Simple and very rich! These deliciously soft and creamy potatoes are worth the splurge on any special occasion. This dish is full of cream, and there's no acceptable substitute. For a gratin to make your guests say, "Wow!, I have to have more," and make you think, "Oh no, I hope they don't eat the whole thingI want some for breakfast," you need real cream, and lots of it. Originally from my paternal (Polish) grandma, this version of potato gratin contains no cheese which, she said, "would compete with the delicate flavor of the leeks."
Place oven rack at the lowest possible position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Generously butter a baking dish of appropriate size that the gratin will have a thickness of 1 to 1 1/2 inches (3-quart casserole or rectangular baking dish).
In a saucepan, heat up cream with nutmeg and garlic, if using.
Clean leeks and roughly chop. Peel potatoes, if desired (I leave the peel on), and cut into thin 1/8-inch thick slices, no thicker. Make sure that the potato slices are all of the same thickness.
In the prepared gratin dish, layer potato slices in an overlapping pattern, sprinkle evenly with leeks, seasoning with salt and pepper, as you go. Remove cream from heat and pour a little over potatoes and leeks. Repeat, making more layers. Place gratin on a foil-lined baking sheet located on the lowest oven rack and bake, uncovered for about 40 to 45 minutes* or until the top is golden brown, cream has thickened** and potatoes are tender when a knife is inserted. Let rest at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
*Note: Remove from the oven the moment you see any butterfat appearing around the edges of the dish.
**Note: Cream will set up more as it cools.
Make Ahead Note: The gratin can be made early in the day; reheat in a 325 degree oven.
Makes 6 to 8 side-dish servings.
While a simple dish to prepare, there are some important keys to making a truly great potato gratin:
(1) Use Yukon Gold potatoes, they're a good balance between being starchyso they get soft and creamy when cooked, and being waxyso they keep their shape.
(2) Potato slices must be really uniform and really thinuniform because you want them all to cook at the same rate and be evenly tender, and thin because thin is the key to this dish. Thin means lots of slices, lots of slices means lots of surfaces for starch to come out of and for cream to go into. This is what makes the texture so wonderful. To make slicing easier, use a mandoline or food processor if you have one.
(3) Potatoes should not be soaked in water at any time nor washed after slicing. Washing removes most of the starch, which is needed to thicken the cream.
(4) Use creamwhen a milk product is cooked with an acid, potatoes are quite acid, it can curdle unless the butterfat content is 25% or higher.
(5) Using freshly grated nutmeg is key to any recipe calling for nutmeg. If you don't have whole nutmeg to grate, get some!!!
(6) Do not cook gratin in too hot an oven or for too long, doing so will cause the cream to separate and the butterfat to break out. Watch for small bubbles, thick cream, and just the first few drops of yellow butterfat appearing around the edges of the pan. Take the dish out of the oven the moment you see any butterfat...
(7) Do not serve gratin right awaygive it a good 15-minute rest; it will still be hot, but the cream will form a more clingy cloak around the potatoes.
Variation: Put a delicate layer of finely shredded Gruyere cheese on top of the dish before baking. Don't be tempted to load up on the cheese, if cheese is too coarse or if the layer of it is too thick, it can get tough and separate from the potatoes.
This dish makes delicious leftovers, cold or with the chill taken off in the oven or a microwave. I enjoy them, at room temperature, with a simple green salad and a fairly sharp vinaigrette.
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|Serving Size: 1 Serving (198g)|
|Recipe Makes: 6|
|Calories from Fat: 134 (52%)|
|Amt Per Serving||% DV|
|Total Fat 14.9g||20 %|
|Saturated Fat 9.2g||46 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 4.2g|
|Polyunsanturated Fat 0.6g|
|Cholesterol 54.3mg||17 %|
|Sodium 219.4mg||8 %|
|Potassium 675.1mg||18 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 28.5g||8 %|
|Dietary Fiber 3.5g||14 %|
|Sugars, other 25g|
|Protein 4g||6 %|
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Calories per serving: 258
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