Cooking is my passion. As a Scottish-Canadian living in Paris over the last seven years, I have gained a new perspective on cooking. Food is paramount here. Everything about food is important in France – the method of preparation, the order of the courses, the presentation, the way to eat and what wines to accompany the different plates. The marches are dynamic – cheeses, mushrooms, vegetables, fruit, game and seafood change with the seasons. The selection is breathtaking. I still have a lot to learn.
My cuisine is international. I will try any recipe that looks interesting to me. I am not an inventive cook but Paris has given me the opportunity to be more creative. Out of necessity, I have made subtle changes and substitutions to my old favourites to accommodate ingredients that are not readily available. I have tweaked recipes to adapt to changing tastes.
This week’s recipe is a classic French side dish. It is a perfect winter accompaniment to grilled meat.
(Serves 6 – 8)
1.5 kg (3 lbs) potatoes of uniform size, thinly sliced
30 mL (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1 clove garlic, crushed
375 mL - 500mL (1-1/2 cups - 2 cups) milk or half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
60 mL (4 Tbsp) crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)
80 mL - 125 mL (1/3 cup - 1/2 cup) whipping cream
60 mL (¼ cup) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
Generously butter a 23 cm x 30 cm (9” x 12”) heavy shallow baking dish or oval gratin dish of comparable size. Rub the dish with half of the crushed garlic.
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the remaining garlic and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Arrange 1/3 of potato slices in one overlapping layer on the bottom of the dish. Season the layer with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Repeat for two more layers. Press to compact the layers. Pour in milk to just below the top layer of potatoes. Set the baking dish on a larger baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake until the potatoes about 1 hour until tender when pierced with a knife.
Raise the temperature to 210°C (425°F), remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Pour just enough cream to cover the top, dab with crème fraîche and sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes to absorb the cream.