As soon as the weather turns a bit cooler, approaching fall and winter, I get the urge to make a potato gratin dish. This is a favorite in our house. It is a bit indulgent with the cream and cheese, but so good by itself and pairs well with other vegetables and meat.
This version is made with potatoes and butternut squash. I had just made my butternut soup recipe, and had leftover squash. It seemed like a good use to slice the squash thinly and add it to the potato gratin. The squash not only added beautiful color, but also added a sweetness in contrast to the rich potatoes and cheese.
Gratins in general are most often made with just potatoes and usually cheese, the standard cream or milk, and seasoning. I often use other vegetables that can be sliced thinly like the potatoes, such as sweet potatoes, turnips, or rutabaga. All are good. Cheeses can also be varied using parmesan, cheddar, gruyere, or a mix of whatever you have available. Put it all together and bake at the temperature of choice if you happen to be roasting a chicken or braising something fabulous. The temperature can range from 325 up to 425, with the length of cooking time adjusted accordingly. If using a high temperature and the top gets too brown, simply cover with foil and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender and the cream has thickened. Use the recipe below as your guide, adjusting to your preference and whims.
Versatile Potato Gratin
2-3 pounds potatoes, Russets or Yukon Golds
2 cups heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter for preparing the casserole dish
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a food processor with the slicing disk, or a mandolin, or just a sharp knife, thinly slice the potatoes. If using Russets, I scrub and peel these potatoes. Yukons have thin skin so I usually just scrub these really well and do not peel.
Place the heavy cream and the minced garlic into a small sauce pan. Gently warm the cream and garlic for a about 5 minutes, but do not boil. Turn off the heat. Add in the fresh thyme leaves.
Prepare a 10-inch ceramic or Pyrex glass casserole dish by generously buttering the sides and bottom of the dish. Begin to build layers of potatoes by placing a layer of the thinly sliced potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Ladle a quarter of the cream/garlic/thyme mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese over the potatoes. Continue building with 3 additional layers. For the top layer, add all of the remaining potatoes, making this your prettiest layer, using all of the cream and the remaining cheese.
Place the casserole dish into the hot oven, baking for 45 - 50 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, the cream has thickened, and the gratin is bubbly and golden brown. Let stand for 10 - 20 minutes before serving.
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