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Potato and Vegetable Gratin

Potato and Vegetable Gratin

I love scalloped potatoes but I hate peeling, slicing thinly, and then layering them before cooking. Just a little bit too much hard work. I found this recipe in Bon Appetit using just potatoes, onions and celery root (known as celeriac in England - I don't care for the cooked flavor of celery if it is noticeable) and then varied it. The major difference is that by cooking the vegetables together with stock and cream in a saucepan gives you a major leap forward in time for cooking. If you cook the vegetables and then add stock and cream and cook for the 5 minutes as stated in #3, you can then refrigerate the mixture the day before and cook fresh for serving at Easter etc. The potatoes will not discolor because they have been partially cooked and are surrounded by liquid. I also found it easier to cut all the vegetables into roughly 2" chunks, using the pampered chef fluted cutter, which is quicker and simpler than slicing and more attractive visually. Do use 2 good size onions, they are really necessary for the taste especially if you only use potatoes and no other vegetables. I have tried making this with 1 onion and milk rather than cream and it just didn't have the wonderful rich flavor of the cream version. I also added some sliced bacon for a great flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely crushed - optional
  • 4 slices of bacon scissored into thin strips (I use Oscar Meyer center cut)
  • 3 very large potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1" slices
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2" slices
  • 1¼ c whipping or heavy cream
  • 1¼ c chicken stock
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss or soft Fontina cheese
  • Fresh grated nutmeg, pepper

Method

1.Preheat oven to 350°, butter a 9" x 9" brownie pan or equivalent deep 10" circular pan. If you got carried away with vegetables you might need a 9" x 13" lasagna pan.

2. Melt butter in a 3-4 quart saucepan, add onions (garlic) and bacon and cook until onion is soft.

3. Add all the vegetables, cream and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add pepper, nutmeg if wanted and salt if you like a lot of salt. Stir in.

5. Stir 3/4 of cheese into vegetable mix and pour into buttered dish.

6. Top with last ¼ of cheese.

7. Cover and bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, uncover and cook for 15 more minutes until cheese is browning slightly.

8. Remove from oven, let stand for about 10 minutes and serve.

Notes

If you cut the vegetables bigger or smaller then cooking time will vary from the 45 minutes stated. Try to cut all vegetables the same size. Note that carrots tend to take longer to cook to tenderness. Test vegetables with a fork at the 45 minute mark to see how tender they are. The starch in the vegetables should have combined with the liquid and thickened to a creamy sauce. If you leave the dish to stand for about 10 minutes after removing it from the oven then the sauce soaks into the vegetables more. Otherwise it can be runny.

Note that Fontina cheese seems to be available in 2 varieties. One is hard and strong like parmesan. The other is more like a piece of mozzarella and is milder and creamier with a nice taste. So if the cheese is hard it's the parmesan look alike, if it bends and is flexible, it's Fontina.
You could also add some chopped celery and sliced leeks for flavor. How about some blue cheese in with the vegetables for a different flavor.

PLEASE NOTE THAT SUBSTITUTIONS AND DIFFERENT METHODS WILL AFFECT FINAL TASTE.
© 2000-2005 Royal Temptations


Oonagh Williams, proprietor of Royal Temptations, has a Culinary Arts degree, offers Catering services, teaches a variety of classes in International Cooking, makes regular appearances on WMUR ABC Channel 9's Cooks' Corner and has her own series on Merrimack TV. You can contact Oonagh at 603-424-6412.
 
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