The classic potato gratin, from eastern France
1 quart milk
3 large garlic cloves, smashed
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
8 medium low-starch potatoes
unsalted butter for buttering the gratin dish
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
1 1/2 pints heavy cream
1. Place the milk and garlic in a large, heavy saucepan. Season with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 450°F.
3. Peel the potatoes, and slice thinly on a mandoline or plastic vegetable slicer. Place potato slices in hot simmering milk, and cook very gently for 10 minutes or so, or just until the potatoes begin to soften.
4. Immediately drain the potatoes in a colander (reserve milk for another use, if desired). Butter an oval gratin dish that measures about 12 inch x 10 inch. Place half the potato slices in the dish, neatly arranged, making sure to sprinkle every single layer of potatoes with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg. When half the potatoes are placed, cover with half of the grated cheese. Place the second half of the potato slices, again seasoning with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Top with the remaining half of the cheese, evenly spread out. Pour the cream over and around the potatoes.
5. Cover the gratin loosely (with a lid or with aluminum foil). Place in the oven, and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the cream has cooked away. Remove the lid, and place the gratin briefly under the broiler until it's brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.
This is the classic potato gratin, from eastern France, and from every self-respecting bistro anywhere in France or America. There are as many recipes for it as there are chefs. We are partial to the following one, howeverwhich cooks the potato slices in milk, draining the milk away, and then combines the potatoes with cream in the gratin dish. Other keys to quality are the thinness of the potato slices (as thin as possible), and the degree of doneness of the slices after the first cooking (make sure they're still slightly firm). Serve this gratin with a simple roast chicken, and a bottle of Beaujolais, and you'll feel like you're wearing a beret and smoking Gauloises. Serves 6 as a side dish