).

Gratin Dauphinois mise en place
3 cups milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 Bouquet Garni
1¼ pounds baking potatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 ounces grated cheese
Unsalted butter, for gratin dish

You can find the recipe for Gratin Dauphinois (Potato Gratin with Garlic and Cream) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with their recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Gratin Dauphinois (Potato Gratin with Garlic and Cream)Tasting Notes
They were the best scalloped potatoes we've ever tasted! I may have added too much salt when layering, but we tend to like a lot of salt around here.

Although this class was supposed to be about browning (not the milk but the potatoes and cheese in the oven), I learned a lot about heating milk on the stove: I'm not good at it. I'll stick with the microwave for this or use my old stand-by recipe for scalloped potatoes that doesn't involve all these tricky layers of flavors and still tastes good in the end. It's from Gourmet magazine, December 1997. My version that I clipped out doesn't have fennel in it, but the one in this link does. And I always sprinkle cheese on top of mine too.

Yukon Gold, White, Red Potatoes
Yukon Gold, White, Red Potatoes

I forgot to mention one last tidbit in this saga. I bought three varieties of potato: white, red and Yukon gold. After all the trouble, there was no taste difference. I noticed one thing though: the red potatoes started turning brown sooner than the others while waiting for the milk to steep ever so slowly via the microwave/counter method. I solved that by covering them with water, but now I have three times the dishes to do plus all the burnt milk pots.

It was still worth it.

Next Week (November 26)
• Oeufs Mollets Florentine (Soft-boiled Eggs with Spinach and Mornay Sauce) pages 69-70

My Bucket List
  • Stay in the Dauphiné region of France to ski in the Alps and eat Gratin Dauphinois.

    . . . . . . . . . .

    Running total: $875.79 + $4.91 = $880.70
    [Here's a little dilemma: should I count the failed attempts in the running total? I probably should, but I'm not going to. The number is starting to feel a little high given my ROI. It seemed like a good idea in Class 1, but I'm learning a lot. And that's all that counts, right?!]
    Butter used so far: 8 pounds, 12 tablespoons

    . . . . . . . . . .
    ::Whisk Wednesdays::
    We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.

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    Eleganza Strings/ The DeLadurantey Family said...

    Um Garlic and cream........sounds good!


    Cathy said...

    Oh, we would adore these! I think these make for such an elegant side, and yet they are so comforting and homey as well. And a lot of salt is a good thing in my book!

    Veronica said...

    How positively elegant! I really wish I didn't love Potato Gratin as much as I do.

    natalia said...

    Ciao Shari ! this really is a comfort foo it sounds super yummy ! I love the way you tell us about all your adventures too ( Maybe I wold have used at least half of the milk along with the cream, what do you think ?)

    NKP said...

    My milk didn't burn, but I had a brown crust on the bottom of the pot. We soaked it and hubby used Comet to clean it off. He says that Comet and Ajax were invented for pot scrubbing.
    I agree it is hard to waste that much milk. I was glad nobody was home to watch me pour it down the sink!
    It was really tasty though, I still have a little left.
    I love your photo - and your blue napkins, they are so pretty.

    Anonymous said...

    YAH! Gimmie!!!

    Anonymous said...

    Looks lovely and rich. Thanks so much for all the helpful tips. It's always a pleasure reading your posts.

    vibi said...

    Mmmmm... one of my favorite side dishes! and again what courage you have, always testing all those different foods!

    Now, with all those pounds I gain only by staring at those great pics of yours... wouldn't you have a good tip to loose weight before Christmas knocks at our door? LOL LOL

    Jules Someone said...

    Oooooooh. I just want to stuff my head in that ramekin and EAT.

    Maria said...

    Now those are some nice looking potatoes!

    Anonymous said...

    That recipe looks divine. I can't wait to try it. As far as a milk smoke point, I can't really explain this to you because I've never looked it up... but one of those things "i've always known" (and why I know this I have no idea) is basically the more fat the harder it is to burn or curdle milk. Now to get the scalded milk off the pot either try covering it in tomato sauce (acid) or filling it with warm water and placing a used dryer sheet in the pot overnight. Hope that helps!

    Anonymous said...

    Great looking potatoes...the cheddar is nice as it gives it even a deeper golden color on the top...very appealing!

    I am still laughing over all your pots of burned milk...just when I think I will never ever be in your league, you come up with something so funny about something that you have done in the kitchen that isn't quite the way you thought it would go. It is nice to hear those things so that the rest of us can feel there might be a slight chance that someday.....

    9 cups of are too funny! I have to say, the potatoes were worth it!

    grace said...

    that's a fancy name for something i simply refer to as
    "thisisdeliciouscanihavemoreplease"... :)

    Anonymous said...

    I didn't burn the milk either, but like Naytasha, I had some browned milk at the bottom of the pan. It pulled right off and swam around in my fun there! I didn't drain mine; I lifted the potatoes out with a slotted thingie. I'll get my post done in a bit with all the details. I need some pictures of today's activities before I post. My dish went to a very good cause! Great post Shari!!

    Peggy said...

    Those potatoes look wonderful. When are you going to try the oven fried chicken? It was fabuloso. Thanks for stopping by this morning!

    Jacque said...

    Oh, wow! Those look heavenly. I haven't had potatoes like this in sooooo long. I am jealous of your potatoes :)

    Cannelle Et Vanille said...

    oh these look to die for!

    Manggy said...

    Omigosh, I've never had that before but I always dream of it... Whenever I see the pic in front of a box of instant potato gratin. Lame, I know. I bet this one is a million times better. Shame about the milk, though (I think a box of milk is worth the cost-- though I'll be careful not to burn it ;)-- maybe even save it as you suggested, in the freezer or such.)

    taste memory said...

    these look incredibly comforting! like warm soft pillows with a crunch ~

    Anonymous said...

    oh my...this looks so good! i've been craving potato gratin for a few months now, and this may send me over the edge! lovely pictures as always!

    Anonymous said...

    Yummy. Your potatoes look fabulous. I adore scalloped potatoes. Yours look better than anything I have ever made. Well done.

    Katie said...

    I think that there is something very heart-warming about potatoes...and you can't go wrong with garlic!

    Tarah at Genesis of a Cook said...

    Mmm, looks great! The topping... mm, looks so good. I love the browned cheese ;]

    janelle said...

    YUM! What is not to love about garlic, cream, potatoes, butter... oh yeah, the expanding thighs:). We are just learning about potatoes in class! What fun timing to find your blog!

    Joanna said...

    your potatoes could not look any more perfect. i am salivating here!!!

    Clumbsy Cookie said...

    Gratin Dauphinois has to be one of the most conforting dishes ever!

    Cathy said...

    Hi Shari, I'm back again! Just wanted to let you know that I've passed an award on to your blog. You can pick it up at my blog!

    Lynne Daley said...

    Wow! Great looking potato gratin!. I haven't made it in years. Will use your method from now on. Beautiful photos as always!

    Zoe Francois said...

    This looks fantastic! I bet it would be great with sweet potatoes as well!?

    Unknown said...

    i like to use less cheese in making potato gratin. i am not that a cheese person hehehe... however, i suppose it is depending on the personal preference. i just like using gruyere to bake with vegetables. this looks yummy, anyway, Shari. perfect to just throw in some salad and then eat away!!

    Shari said...

    The DeL Sisters - You can't get much better than garlic and cream!

    Cathy - I'm finding as I cook more and more, I need more salt. Everything tastes so much better with it.

    Veronica - It's bad in the calorie dept!

    Natalia - Good idea to use half milk with the cream!

    Natashya - Good idea to get the Comet and Ajax out!

    EB - Sure!

    Syrie - Thanks!

    Vibi - I should have started a curriculum for weight watchers instead, but I think this is more fun!

    Jules Someone - It is that good!

    Maria - Thanks!

    Candice - Someone else told me about the dryer sheet. It still required a lot of scrubbing, but thanks for the tips!

    Kayte - A lot of milk wasted, but I agree that it was worth it!

    Grace - Love your nickname for this dish!

    cantbelieveweate - You're so smart not to drain the milk!

    Peggy - I still need to try that oven fried chicken!

    Jacque - They are heavenly.

    Aran - Thanks!

    Manggy - This is so much better than instant!

    Taste memory - I like your visual of warm soft pillows!

    Missy - Thanks!

    Lynn - You're too kind!

    Katie - They are delicious!

    Tarah at Genesis of a Cook - Thanks!

    Janelle - Expanding thighs are no fun, but these potatoes are worth it!

    Joanna - Thanks!

    Clumbsy Cookie - They are comforting!

    Cathy - Thanks so much for the award!

    Lynnylu - I need to practice a few more times so that I don't burn that milk!

    Zoe Francois - This would be good with sweet potoatoes!

    Arfi Binsted - There isn't a whole lot of cheese in this version!

    Thanks, everyone!