Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sinful Potato Gratin

Happy Thursday, everyone!  I don't know if you're aware or not, but the Holidays are coming.  Fast.  I don't know about you, but I am a huge planner.  The second I get an idea, I grab a pen and paper and start planning everything, down the the last detail.  You don't even want to know the amount of lists, and thoughts, and ideas I had while I was thinking of starting this blog!  My goodness!  It's funny, though, you would think that as much as I love to plan, that my house would be uber organized.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but I digress.  

As I was saying, the Holidays are coming up very quickly, and I'm already menu planning, for Thanksgiving, and tossing ideas around for my Christmas menu.  My husband and I were talking the other day about our Thanksgiving plans, and he said, "...what's the big deal?  Its the turkey, mac and cheese, and lemon, garlic green beans.  Oh, and the yeast rolls."
Its true.  We don't have a huge spread for our Thanksgiving, since its just the 3 of us, we don't have a need for a massive meal.  I do like to shake things up, though, and swap out a side or two, so I like to practice a few months ahead of time.  Just to make sure everything is going to be tasty.  That's what I tell myself.  I really just like to play in the kitchen!
These potatoes would be really lovely on your Holiday table.  They are easy to make, tender, creamy and (most importantly to me!) bursting with flavor.  I usually don't care for potato gratin, because its usually pretty bland.  Its full of cream, which doesn't have a lot of flavor, poured over plain potatoes, which need some help in the flavor department.  This is the wonderful aspect of potatoes, they can take on almost any flavor you put on them; however, when you put bland with bland, you can't be surprised when you get bland out of it!
This version of potato gratin has changed my mind.  Like in my roasted garlic chicken alfredo post, I always feel that roasted garlic comes to the rescue of a bland dish!  I didn't want to totally change how a potato gratin dish tastes, but I needed to have some flavor there.  Roasted garlic, to me, was the best solution for this.  I also tossed in some mushrooms, for a lovely earthy background flavor, which, to me, is always welcome!  The garlic and mushrooms really compliment the potatoes, and would really go well with whatever main dish you wanted to pair this with.
Enough with my gibber gabber, lets get cooking!  
Here's your grocery list for this dish:
1 1/2 C heavy cream
3-4 cloves of garlic, for roasting
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBS Olive oil
Sprigs of fresh thyme
Roughly 2 lbs of a waxy potato - I used red potatoes
8-16 oz of a mushroom mix (if you can't find a mix, whatever mushroom will work)
4 TBS Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter for greasing your baking dish, roughly 1 TBS
Yep.  Go to the store and get all of this goodness into your cart, into your car, into your home, and into your oven.  Do it.

The best way to get this cream to have lots of flavor, is to let it infuse overnight, at least.  Start off with roasting your garlic for 25-30 minutes in a 400* oven (if you're not sure how to do this, check out my roasted garlic chicken alfredo post, there is a step-by-step guide on how to do this!), and blend this in with the heavy cream.  If you don't want a stronger roasted garlic flavor, you can easily leave the roasted garlic cloves whole, instead of blending it into the cream.  I, however, love garlic, and I think that there can't be "too much" garlic in a dish.  Roasted garlic is a subtle flavor to begin with, so there was no doubt for me to blend it into the cream. 

Once your garlic is in the cream (blended in or not), bring the cream up to barely a simmer over medium low heat, then toss in a large sprig of fresh thyme.  Let it cool, move it to an air tight container, and place it in the fridge for at least overnight.  
When you're ready to build your gratin, start off by sauteing your mushrooms.  I always start my mushrooms off in a dry pan, with no oil or butter, let the mushrooms give off a little bit of their moisture, then add in a little bit of vegetable oil, or a small amount of butter.  Let them cook for another minute or two, until they are golden brown and delicious.  A minute or so before your mushrooms are finished, toss in your minced garlic to lightly cook off the raw garlic flavor.    Don't worry too much about these cooking all of the way through, they're going to cook in the oven!  Once your mushrooms and garlic are finished, preheat your oven to 375*, and prepare your 8"x8" baking dish.  By prepare, I mean grease it.  With butter.  Just give it a quick rub down.  No shame here.

Come on now, how can anything completely coated in butter be bad?  It can't be.  Now the rest of the fun begins.  Peeling.  All.  Of.  Those.  Potatoes.  I'm going to admit, if I wasn't scared of my 3 year old with a vegetable peeler, I would have let her take this job.  She'll be there soon.  Maybe I'll hold off making another gratin until she's old enough!  

I peeled them, two by two, and ran them through my mandolin, more information about what a mandolin is, I have a post coming up very soon!  I love how it gives absolutely uniform slices, for even cooking.
As your potatoes are sliced, dip them into your garlic infused cream, so that each potato gets coated.  Then lay them, slightly overlapping, for a layer or two.  After you have a couple of layers built up, lightly salt the potatoes with about 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt, a small sprinkling of more fresh thyme and 1 TSB of the Parmesan cheese, then lay on about half of your mushroom/garlic mixture.  

Continue adding your potato layers, about another two layers, then put another 1/2 tsp or so of salt, another round of fresh thyme, followed by another TBS of Parmesan cheese, and the rest of the mushrooms.  Top with one more layer of potatoes, then pour your heavy cream over the potatoes, and sprinkle the rest of your Parmesan cheese over your amazing potatoes.

Once your gratin has been assembled, you'll want to compress the layers of the potatoes.  I did this by covering my baking dish with aluminum foil, and gently pressing down all over the top of the potatoes.  Get ready for some really exciting pictures of aluminium foil.

Once your layers have been pressed down, put a few sprigs of fresh thyme on top, then use the same aluminum foil and seal the baking dish, and put it in the oven for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, this is what you will have.  A yummy smelling pale dish. 

Put this back into the oven, uncovered, for another 20-25 minutes, until it is golden browned to your taste, and let it rest for 15-20 minutes, to let it all set up.  Don't worry, this will still be screaming hot when you're ready to serve!

This truly is a lovely dish, both flavor-wise, and presentation-wise.  People assume gratins are a lot of work, or are very expensive to make, and neither of which is true.  I do hope you give this a try, and let me know how you liked it!