Potato Gratin

Interpreted from Jacques Pepin & Julia Child

(yes I know: no cream, butter, cheese, or breadcrumbs…)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onion, sliced

4-5 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4” slices (peeling is optional)

2 cups (approx) chicken stock (ys, you can use vegetable stock)

salt and pepper

2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 375°.

  1. Heat a large cast iron skillet * over a medium heat.  Add the olive oil, and then the onions. Sauté for 15-20 minutes, or until they start to brown and soften.  You can sauté the onions for longer, even caramelizing them.  This will make everything even more flavorful.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients.  Add enough stock to barely cover the potatoes.  Bring to a simmer.
  3. When the mixture has reached a simmer, remove the skillet from the stovetop, and place in the oven, uncovered.
  4. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the stock s absorbed, and a crust begins to form on the potatoes. If some stock remains in the pan, that’s okay.  Either remove it before serving, or serve it with the liquid.  Both work well.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

* If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, or an oven proof skillet, heat the potatoes on the stovetop in a skillet.  Then, CAREFULLY transfer the hot mixture to an oven proof dish, like a pie plate, to bake in the oven.

Julia et moi (she’ll always have top billing)

There are some days when I wake up and can’t believe I do this for a living.  Saturday was one of those days.  I showed up at Stonewall Kitchen in York, Maine to teach one of my frequent cooking classes there.  But this wasn’t just one of my regular classes there.  This was Julia Child Week!  Stonewall has been doing this for years, and not just to jump on the Julia bandwagon to honor her 100th birthday.  Chefs come in and prepare Julia’s recipes.  So I put together the menu: her shrimp with lemon zest and garlic, swordfish Provençal, a potato gratin, and pots de crème.  It was a blast!

But the one dish on the menu that thrilled me the most is the potato gratin.  I saw Julia and Jacques Pepin do this on tv years ago. As we all know, Jacques Pepin is arguably one of, if not THE, best chefs on the planet.  Not only does he know just about everything, he modestly shows it in such a gracious way.  After Julia, there’s Jacques.  And then everyone else.

Jacques’ potato gratin is one of many from his mother’s kitchen. When most people think of a gratin, they think of cream, butter, cheese, and/or breadcrumbs.  This gratin has none of those.  This interpretation of the gratin is that the crust on top is formed naturally from the heat in the oven.  Not only is this a great potato dish, it’s lighter and more flavorful than most.  Plus, it’s gluten-free.  How great is that?

When you do make it, here’s a hint: while the recipe calls for slicing the potatoes ¼“ thick, you don’t have to get out a mandoline or a tape measure to make them exactly that size.  If they’re a bit thicker, or thinner, just adjust the cooking time.  And to make slicing easier, carefully cut the potato in half length-wise.  That’ll make slicing easier with the flat surface of the potato on the cutting board.

As you-know-who would say, “Bon Apétit!”