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January 2010 COTM: Patricia Wells POTATOES, RICE AND POLENTA

Welcome to the POTATOES, RICE AND POLENTA thread for the January 2010 Cookbook of the Month, featuring Bistro Cooking & Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy.

Please post your reviews of Potatoes(BC) and Rice and Polenta(T) chapters here.

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  1. L'AMI LOUIS'S POTATO CAKE (Bistro) - p109

    I am now completely in love with the combo of duck fat and potatoes! This was so, so good. I cut the recipe in half and now wish I hadn't. It would be easy to reheat. I sliced the potatoes on the mandoline and thought it worked great. I'd be interested to know if others used a knife. While sauteeing the slices, they never really approached "partially browned" so I just did them the recommended 25 minutes. Cooking at 400 wasn't browning or crisping them so I bumped it to 425 and again to 450. We live above 6000' elevation so I never know what effect that has on things. When I turned it out on the plate, the bottom was beautifully brown and crisp so no problem. I think the addition of the garlic and parsley right at the end was a good addition. This is definitely going to be a repeat dish.

    1. Madame Laracine’s potato gratin, page 99 (bistro cooking)

      Very simple and delicious. In a saucepan add milk, garlic, salt and bay leaves. Thinly slice potatoes (I used mandolin, my new toy and I’m loving it!), add them to the saucepan and cook for 10 minutes. Then scoop the potatoes out and layer in a gratin dish, making 2 layers and sprinkling nutmeg, pepper, crème fraiche or heavy cream (I used heavy cream) and gruyere cheese on each layer. In the oven it goes for 1 hour. The recipe does not say to cover or not to cover, I left it uncovered and it worked out great.
      And, I had halved the recipe which was perfect portion size for 3 and some left over.

      3 Replies
      1. re: cpw

        That sounds GREAT and I have some leftover creme fraiche. I think I'm out of gruyere but that's easy to remedy. Thanks, cpw. BTW, we haven't been back to the nabe since seeing you.

        1. re: c oliver

          It truly is a great recipe. The gratins I have made in past are done differently (starting with uncooked potatoes). In this one, cooking the potatoes in milk and scooping them out of that milk makes them creamier. Let me know when you are back.

        2. re: cpw

          This is very similar to her Potatoes Daphnois in At Home in Provence, which I have made countless times. So simple and so amazingly good. You can do it very rustic, just throw it all together and bake and it is wonderful. For fancier meals, I take time to layer, carefully, the potatoes and then press them down overnight with weighted bricks or cans to really create a dense, layered gratin. Either way, this is a winner.

        3. Wells, Bistro, Gateau de Pommes de Terre L'Ami Louis, p. 109

          I'll start by saying the result was delicious, but it was not the intended result as I never got a "cake," more like a crispy crepe. I guessed at the weight of my potatoes and was obviously way off. I used a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet as I had no non-stick 9-inch and ended up barely making one layer of potato slices. I used a mandolin to slice the spuds and sauteed the slices in hot duck fat. But like c oliver's, my potatoes did not brown. (Maybe my saucepan was not big enough and the potatoes steamed?) Instead, they got translucent and were starting to break up, so I stopped sauteeing after 17-18 minutes. I layered them into the bottom of the skillet,sprinkled on the chopped garlic at that point, added salt and pepper, and put them in a 400 oven for 20 minutes, after which they were crisp and brown. I slid this crepe-like round of potatoes out of the skillet and onto a plate and sprinkled with parsley. This was delicious, but hardly enough for four of us. I will definitely make this again, doubling up on the potato slices. I think I'll sprinkle the garlic between the layers next time. And I'll try browning them in a much larger pan. I'd like to achieve the desired thicker crisp brown "cake."

          I've made the similar dish Pommes Anna before, and it was good, but duck fat is so much better than butter with layered thin slices of potato.

          4 Replies
          1. re: nomadchowwoman

            I've wondered about just sauteeing them in the skillet that's going in the oven.

            1. re: c oliver

              I can't see why not, but I guess one would have to do them in batches. Even when I used too few potatoes, I think they steamed, rather than sauteed, in my lg. saucepan.

              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                Kinda thinking with my fingers :) I'm wondering if the depth of my pan WAS actually causing them to steam. They were really good anyway.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Yes, even my crispy crepe-like result, which was clearly a "failure" in execution, was delicious. So the first browning probably doesn't matter that much--as your results would seem to attest.

          2. Wells, Bistro Cooking, Gratin Dauphinois Madame Laracine, p. 99

            Made this last night, and agree w/CPW--this is OMG delicious. (Gruyere and creme fraiche: what's not to love?) But I did overcook these--after cooking them in milk w/garlic and bay leaf for 10 minutes, I layered them in the gratin dish as directed, w/creme fraiche and gruyere on top of each layer, and baked them for a full hour; probably should have taken them out of the oven after 45 minutes, when they looked done. But even a bit mushy, they were delicious. (I also wonder if I may have sliced them too thin to begin with?)

            I've always use Julia Child's recipe for potatoes dauphinois (The Way to Cook), which is very similar, but I think I liked these better. I'll definitely try them again, slicing a bit more thickly and baking not as long. But I'll have to wait a while to justify the calorie orgy.

            1. Gratin Dauphinois Madame Cartet (p. 98)

              I love this so much. All that slicing (even with a mandolin) takes a while, but it is worth it. This is my go to potato gratin recipe. My one addition is to just add a spot of nutmeg. Aside from that make exactly as written. Slice 2 lbs potatoes, rub gratin with garlic clove, layer potatoes with gruyere and then creme fraiche or heavy cream, repeat, bake until golden (about an hour, sometimes longer for me). Pure cheesey, potatoey gluttony, and I mean that in the best possible way.

              6 Replies
              1. re: LulusMom

                Last night I made Gratin des Pommes de Terre et de Celeri-Rave, p. 102

                I buy celery root only to make a wonderful soup of celery root and dry porcini mushrooms from the Rose Bakery Cookbook, and so I had 2 in my fridge last night when I came across this recipe.

                The potatoes and celery root are par-boiled (Wells calls for lemon juice in the celery root cooking water but I didn't have one), and thinly sliced.

                Tomatoes and garlic are fried in peanut oil in a hot but not smoking skillet (I didn't have peanut oil and used olive) along with salt and pepper. Creme fraiche is added - I had none and used 1/2 and 1/2. This is simmered for 5 minutes and then the celery root and a bit of the cooking water is added and the skillet is removed from heat.

                The potatoes are layered with gruyere and then the celery root. It's seasoned with s&p and then the tomato mixture is added. The dish is baked uncovered for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees.

                We liked this a lot. In the past couple of years, since the Rose Bakery Cookbook, I think I've eaten ten times more celery root than I'd eaten the entire rest of my life.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  I really like celery root too. Ugly as can be, but so tasty. I'll have to give this one a try.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Try that mushroom/celariac soup recipe in Rose Bakery, too. If you don't have it, give me your email and I'll send it to you. One of the best soups ever.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      Just emailed you ... thanks in advance!

                  2. re: oakjoan

                    You really should try céléri rémoulade with the rest of your celery root - there's a recipe in Bistro Cooking I think. Wonderful with parma ham or smoked fish. It also makes a good purée when mixed with potato.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      I saw celery root in the farmer's market on Satuarday and remembered your post so decided to pick it up. This is very good use for the root vegetable. I followed the recipe exactly and we loved it. I think my dish was not so much presentable as I sliced the celery root on mandolin and the potatoes by hand, so the textures of the two did not match up. It wasn't that noticeable in the gratin, but it was more in my head, especially after two glasses of wine.

                      Also, as good as this gratin was, my pairing of gratin with tomatoes and poultry with vinegar was not so great (both on the acidic side).