Skillet Potato Gratin
What do well-dressed snowshoers, Black Swan, and a good potato gratin all have in
common? They all have many layers! That riddle is so deep that I
almost want to sit here and ponder it instead of talking about the delicious winter
potato gratin that makes a perfect side dish or main course on a cold
night. But I’ll ponder later and get to it.
I usually don’t crave dishes quite this rich until the temperature
drops. But it’s cold and the potatoes, cream, and cheese at the
farmers market have all been stellar lately. This is a great time to
talk to your potato farmer. Farmers markets are held less frequently
in the winter than in other seasons, but potato farmers often have
very good potatoes in cold storage and can bring a variety to the
market, even in the coldest months. Because I’ve been experimenting
with a lot of potato dishes lately, I’ve gotten more and more chummy
with the potato farmers and they know exactly what potatoes work best
for what dishes.
For a gratin, they seem to like Yukon golds but I’ve also had good
luck with red potatoes or even with russets. The dish sometimes seems
fancy but it’s forgiving and it’s fun to play with the ingredients.
This is also a great time to see what cheeses you have available to
you nearby. There is wonderful goat cheese from Lynnhaven Farm in NY.
It’s tangy and creamy. I’ve mashed it into potatoes before but it’s
even better in a gratin. You also want at least one firm cheese. I’m
seeing more and more local cheesemakers doing ‘Pecorino Style’ cheeses
and things like that. Many purists insist on something like a Gruyere
for this dish so maybe start by asking your cheese or dairy farmer for
something firm and nutty and see where it takes you. If you find
something tasty, by all means write in and let me know. I only know 2
people who are not excited by the prospect of a new cheese and they
are not interesting people to hang out with.
Lastly, you need some good cream or milk. I use half and half from
Ronnybrook Farms for this dish and it works wonderfully.
This is not a bad time to put your guests to work. It’s fun to see
each layer as the thing gets put together. Sort of like in Black Swan
when she’s looking in the mirror and you can’t tell if what she’s
seeing is…It doesn’t matter. This dish is very tasty. Enjoy.
Skillet Potato Gratin
Butter a 9 inch skillet and preheat oven to 400
Peel 6 large potatoes and slice with a mandolin or as thinly as
possible with a chef’s knife
Put aside 6 oz. of chevre or other soft cheese
Grate 1.5 cups of a firm cheese
Measure out 1.5 cups of cream, milk, or half and half
To assemble, layer potato slices along bottom of pan and sprinkle with
salt and pepper
Dot a few potato pieces with the soft cheese and sprinkle a handful of
the firm cheese on top
Drizzle a few tablespoons of the cream over the first layer
Repeat until the potatoes are used up or you have no more room in the skillet
When you get to the top layer, use only the firm cheese and omit the
cream, we want the top to brown so it shouldn’t be to moist
Put the gratin in the oven and bake for around 35 minutes
Check by piercing the center with a pairing knife. If it goes through
easily it’s almost done. If not, put it back in.
If the potatoes are done, but the top is not brown, put it under the
broiler for 3 minutes or so.
It’s worth it.