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!
Parisian Gratin for two
Serves a generous 2 or 4 as a side / Takes 1 hour 10 mins
You’ll need: A casserole dish roughly 11 inches by 8 inches
Spray oil or tsp of olive oil
2 garlic cloves crushed
Half a courgette, finely diced
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 (skins on)
80g Gruyere cheese, finely grated
Salt and pepper
French bread and salad leaves to serve
1. Preheat your oven to 200°C/ 160°C fan.
2. Finely slice your potatoes as thin as you can. Use a mandoline if you have one, although I don’t. I also don’t bother to peel my potatoes but you can if you like. Put to one side.
3. In a large pot with a lid, add your oil and on a medium heat cook the crushed garlic, courgette and tomato for a few minutes and then allow to cool slightly (around 5 minutes). Add the 300ml of milk, 1 tsp of herbs de Provence as well as a pinch nutmeg, stir and bring to the boil. Turn the heat right down and carefully submerge the potatoes into the milk (don’t worry if you can’t submerge all the potatoes, they’ll steam when you put the lid on). Cover with a lid and simmer for 5 minutes. Uncover, and roughly turn the potatoes over with a spoon being carful not to break them up. Cover again and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
4. Give the potatoes another turn and take off the heat. Using a large slotted spoon, lift roughly half the potatoes out of the sauce and spread them evenly on the bottom of the casserole dish. (Try and leave as much of the sauce in the pot as you can as you will need to mix the crème fraîche into soon). Season well with salt and pepper and cover with half the grated gruyere.
5. Lift out the rest of the potatoes and spread evenly on top of the cheese. Now turn your attention back to the pot of sauce. Add the crème fraîche and vigorously beat with a whisk (this helps prevent the sauce from splitting). Pour the sauce over the potatoes. Sprinkle with the rest of the gruyere and season well with salt and pepper.
6. Cover with foil and put in the oven for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the top is nice and brown. Serve with French bread, lightly dressed leaves and good bottle of red wine. Well it’s not Parisian without wine silly!
If you’ve had a go at making my gratin or any of my recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale firstname.lastname@example.org