Saturday, May 22, 2010

Elevating the side dish

Sometimes I used to roast off a side of meat or fry up some fish just so I had the excuse of making Potato au Gratin as a side dish. But now with our need to make more economical, baby-friendly, quick-to-prepare dining choices, large portions of meat and fish have been relegated from being central to our nightly meal, to an a few times a week occasion. Couple that with increasing guilt over the ecological cost of meat production - though let's face it, inherit blood thirstiness means we're never going to go vegetarian - and you have yourself a fine argument for elevating the humble side-dish to the main event. Evade the middle-class-wealth proscribed idea of meaty/fishy dinners and have a gratin for dinner! There's enough fat in this to keep you all going. Serves four people, or two adults, a baby and leftovers enough for a very greedy person's lunch the next day.

Potato au Gratin
8 medium sized potatoes 
1 onion
2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup cream
2 handfuls gruyere
1 handful tasty cheese
knob of butter
bunch of thyme

salt and pepper

1. Peel potatoes and slice into reasonably even 1/2 cm slices. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
2. Halve and thinly slice onions. Peel one clove of garlic.
3. Add potatoes, onion and garlic clove to large pot, cover with a mix of half milk and half cold water. Add a couple of pinches of salt. Place on medium heat and bring to boil. Cook until potatoes are just tender but not falling apart.
4. Meanwhile chop second garlic clove finely and place in the bottom of a deep baking dish with a knob of butter. Place in warming over to lightly caramelise garlic and melt butter.
5. When potatoes are cooked, drain off liquid and add the potatoes to the prepared baking dish.
6. Pour over cream, sprinkle over cheese and finish with thyme leaves.
7. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

This yields a totally non-watery gratin with nicely cooked potatoes that still retain their shape. This is perfect for Wolf as he refuses to eat from a spoon most of the time and prefers to use his hands. He loves potatoes! His eating habits are turning out to be a lot like mine as a child. This would be really good with some caramelised leek through it, or some shaved ham if you're desperate for meat. And yeah, it does go really well with a roast chicken or some panfried fish. But tell yourself you don't need it.
It's my new mission to have at least one or two dinners based around just one vegetable. The other night it was orechiette with a broccoli sauce. And Wolf ate it all. I got my baby to eat broccoli! This is an achievement I will use to justify my next shopping spree.


  1. Mmm that looks good. Being more-or-less veggies, we would definitely try this for a winter main meal (especially living over here in potato country!). Sometimes we make a similar Swedish dish called Jansson's Temptation - halve the potatoes and slice them to 1/2 cm, layer with thinly sliced onions and strips of anchovy fillets then pour cream all over, bake until the potatoes and anchovy are all melty, yummm. Not so good for my weight loss though.

  2. Oh yum! Allison that sounds good. I love anchovies but despair at finding any other way to use them than pasta and pizza. Definitely trying that one!
    Potatoes have become a must in this house. Something Wolf loves and is unlikely to throw at the walls when he gets full



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