Archive for March, 2019

Irish Potato Gratin

March 14, 2019

Cheddar and Parsley Gratin

When you go to Ireland, you’ll find the best potatoes. Beloved tuber, the mainstay of many culinary traditions, the humble potato has taken a bad rap of late. I hear people say “eat no white food”, avoid carbs and the precious potato is unwelcome in the keto community.  I read all this and recall the hundreds of years that the lowly spud sustained generations across northern Europe and South America. The potato is a treasure trove of goodness, high in potassium, vitamin C and energy. In the right climate conditions, it’s not difficult to grow and produces abundantly. It’s comforting food; easy to digest, and when feeling a bit under the weather, nothing sounds better than a warm, boiled potato with salt and butter.

gratin baking dishes

Granted the poor potato has been tortured into submission for the junk food industry. They’re soaked, dried, fried and heavily salted to produce to produce those tempting, perfect French fries, chips, tots and such. This not only decimates good food, but presents wasted calories and money for the consumer.

Unfortunately it’s not easy to buy good potatoes in supermarkets. Most potatoes in our markets have been washed to look perfect, stored in conditions that are too cool and have lost a lot of flavor. The best potatoes are organically or at least locally grown, and packed with some dirt still on in paper bags. Excess dirt may be brushed off but washing potatoes removes their natural keeping quality, plastic suffocates, and storage that is too cool turns the starch to sugar. Definitely do not store potatoes in the fridge.

gratin ingredients

Once you find some exceptional spuds (the potato’s informal name came from the original digging tool, a spudde), enjoy them in moderation and keep the preparations simple.

We’re close to St. Patrick’s Day and need a potato dish to serve a crowd for a church supper. With its rolling green meadows, Ireland is a great dairying country, making a gratin a good choice. We’ll add fresh parsley for the green, use cheddar, the common Irish cheese, and keep the potatoes moist with milk and cream. This is something we can put together in the afternoon and serve in the evening. A potato gratin can be a main dish in itself with a green vegetable or a salad, but it also complements roast chicken, sausages or a braise. For the luck of the Irish, remember St. Paddy and enjoy a potato.

Cheddar and Parsley Potato Gratin

ready to bake
dish too small

1 lb. russet or baking potatoes (generous 3 cups peeled and sliced)

2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 large clove garlic, chopped

1 ½ oz. grated white cheddar cheese (½ cup)

4 fl. oz. milk (½ cup)*

2 fl. oz. cream (1/4 cup)*

1 oz. butter (2 tablespoons)

Salt and (white) pepper

*Or use 6 fl. oz (3/4 cup) half and half

Butter a 6-cup baking dish. Preheat oven to 425º or 400º convection.

catch the run over drips

Heat the milk, cream and butter almost to boiling.

Reserve ¼ of the cheese. Layer the sliced potatoes, parsley, garlic and remaining cheese in the buttered dish, adding salt and pepper as you go.  Pour over the hot milk mixture, sprinkle on the last of the cheese and pop the dish into the preheated oven.

(If you use a baking dish smaller than 6 cups (like I did in the photo), you will need to place a baking sheet underneath to catch any drips that will smoke up your oven.)

Bake for 30-45 minutes or until nicely browned and the potatoes test tender when pierced with a fork. Allow the gratin to settle for 10 minutes out of the oven. Serves 4.