(Update - we tried this recipe a little differently, read about the tweaks here)
With the turning of the seasons there is nothing quite so satisfying as a nice gratin. There are a lot of recipes out there but this one worked like a charm for me. What makes it different from the other gratin savoyard recipes you'll find on the intrawebs?
1. It is not written in French (and is generally more descriptive)
2. It does not call for crème fraîche
3. It is optimized for 4 people, not 6.
4. It calls for onion - not a lot, but some. If you object to onions, leave them out.
(Note - this is a slight riff on the Savoie classic. Take the cheese out and you get a gratin dauphinois, whaddyaknow.)
Serves 4 - Total time 70 minutes in the oven with 5-10 minutes rest time
Eight (8) Yukon Gold potatoes, each one a little smaller than your fist
One (1) medium yellow onion
1/3 pound Comté cheese (Gruyere works too)
A small carton (half pint) of heavy cream
1 cup of milk (2% is OK)
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves
Butter (salted or unsalted, doesn't matter)
An 8"x13" pyrex baking dish or equivalent
0. Pre-heat your oven to 390F with a rack right smack in the middle of the oven.
1. Butter the pyrex baking dish well - don't be shy and rub that stick all over the place.
2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices about 1/8" (an eighth of an inch) thick and drop them into some water. The goal is to rinse as much starch off as possible.
3. Slice the onion into very thin rounds.
4. Grate the cheese onto a flat surface - make sure you don't compress the cheese together after you've grated it, because that will make it difficult to spread it later.
5. Split the garlic cloves and carve out any bitter greens from the inside; mince finely and distribute evenly on the bottom of the pyrex dish.
6. Dry the potato slices.
7. Create a layer of potato in the pyrex dish - no overlapping.
8. Sprinkle the potato layer with salt and ground pepper (don't be shy).
9. Splash with some heavy cream - think "dollops" and make sure they're distributed evenly. Save a few tablespoons of cream for later.
10. Sprinkle some cheese, not too thickly, over the entire layer.
11. Spread a few circles of onion, not as densely as the potatoes, but evenly across the surface of the layer.
12. Repeat steps 7-11 until you've run out of potatoes. You should be able to do about four layers, ending with the cheese.
13. Pour the cup of milk in gently. No sense making more of a mess.
14. Bake for 55 minutes (really).
15. Remove from oven.
16. Beat the egg with what's left of the heavy cream, then pour evenly over the still-bubbling surface of the potatoes.
17. Return to oven and cook for another 15 minutes or until your resolve gives out.
18. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
19. Serve with salad and vinaigrette, and a sturdy Rhone wine. This is a nice dish to serve "family style" right at the table, because it looks so terrific out of the oven. That and you and your guests will want to pick at what's left in the dish at the end of the meal as you all make happy noises.
I was too light on the salt between each layer - my recommendation to not be shy came from this.
When you put the gratin in the oven you may worry that the third and fourth layers are not covered with liquid. Don't worry. Everything settles during cooking, and none of the gratin was dry when I served it.
If you like onions, add more. If you don't like onions, don't add any. Funny how that works out.
Let me know what you think.