Let’s get one thing out of the way – these are full-on decadent so be sure to hurl any lame excuses or lamentations for a carb-free of fat-free dish out the proverbial window.
We have already established that these are decidedly not good for your waistline, but if you partake of a small amount, a wee bit of decadence and living on the edge is always a good thing!
Everything that is 60’s is making a herculean comeback, so it stands to reason that this lavishly and applauded, sumptuous potato dish is landing on many a restaurant menu.
The literal translation of boulangère is potatoes from the baker, because poor classes in France in the early ages didn’t have any ovens and would put together a lamb roast surrounded by vegetables and potatoes and the local baker would bake the dish as the family gathered in Church, then to be collected for a hearty Sunday lunch.
Gratin is the French word for preparing a dish that is placed under the broiler or a very hot oven to develop a stunningly delectable crispy crust on top. It is also paired with the word “gratte”which means to scrape the crunchy and brown bits around the oven dish. The gratin is developed by a topping of cheeses and sometimes breadcrumbs.
There are similarities between potatoes Dauphinoise, boulangère and gratin, and many confuse them often. All are thinly sliced, typically what works best is the thickness of a coin and for best results a mandolin is recommended to achieve the same evenness in the cuts.
Boulangère – Sometimes are pre-cooked (typically boiled in cream/milk/chicken stock) for about 5-6 minutes, then baked in layers with some onions and have NO cheese topping only butter.
Au Gratin – The potatoes are also lightly cooked in liquid, same technique as for boulangère, then layered in an oven dish with butter, cheese and breadcrumbs for topping. Sometimes a béchamel-like sauce is made to pour over the potatoes in the baking dish.
Dauphinoise– They from the French Dauphinè region, where their gratin dishes are famous for. They are sliced in the same manner and layered raw in the baking dish that has been rubbed with a raw garlic clove around the edges and then a layering of potatoes with cream, butter salt, pepper, and baked in the oven without the cheese topping. The starch in the raw potato as it cooks makes them thick and creamy.
Dauphine potatoes– are completely different to any of the techniques named above. Dauphin was the name given to the eldest son of the Kings of France and the Dauphine was his wife. These potato creations are in fact small, light and airy croquettes, that are fried to perfection.
Potatoes are the quintessential ingredient in any culture and spud-oven dishes are as varied as the cook selecting the ingredients. So, pull up your big girl panties or boxer shorts as the case may be, because au gratin, Dauphinoise or Boulangère are without a doubt a swoon-worthy dish that will be sure to have your guests’ eyeballs rolling to the back of their heads!
Oh, and one last note. Am sure you are all wondering if scalloped potatoes fall under the same category – not so. But that my friends, as Rudyard Kipling said – therein lies another story.
Huge side note.The potato selection is very important; don’t use Russet potatoes as they will disintegrate. The Yukon Gold are sweet and cook evenly remaining intact, hence the beauty of scooping it out and looking like an apple or pear tart with the slivers of potatoes. Also, soak the sliced potatoes in water for about 30 minutes as that diminishes the starch and then dry them well with a kitchen towel before assembling the dish.
PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 375F
1 LB of Yukon Gold potatoes – sliced evenly with a mandolin about the size of a coin
1 large oven baking container
1 garlic clove
1 cup of low sodium chicken stock
1 cup of heavy cream
1 stick of unsalted butter
Kosher and fresh cracked white pepper
Wash and dry the potatoes leaving their skin. Slice them thinly the size of a coin. Soak the slices for about 30 minutes in lightly salted water. Remove and dry well with a kitchen towel.
Prepare the baking dish. Rub a smashed and peeled garlic clove around the edges and then butter the dish thoroughly. Melt the stick of butter and mix with the heavy cream and the small amount of chicken stock chicken stock.
Start by placing a layer of the raw potatoes in an even pattern, drizzle some of the prepared liquid and dot with butter, seasoning every layer with salt and pepper. Repeat until the dish is full to the top and finish with some more pads of butter. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes covered with foil. Remove the foil and cook about 20 more minutes, till the top of the potatoes are a golden brown and they are fork tender.
PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 375F
1 LB of Yukon Gold potatoes
6 TBSP of unsalted butter
2 large sweet onions – peeled and sliced thinly
2 TBSP of olive oil
3 TBSP chicken stock
¼ cup of half and half (half milk – half cream)
2 TBSP heavy cream
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper (preferably white)
In a skillet with high sides, add about 2 TBSP butter, the olive oil and sweat the onions with a pinch of salt until they are a little golden but not brown or fully cooked. Drain reserving the oils.
Butter a baking dish thoroughly and place a layer of the potato slices, top with some of the cooked onion. Keep adding layers of potatoes and onions seasoning each layer with salt and pepper. Whisk the chicken stock with the ½ and ½ and the heavy cream and add it over the potato layers. Dot the top with additional butter and bake for about 30 minutes covered with foil – remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes till brown on the top till fork tender.
Add a small amount of chopped fresh thyme or rosemary on top of the layers dotting with additional pads of butter in between.
AU GRATIN POTATOES
PREHEAT OVEN TO 400F
There are many variations of au gratin, some with a béchamel cheese sauce and some without. Either way you make them, they are decadence personified.
1 LBS of Yukon Gold potatoes sliced 1/8’ thick
½ stick of unsalted butter
½ cup of finely chopped onions
1 garlic clove – minced finely
2 cups of whole milk – warmed so it’s not cold
1/8 TBSP fresh grated nutmeg
3 TBSP of APF all-purpose flour
½ cup of shredded gruyere cheese
½ cup of sharp cheddar cheese
2 TBSP chopped chives
1 TBSP fresh rosemary
Heat up the milk being careful it doesn’t overflow. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook stirring constantly for about 2 minutes to cook the flour. Gradually add the milk in small doses as you want to make sure they sauce doesn’t get too runny. You want it the consistency of melting chocolate. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and whisk. Incorporate the grated cheeses and allow them to melt.
Butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish. Layer some potatoes in overlapping rows. Then pour half the cheese sauce and the chives and rosemary spreading it evenly. Place another layer of potatoes and some more cheese sauce. Finish with another layer of potatoes and cheese sauce. Sprinkle more gruyere and cheddar cheese on top. Cover them with some foil and bake them for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and allow the cheeses on top to become brown and bubbly.