About a year ago I was fortunate enough to meet my husband in Rabat, Morocco, where he was traveling on business. Unfortunately I did not take into account that the trip was during Ramadan. There was a haunting beauty about the place, and I would love to return someday; however, it was blazing hot, nothing was open until after sundown, and I had a plane ticket to Paris in my pocket. I bid my husband adieu and fled.
During my short stay in Paris I had the opportunity to eat at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.
There I had one of what I refer to as my “culinary experiences” – meals or things I’ve done that have a lasting impression on the way I cook (and eat). Talk about gob-smacked! Every single ingredient sang and added something unique to each dish. So, after the trip, the first thing I did was order a cookbook to remind me of my experience.
A few nights ago I was looking for inspiration for a potato dish for dinner and started leafing through the recipes in this book. I wasn’t in the mood for scraping mashed potatoes through a strainer, but a potato gratin sounded good. This one uses broth and cheese and sounded really good, and wow, was it ever. I hope you think the same thing. A word of warning: this dish was quite a bit of work. It’s probably not something to start preparing on a Friday evening after a long workweek, as I did.
You can adapt this recipe in many different ways. I used a colorful mix of small potatoes, but Yukon gold or red potatoes would work just as well. If you use larger potatoes cut them into chunks before cooking them. I used a combination of beef and chicken broth, but again, all beef, all chicken or even vegetable broth would work just as well. The same goes for the cheese. I recommend gruyere because it melts nicely, but any type will do. I try to stay away from buying more kitchen equipment than I can use on a regular basis, so I didn’t run out and buy individual round gratin dishes as the original recipe called for, but if you have them, go for it!
- 1.5 pounds potatoes, peeled
- 1 quart broth (beef, chicken, vegetable or a combination)
- 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of mild oil or bacon grease
- 4 ounces bacon, about 6 slices
- 3 tablespoons white wine
- 6 ounces gruyere or other cheese, thinly sliced or grated
- white pepper
1. Combine the potatoes, broth, unpeeled garlic and thyme sprigs in a large pot, and cook potatoes until they are done, but still firm, 15-20 minutes. Set aside half a cup of the cooking liquid, drain the potatoes, and slice them into 1/4-inch slices.
2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan, add the leeks and the scallions, cover and sweat on medium low heat until soft, about 15 minutes.
3. Set aside the leek mixture and add the oil and the bacon to the same pan. Cook the bacon then add the white wine and the leek mixture to the pan. Cook 2 minutes to blend flavors than add the reserved potato cooking liquid. Cook over low heat until all liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread bacon mixture in the bottom of a large gratin dish or 4 small round ones. Arrange a layer of potato slices over the bacon then a layer of cheese, repeat with another layer of potatoes and cheese. Dot with remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and garnish with thyme leaves and white pepper.
5. Place dish in the center of the oven and bake until bubbling and golden brown, 15-20 minutes.
Adapted from L’Atelier of Joël Robuchon – the Artistry of a Master Chef and his Protégés by Patricia Wells