Okay so what’s the difference between a gratin and potato dauphinoise? Basically nothing, although I’ve always identified dauphinoise as a side dish and gratin as a main but essentially, they’re the same. Layers of finely sliced potato cooked in lashings of double cream and cheese, err yes please. And who do we have to thank for this? The French of course. I wish I was French, I’d love to eat cheese, drink wine and wear black clothes draped over my slender bird like body… Not quite sure where that came from.
Anyway, unfortunately I’m not French so literally can’t bring myself to pour a whole pint of double cream over my dinner so decided to make a slightly healthier version, based on a gratin I ate in Paris back in February.
I was a bit sceptical about going to Paris at first because any pleasant memories I had, had been marred by me picking ham out of every meal on a school trip once. However, it appeared Paris was no longer the veggie-phobic city it once was.
I ordered the only meat-free option available which was a kind of mixed vegetable gratin. I didn’t like the sound of this, a bowl of vegetables covered in cheese, ‘great’ (said in an unenthusiastic tone) but as usual, I was wrong. A handful of diced vegetables formed the base and was topped with gooey, cheesy, buttery potatoes, yum! We scooped, scoffed and quaffed the night away before waddling back to our hotel feeling like we were going to die (in a good way). Bon appetite!
Serves 2 / Hands on time 40 mins / Total time 1 hr 10 mins / V* Gf
You’ll need: Casserole oven-proof dish approx 25cm x 20cm and large cooking pot with a lid
1 tsp of olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
½ courgette, finely diced
½ tsp sea salt flakes
1 tomato, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
Pinch of ground nutmeg
300ml semi-skimmed milk
200g Crème fraîche
750g potatoes thinly sliced
120g Gruyere*, Emmental or mature cheddar, grated (you can use any cheese you like really as long as you can grate it – the stronger the cheese the better)
French bread and salad leaves to serve
1. Finely slice the potatoes as thin as you can and put to one side. I tend to leave the skins on but you can peel them if you prefer.
2. In a large pot with a lid, add the oil and place over a medium heat. Once warm, add the garlic, courgette, tomato and salt and cook for 5 mins. Take off the heat and cool for a few minutes. Add the 300ml of milk, 1 tsp of herbs de Provence and a pinch of nutmeg. Stir and bring to the boil before turning the heat down to medium low. Carefully submerge the potatoes in the milk (don’t worry if you can’t submerge them all, they will be cooked by the steam). Cover with a lid and simmer for 5 mins. Uncover, and roughly turn the potatoes over with a spoon, being careful not to break them up too much. Cover again and simmer for a further 5 mins. Preheat an oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7.
3. Remove from the heat and using a slotted spoon, lift half the potatoes out of the sauce (leaving as much sauce as possible behind) and spread evenly in the casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper and cover with half the grated cheese.
4. Lift the rest of the potatoes out (again leaving as much sauce behind as possible) and spread evenly on top of the cheese. Put to one side. Add the crème fraîche to the pot of remaining sauce and vigorously beat with a whisk (this prevents the sauce from splitting). Pour the sauce over the potatoes. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and season with salt and pepper.
5. Bake in a hot oven for 20-30 mins and the gratin is bubbling up the sides. Switch the oven to a hot grill setting and grill for 2-3 mins or until the top is golden brown. Leave to sit for 5 mins before serving with French bread, lightly dressed leaves and good bottle of red wine. Well it’s not Parisian without wine!
If you’ve had a go at making any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me now @corrieheale and tag your recipe pictures using #corriesrabbitfood.
Gf– Gluten free
*Gruyere cheese is not vegetarian.