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Gratin Dolphinnoise

Dear Chef Bourdain;

If the tart alsacienne was a miss, the gratin dauphinoise was a hit, for sure. An easy recipe without a ton of ingredients and none of them hard to find – and really delicious.  The biggest strike it has going against it is trying to pronounce the name, to be honest. Do French people find it hard, too? Is it a tongue twister in any language, or is it just my Yankee barbarian accent? I was a little disappointed to find out that it’s actually named after the Dauphine region of  France, rather than a French prince who demanded potatoes or something. I made up this whole story in my head about the poor, harried chef who had to come up with fantastic potatoes or like, get the rack or something. As per the usual, the real world is considerably less interesting than the one in my head.

I made both the tart and the potatoes at the same time, as well as your chocolate hazelnut tart, and prepping for coq-au-vin and frisee aux lardon on Monday. This required a list – you recommend lots of lists in your forward and it’s good advice.  So I put all the ingredients I’d need, plus a timeline of when things had to go in and for how long so they’d finish at the right time. I also put the page numbers for the recipes I’d be using at the bottom for easy reference.  Here’s the list, next to your book, which I had to fish out of the recycling bin because I carried it with me to Costco and inadvertently left in a box that we tossed. I had a pretty nervous time trying to figure out what the heck happened to it. Basically what I’m saying, Chef, is you spent the night in a trash can, and I’m guessing it wasn’t the first time.

Never mind my awful handwriting, look at that smug bastard on the cover!

Anyway, I was taking this to be a side at a party for about 20 people, so I doubled the recipe in your book. This presented no particular problem. Also I couldn’t easily find yukon gold potatoes as you specify, but I did find butter gold potatoes in bulk at the local Costco for like, 99 cents and an embarrassed  look as you scurry to your car.  I think the two potato varieties are similar enough that it didn’t matter – they’re both buttery potatoes low in starch, which is I think the point.

Here they are sliced up using a mandoline slicer as I got my meez ready. The slicer was a cheapo find at the local Ross discount store – I think it was maybe $5, but it’s so awesome for these sorts of tasks, it was well worth that and more.

Perfect for potatoes or fingers.

The rest of the recipe is a snap – you just boil the potatoes in heavy cream with some garlic and other spices for about ten minutes. Funny how many of these recipes involve boiling in heavy cream, though. How the fuck do the French stay so thin? My girlfriend thinks it’s the angst – burns calories.

You could boil shoeleather in cream and I'd eat it.

The rest is easy. I had to acquire a gratin dish of the appropriate size, which they don’t have at Target or whatever – but a trip to the local snooty purveyor of kitchen goods got me a good dish at a not-usurious price. Plus a box of whip-its, so there’s that! Into the gratin dish go the boiled potatoes, cream and garlic. Your recipe says to remove the garlic, but it had rendered down to be invisible in the cream. Like trying to find a white ninja in a snow storm. (That is to say, a ninja dressed in white, rather than a white guy who is a ninja.) So I just left the garlic in – heck with it, it’s edible and people like it. Cover it up with some grated gruyere, and bake it for long enough for the cheese to turn golden brown. Done!

potatoes, cream and cheese - how could it go wrong?

I took it to the party, and it was received very well – there wasn’t a bite left afterwards, and quite a few women expressed astonishment that I had made the potatoes. I will say it needed salt, but that’s my own fault – I’m too shy with the seasoning, and don’t have the trained eye that a pro chef would to relate a dish, its size and the amount of salt that would be appropriate. I’ll have to be more zealous about tasting and adjusting seasoning in the future.  Fat is flavor and salt is contrast, right?

So this was a big hit. Very delicious, easy to make, didn’t take forever. Definitely something that’s going to go in my repertoire in the future.

Thanks for good eats, chef!


Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep

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