Working on my Dauphinoise potatoes, stories welcome.
I've made numerous amounts of gratin dishes of dauphinoise potatoes and while I've liked many, I don't consider the dish one I've truly mastered. I started thinking about the dish after going to a dinner last night at a great little French bistro in Philadelphia who's dauphinoise potatoes were sublime.
Anyway, I've been looking at my cook books and found at least 1 thing I need to change according to most and that's not rinsing the potatoes after slicing. It seams the retained starch helps with thickening which makes sense and with texture. As far as some other variables...cream vs milk, cheese or not, types of cheeses, boiling the potatoes in the cream or milk, or not before baking, I've messed with all of them.
I'd be very appreciative of hearing how you do your dauphinoise, thanks.
I think (and yes it's very obvious) that the variety of potato used is of upmost significance. I seem to have the best success with Nicola and Dutch Creams.
Recently a friend was hosting a dinner party and I assisted in making the Dauphinoise, we made many amateur mistakes (given both of us had made this style of dish several times before) but I think the biggest one was using indifferent (re: bargain basement) potatoes. I have no idea what variety they were (and my only interest in knowing is so I can avoid them at all costs in the future) but even after nearly two hours of cooking they maintained the look and texture of freshly sliced and barely cooked potato.
Personally (and I'm not sure how authentic this really is) I like to cook the prepared (sliced/chopped/whatever) potatos in milk (sometimes I will start in water, strain and finish cooking in milk) with a small sliced onion, nutmeg and bayleaf.
Season mixture and transfer to casserole dish scatter with a delicious cheese (eg gruyere) and bake until golden on top.
I was taught--albeit in the 1960's when we knew nothing--to cook the potatoes in milk. We used to play with the recipe a lot and add things in what we supposed was the spirit of the "cuisine" as we liked to say. I have not done that dish in ages though and only offer the memory of cooking in milk.
I did not manage to post my reply the first time successfully so apologies if this comes out in duplicate. Den, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/get_cooking/ and look up Mike Robinson's "interactive video" for "Dauphinoise Potatoes". Best I ever made and surprisingly simple. The only thing you might not like is the amount of double cream it requires - not good for the waist and heart but the results are absolutely scrumptious !
my favorite relevant recipe for these potatoes comes from nyc chef tom valenti--a guy whose recipes i often like. he makes a no cheese, heavy cream version. in summary--
1 pt cream
2 bay leaves
15 cloves of garlic smashed and cleaned
small handful blk peppercorns
4 sprigs thyme
peel potatoes and slice to uniform 1/8 in. a mandoline really helps, but it can be done otherwise.
simmer cream and seasonings for about 20 minutes. hold back 3 garlic cloves until last 3 minutes of simmer time. this provides a kind of flavor ladder of garlic tastes. strain out the solids, retain the cream and pitch the solids. butter a baking dish--eg a 12 in. round one. put in alternating layers of potatoes and cream to a depth of about 2 in. press down with spatula. cover in foil and bake for 35-40 minutes at 375. potatoes are done when a knife goes down easily. finish uncovered for a few minutes.
the recipe gives me what i want--a square of potatoes with structural integrity. potatoes that are moist in the mouth but which don't ooze sauce all over the plate. potatoes with a rich, earthy taste.
it seems to me that the keys to repeated success here include uniform slices and reasonable consistency in the volume of sauce, the number of potato slices, and the size of the pan. (i pro-rate the volume of cream to suit the volume of potatoes but always maintain a 2 in. depth. a 12 in. round is close enuf to a 13x9 rectangle to be ok--but check the slightly larger rectangle at 35 mimutes for sure.)
I get complimenta on mine a lot, not sure if they are your style or not. I don't have the recipe in front of me, but it is from One Potato, Two Potato (yes a cookbook entirely of potato recieps). I've seen others mention potato variety...I'm not familiar with the other varieties but I always use yukon golds. When placing your raw potato slices in the dish, season every layer and do not press them down any. Also they are baked in the oven in a mixture of cream and milk, I think 1 1/4 c cream plus 3/4 c milk or similar. I either heat the milk/cream mixture in the microwave or, if I'm in a hurry skip that step and just poutrthe mixture over the potato slices already arranged in the dish. The biggest thing is to pour in the liquid until it just barely covers your potatoes. Then sprinkle with cheese; my recipe calls for gruyere but I always use fontina cheese - melts creamy and browns beautifully.
Let me know if you want the exact recipe - I can look it up later tonight when I am at home. I never have leftovers!
I'm too lazy to link right now, but the most recent recipe on the great French (written in English, though) cooking blog "Chocolate & Zucchini" is for dauphinoise.....it looks fabulous. She does begin by cooking the potatoes in milk on the stovetop, before finishing in the oven. I'd love to hear from someone who's tried her technique.
That technique is similar to the one we tried in Bistro Cooking (Patricia Wells) .In this recipe you boil the potatoes in water, milk, bay leaves, salt and garlic for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a gratin dish and cover with cheese and cream (or creme fraiche). Very rich and decadent. The receipe indicated that it was for 6 to 8 people, but they were a hit and the 4 of us were left wanting more.