So today I had planned to share a recipe with you that features my favorite ingredient of the moment: yep, you guessed it, Berries. Ripe, fresh, jewel-toned, bursting with flavor berries. I have two things that I am just dying to share with you... But I'm not really feeling it today. You know how that goes? (Just be patient, give me few more days; the sun will come out and we can all be in berry heaven. I promise.) Today, I am taking issue with this crappy weather we have been having.
(Disclaimer: if you are from the Northwest, Midwest, or East Coast, and will be offended by a So Cal girl's petty complaints skip to the end and just make the gratin.)
All day today, all day Saturday, and all Sunday, the sun did not come out. A dreary cover of clouds blocked any beautiful rays of sun from peeking through the haze. I know, I know... this might be a description of daily life in other cities, but it is a rare occurrence here in sunny San Diego. Sure, those of us from Southern California know that "June gloom" is right around the corner, but do the gray skies we experience while the rest of the country heads into summer have to come so soon? I mean really Mother Nature, get your act together, it is only May! I know you are probably shaking your head right now, or rolling your eyes (or likely doing both). Trust me, I am well aware that I am utterly and completely spoiled by the climate here. I grew up in Northern Ohio, so I am no stranger to bad weather, but that is why I moved to San Diego. Having lived here for almost five years now, my blood has thinned, and I have apparently become a pansy when it comes to tolerating cold temperatures. It happens. So can I order up a little sun here?
So back to the food issue, this gloomy day put me in no mood for sharing bright, summery berries as I had planned. Rather, I am craving something warm, creamy, and comforting. I want a dish that will make me feel like it is wrapping a warm blanket around me when I eat it. And this gratin is it. This recipe for Gratin Dauphinois is from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde, and it is packed with cream and butter and loads of cheese. I also added some minced thyme and garlic for a little flavor undertone. Mmmm... all these things make food taste wonderful. When you pull this out of the oven, the golden gruyere crust and the bubbling filling underneath is so satisfying. A bite of this is rich and filling, and just the cure for gray skies and cool days.
So to keep it short and sweet, when you need a little pick-me-up on a sunless day or just want food that feels like home, make this gratin.
Adapted from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde, pg. 160
2 large white potatoes
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a medium casserole dish with a small pat of butter. Set aside.
Peel potatoes and slice very thinly, using a mandoline, food processor, or box grater. Wash potatoes in several batches of cool water to remove most of the excess starch. Drain potatoes and dry them throughly by pressing them with an absorbent kitchen towel.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine half-and-half and butter and bring to a boil. Add dry potatoes, salt, garlic, and thyme. Reduce heat and gently simmer for about 8 minutes.
Transfer potato cream mixture to the buttered casserole dish, spreading evenly, then evenly sprinkle gruyere cheese over the top. Use all of it, and add extra if your casserole dish is wide-you want a nice layer of cheese that will get crispy as it bakes.
Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until top is bubbly and golden brown. Serve immediately.