Hasselback Potato Gratin
I love this potato dish. Let me count the ways. Delicious. People pleaser. The LBD of the side dish world – it dresses up everything in its midst with little to no extra effort or adornment. “Make ahead” is its middle name. You get the picture.
The story: Last weekend I did a “one night only” Chopped-style cooking party for a dear friend’s 50th birthday. This is when I struggle a bit with menu planning. “Chick food” is what I do naturally – grains, veggies, unexpected spices and herbs – Kale Crostini, as an example – elicits moans and groans from the gal pals. The guest of honor and half the guests at this gathering were male. Enter the “guy food library.” Cliche as it sounds, meat and potatoes steal their hearts and minds every time. My famous Stuffed Flank Steak was a no brainer. Potatoes for twenty-two to complement, and they must be a good make ahead as we transition from the group made appetizers to the main meal without a pause. I’ve always wanted to try Hasselback’s, individual potatoes that look like mini, cheesy accordians. I wasn’t sure how they’d work as a make ahead: Would the uncooked potatoes brown? What would the texture be like when reheated? From my cooking classes many of you know how much I love gratins, fancy french word for good ole Midwestern casserole, at this time of year. Layer upon layer of thinly sliced veggies that remain distinct yet somehow meld together. Gratins reheat well and look great on the plate. A supporting player to the stars. Gratins are lacking in one thing – not enough crunch. Literally turning the dish on its side overcomes the gratin’s shortcoming and then some. While held together with cream and cheese, this dish is remarkably light on the palate. A second bonus.
Prep may sound intimidating until you break it down. A food processor (ahem… out of the styro packaging and onto your counter to make it more convenient to use) makes slicing like a pro a non-issue. Yes, there is a learning curve and a bit of time involved putting it together. Instead of layering the potato slices on their flat side, you create mini cream-coated stacks of sliced spuds and place them on their sides in your baking dish. It’s a visual delight to see it all come together. And you can do this on your clock, not that of your event.
If a gratin is part of your traditional holiday line-up, consider turning things on their side. We eat with our eyes before our mouth. You’ll be amazed how this one small change in visual presentation improves spirits, and also yields more crunchy potato.
You know one of the dishes that will be on my holiday table this year. How about yours?
Hasselback Potato Gratin
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bundle fresh thyme
pinch cayenne pepper
3 ounces grated Gruyere cheese
2 ounces finely grated Parmesan
3 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled as you choose
- Get ready. Preheat oven to 400F. Butter baking dish and one side of foil with 1 tablespoon butter. Set aside remaining butter.
- Infuse cream with flavor. Place cream, stock, wine, garlic, thyme and cayenne in saucepan. Season to taste with salt. Bring mixture to a boil and off heat. Cover and let mixture steep 15 – 20 minutes. Remove thyme and garlic.
- Combine the cheeses. Mix the gruyere and Parmesan in a large bowl. Set aside 1/3 cup.
- Prep the veggies. Place potatoes in large bowl with most of cheese. Add cream mixture, 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch freshly ground black pepper to potatoes; toss well and set aside to soften potatoes a bit. Hands are your go-to cooking tool here.
- Put it all together. Pick up a handful of potatoes, organizing them into a neat stack, and lay them in the casserole dish with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing potatoes in casserole, working around the perimeter and into the center until all potatoes have been added. Dependent on the shape of your baking dish, side-by-side rows may be easier to assemble. Same great taste either way. Potatoes should be very tightly packed. If necessary, slice additional potato, coat with cream mixture, and add to casserole. Pour excess cream/cheese mixture evenly over potatoes until the mixture comes half way up the sides of the casserole. You may not need all excess liquid. Scatter small pieces of remaining 2 tablespoons butter among potatoes.
- Bake. Cover dish with foil, buttered side down, and bake for 60 minutes, or until potatoes are completely tender throughout. Remove foil, Increase oven temperature to 450F, remove foil and bake another 30 minutes, until top is golden brown. (Make ahead note: Gratin can be cooled to room temperature, covered and chilled for up to one day. Bring back to room temperature and gently reheat at 350F until desired temperature to serve.)
- Rest and serve. Let rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.