Right after my graduation from college, I took a short trip to New York and stayed with my aunt Roseanne and uncle Robert in Bronxville for a few days. Both my aunt and uncle are excellent cooks. My uncle is both an investment banker and a barbecue aficionado, who owns a smoker the size of my car and regularly caters foodie events. My aunt is a marvelous baker and has a special gift for delicate, flaky pie crusts. I marveled over their extensive collection of cookbooks when I was in their home. I also ate very well.
Cut to a few days later and I found myself back at home in San Diego with a large Amazon box waiting for me. It was full of cookbooks- a graduation present from Aunt Roseanne and Uncle Robert.
Not only does my aunt have a gift for pie crusts, she has a gift for giving gifts.
The other night, I asked Daniel to tell me what he'd like for dinner. Without hesitating, he asked for roast chicken, potatoes gratin, and chocolate chip cookies. I knew how to roast a chicken, and I had a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies, but I'd never made potatoes gratin before. In recent months, I've found myself mainly cooking from food blogs- but after my recent disaster with the gateaux bastilles, I decided I should go back to the tried-and-true and cook more from my fabulous stash of cookbooks.
Enter Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells.
I love Patricia Wells. My parents have her At Home in Provence cookbook, which is home to one of my most beloved desserts ever- a honey almond tart with fresh raspberries. But I'd never made anything from Bistro Cooking (the shame!) and decided that it was high time to change that.
There are no fewer than six recipes for potatoes gratin in Bistro Cooking. Some include onions and lardons, while others add nutmeg and bay leaf. I decided to make the very first one- the most basic, Gratin Dauphinois Madame Cartet. I served it alongside roast chicken and a simple green salad. Daniel provided the wine.
It was delicious, and it made for a perfect evening, of simple, wholesome food. It also made me all the more eager to begin a more thorough exploration of my cookbook library. Bon appetit!
Gratin Dauphinois Madame Cartet
1 garlic clove, cut in half
2 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup grated Gruyere
1 cup creme fraiche*
Preheat oven to 350F
Rub the inside of a 6-cup gratin dish with the cut side of the garlic clove
Layer half of the potatoes in the bottom of the gratin dish. Spread half of the creme fraiche over the top and then sprinkle with half of the cheese and season with salt.
Repeat the previous step with remaining potatoes, creme fraiche, cheese and salt.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
*I actually used a 1/2 cup of creme fraiche and a 1/2 cup of heavy cream, because that's what I had in the refrigerator. It turned out just peachy.