Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas Special: Potatoes Au Gratin



Hi guys! This might be my last post for this year and predictably, I wanted to do a Christmas special.

I came out with back-to-back posts at the start of this month so I felt a little burned out on the blogging front. I turned to my trusted culinary sidekick (aka husband 😆) and asked him to take over the Christmas special. I had a few ideas in mind - I was thinking of something on the lines of festive gingerbread cookies or a brioche bread pudding. I shared this thought with him but did not receive the kind of enthusiastic response I was expecting. 

A few days later, he informed me that he was going to make a savory casserole kind of dish. Now I know that when I ask for a favor, I need to refrain from being an ungrateful jerk even when I'm not on board with how the favor is being executed 😄 In general, I trust his judgement and so I decided to go with whatever he had in mind. He told me that he was going to make a Potatoes Au Gratin and that it would contain caramelized onions, fresh herbs, bechamel sauce and Gruyere cheese. We love all forms of potatoes in our house and it sounded pretty good to me. I figured that this dish will complement a traditional Christmas lunch or dinner especially if it was served as a side dish with a meat-based entrée. 

That being said, if I were to make this dish for a dinner party at home, I'd probably serve it alongside an asparagus frittata and Mediterranean salad, washed down with raspberry lemonade and end the meal with a simple dessert such as chocolate brownies topped with vanilla ice-cream. 

Please do not ask me to put a vegan spin on this dish because I wouldn't know where to begin! 😝


The Au Gratin turned out yummy! We are all-out carbs and cheese people here 😀 The kids enjoyed it too. I just love the nuanced flavor of gruyere. It opens with full bodied fruity tones, the flavors slowly journey towards an earthy nuttiness with a soft finale to finish. The inclusion of gruyere elevated this dish from what could have been a bland and boring cheesy baked potatoes to an extravagant and extra-hearty side dish. The potatoes were fork-tender, creamy yet retaining their shape and acting as a perfect canvas for the the cheese, the caramelized onions and the creamy and subtly flavored bechamel sauce. The parsley added some color to an otherwise not-very-attractive dish.

I've got to start wrapping up this post you guys coz I have lots of stuff to do. Tomorrow, I'm off to India for the year-end holidays. As much as I love to cook, I'm delighted that my kitchen will be closed for 3 weeks 😆 I've already drafted a shopping list, planned to spend quality time with family, scheduled a list of catch-ups with close friends and listed a bunch of restaurants that I want to check out. I know it is going to be amazing and I can't wait for the madness to begin!

Advance wishes for a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year folks! Handing over the reigns of the blog to my husband now.


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Greetings readers,

I don't even remember the last time I was here. I must be back here on the blog after a gap of more than a year. It hasn't been intentional though. I've been cooking as often as I usually do - mostly on weekends but I've mostly stuck to what I know and haven't been experimenting that much.

Megha wanted to me make a dessert in time for Christmas but desserts aren't my forte and so I wasn't confident of pulling it off. With time ticking away, I settled on a savory side dish thus reeling myself into my comfort zone.

We usually make roast or mashed potatoes at home as part of a hearty English-style breakfast on weekends. For this blog post, I wanted to do something a bit different. Au gratin potatoes are one of the most popular casseroles of all time. Tender, fluffy potatoes are bathed in a rich and creamy cheese sauce, then baked in a hot oven until bubbly and crisp. The terms scalloped potatoes and au gratin potatoes are often used interchangeably, but technically the difference between the two lies in the fact that scalloped potatoes should not have cheese. Scalloped potatoes are also cut thicker and stacked higher than au gratin potatoes.

Gruyere is a delicious medium-hard cheese that has a nutty taste and hint of sweetness. It has excellent melting properties and so I chose it along with creamy bechamel, fresh thyme and caramelized onions to envelop the potatoes in which I knew my family would like very much.


I'm glad I made this dish. We now have a new style of potatoes that we can enjoy. Making this dish does take some time but with a little planning and prep, you won't feel like you are slaving away in the kitchen.

See you next year!

Potatoes Au Gratin 

Preparation time: 20 min; Cooking time: 1.5 hours
Total time: Under 2 hours
Serves: 6-8
Recipe category: Western/Side dish
Recipe level: Easy

Ingredients:
6-7 Russet potatoes, washed, peeled & evenly sliced 
2 medium onions, thinly sliced 
3 tbsp olive oil + more as required
300 - 400 ml stock (of your choice)
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
A pinch of sugar 
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
3 tbsp unsalted butter + extra for greasing 
100 gm plain flour
100 ml thickened cream
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped 
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp paprika
1 entire bulb of garlic, roasted 
50 gm Parmesan cheese 
100 gm Gruyere cheese 
1 tbsp fresh parsley, for garnish 

Method:

To roast the garlic:
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (200 deg C).
2. Peel away the loose, papery outer skin of the garlic and cut off the top 1/4th of it to nicely expose the cloves inside.
3. Get a piece of aluminum foil and set your bulb onto it. 
4. Drizzle the cut surface with 1 tbsp good quality olive oil, and wrap the foil up around the bulb to seal it in a nice tight package. 
5. Set these foil packages on a baking tray, dish, or muffin tin. 
6. Pop these into in the centre of the oven and depending on your oven, roast for about 40-50 minutes



To caramelize the onions:
1. While the garlic is roasting, caramelize onions in olive oil on low heat stirring occasionally 


2. 5 minutes into the process sprinkle a dash of salt and sugar

3. 10 minutes into the process add a splash of stock

4. After 15 minutes add freshly cracked black pepper and 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar


5. Continue to cook for about 15 minutes till done


Make the bechamel sauce: 
1. Heat 3 tbsp of butter.


2. Add 100 gm of plain flour and constantly whisk till it turns golden brown.


3. Then add in enough stock to make a silky sauce. Add 100 ml of thickened cream. Add 1 tbsp of fresh thyme, 1 tsp of English mustard, 1 tsp of paprika, roasted garlic and salt to taste.


4. If the sauce is too thin, cook it a little more till it thickens up. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it with milk. Just when you are ready to assemble the casserole, add in 50 gm of Parmesan cheese and mix well.

Prepare the potatoes:
Wash, scrub and peel the Russet potatoes. Slice the potatoes thinly into around 3mm  slices. You can either use a knife or preferably a mandoline slicer. 



To assemble the casserole and bake:
1. Butter a casserole dish and start the layering process. Add a layer of potato slices, season (only if necessary), spoon some caramelized onions on top, sprinkle a layer of gruyere cheese and spoon some bechamel sauce. 





2. Repeat this layering process till all the ingredients are used up. The top should ideally have the potato slices lightly sprinkled gruyere. Bake in a preheated oven at 210 deg C for 1 hour. Once it comes out of the oven, let it stand for 10-15 mins. Garnish with fresh parsley. 



Notes:

  • The best potatoes to use for au gratin potatoes are russets; they have the most starch and make the creamiest sauce
  • If you are slicing the potatoes by hand, make sure they can as uniform as possible otherwise they will not cook evenly
  • You may be tempted to cut calories by using half & half or milk in place of the cream. Please don’t! This is one of those recipes that requires heavy cream in order to thicken up
  • If you don't want to use gruyere, you can use a combination of shredded mozzarella or sharp cheddar with authentic parmigiano reggiano
  • You can use rosemary instead of thyme


Cheers,
A


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