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.
This James Beard (100 World's Best Recipes) is amazing. Turns out perfect every time. If it weren't so fattening, I'd eat this once a week! The method (low and slow) of cooking this dish was a revelation to me. The potatoes come out perfect!
100 WORLDS GREATEST RECIPES
6 lg Baking potatoes
1 lg Garlic clove; minced
2 ts Salt
1 ts Black pepper; freshly ground
1 pt Heavy cream
1/2 c Gruyere or swiss cheese;
Peel potatoes and drop into a bowl of cold water. Preheat oven to 300~. Place a buttered shallow 10" baking dish directly over low heat. Dry and thinly slice one potato at a time and spread the slices in the dish. When half the potatoes are in the dish, sprinkle with garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Add enough of the cream to barely cover the potatoes and let cream very slowly come to a boil as the remaining potatoes are sliced and spread in the dish. When all the potatoes are in the dish, add remaining cream, and a little milk if necessary, just to cover potatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper. Bring cream to a gentle boil, then put the baking dish in the preheated oven. Bake potatoes for 1.1/2 hours, uncovered. Sprinkle with cheese. Continue to bake 30 mins. longer. Potatoes will remain hot and creamy for quite a long time in a low oven. Author - James Beard Posted to MM-Recipes Digest by "Robert Ellis" on Sep 26, 1998
It makes sense that the choice of potato would make a difference. But I've used the same recipe for years (one from Patricia Wells' "Bistro Cooking")...it's always terrific and I've used what potatoes I had on hand. I've always thought that two things make this work: I simmer the sliced potatoes for about 10 minutes in milk (with garlic, but that's a personal taste thing) and I slice them thin, thin, thin. See-through thin. For a dinner for a few, I use a knife. For a crowd, my mandolin. And no, I don't rinse them.
Dauphinoise potatoes should never have cheese added - obviously we can (and should!) mess with recipes, but a true dauphinoise should be simple - just waxy potatoes, double cream and the merest hint of garlic (best results are if you just rub the cut side of half a clove around the dish before putting the rest of the ingredients in). I think bay leaves/thyme etc also detract from the dish and I don't think it should be hurried by par-cooking the spuds first - just in the oven for 60-90 mins. The beauty of the dish is that because of the length of time it takes to cook, the cream starts to taste a little bit cheesey anyway, without the need to add anymore.
It's like a creme brulee to me - sometimes the original and simplest recipe is the best and messing with it by making it lavender flavoured (or something else along those lines ...) is sacrilege ...
The very best Gratin Dauphinoise I've ever eaten or made was in a little (late, lamented) bistro in Lyon called Chez Lily et Gaby. Patricia Wells offered their recipe in her book, "the FoodLovers' Guide to France."
One thing that sets it apart from other gratins is that you regularly open the oven door and cut the gratin down the middle and turn it inside out -- about three times -- while it is baking. The crustiness of this gratin adds amazing texture to the dish. I've made mine that way ever since. ;)
I just made the recipe listed below by Silverhawk , June 24, by Chef Tom Valenti. Absolutely incredible. I've seen all kinds of potatoes used in other recipes so decided to do a blind taste test with my husband. 1/3 russet, 1/3 yukon and 1/3 baby reds in a casserole dish. We both agreed the russets were mushy. You could easily use either the yukon or reds but we thought the reds were slightly better...better texture and flavor. I did not rinse the potatoes. I used a mandoline on the thinnest setting. The cream became cheese-like but in a much more sophisticated way. I am making this for 20+ finicky, hard to impress family members on Christmas and I am NOT worried at all about this dish being a huge hit. Thanks Silverhawk!
I'm so glad that you posted that...I've been trying to think of a few things to make for my sister over Xmas and I think that this will be perfect..along with the other items of Wretched Excess I have planned. [At one of her birthday parties I cooked a bunch of stuff and a friend of hers told a guest to try something-or-other. "I dunno" said the guest, "I saw that guy in the kitchen dump a pound of butter and a quart of cream in the pot....."]
I used to make dauphinoise for large catered events needing plated portions for hundreds.
Our trick was to not skimp on the cream and use gruyere on top to brown. We would fully cook one day ahead, allowing us to cut individual portions to reheat. It's easy to cut diamond shapes if the dish is prepared in straight edge pans
I've never bothered to boil the potatoes in the milk/cream before placing in the baking dish. After reading this, I may try it in the future.
I buy big fat "chef" potatoes at the market. I like the thin-skinned waxy ones.
I went through a phase where I'd use lots of heavy cream; but then went back to using milk and adding butter later for an equally rich taste that was a little less cloying.