Potato Gratin is one of those dishes that is so simple to make and the results wonderful. A perfect gratin is thick, rich and creamy; the potatoes should be soft but not broken up and the sauce thick and tasty.
My friend Jayne Austin Price made this Potato Gratin for me when at her house in France for dinner. She used a technique I have not seen before, and one which ensures properly cooked potatoes, in fact, the method is so simple I can't believe I had not heard of it before. Jayne had discovered the method in a wonderful book, A Table in the Tarn by Orlando Murrin, a well-known British food writer. This recipe, therefore, is based on that one but with its subtle changes, the method though must be credited to Orlando.
The best potatoes for a gratin are floury types such as King Edward or a Maris Piper or any potato recommended for mashing.
- 1kg / 2 lbs floury potatoes (King Edwards or Maris Piper are good)
- 2 cloves garlic (lightly crushed)
- 235ml /8 fl oz milk, (full fat if possible but not essential)
- 235ml /8 fl oz double cream
- Pinch salt
- 125g Gruyere cheese (or aged Cheddar, grated)
- 1 tsp butter + 2 tbsp (for the topping)
- 125g Brie cheese
- Dash salt
- Dash freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 175C / 350F / Gas 4
Peel, rinse and dry the potatoes then slice as thinly as possibly (a mandolin is good for this but a sharp knife works just as well).
Place 1 clove of the garlic, the milk, cream, potatoes, a pinch of salt, pepper and the mace or nutmeg in a large pan.
Bring to a very gentle boil and simmer for a few minutes until the cream is noticeably thicker.
Remove from the heat and add the grated cheese.
Stir until the cheese has melted.
Generously butter an ovenproof dish then rub all over with the remaining lightly crushed clove of garlic.
Pour the potato mixture into the dish, using a spoon gently move the potatoes in the cream mixture making sure all are covered.
Finely slice the Brie into long strips and lay across the top of the gratin. Dot the surface with the extra butter. Season with salt and pepper (potatoes absorb a lot of salt which is also needed to add flavour).
Bake in the preheated oven until the top is bubbly and golden brown, and the potatoes soft when pierced with a sharp knife. If the top is browning too quickly before the potatoes are cooked, lower the heat and cover with a piece of aluminium foil. They should take about 40 minutes in total.
Serve immediately, or if you want to serve the potatoes later leave to go completely cold.
Another way to serve the gratin is to allow it to go cold, and then to use a cutter, cut into rounds. Place the rounds on a greased baking sheet and reheat in a hot oven for approx 10 minutes. The edges left in the dish though are my favourite bits when scraped out with a spoon.