About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, March 20, 2006
Devil's Own Food
Have you ever cooked something, eaten it, and then thought maybe you shouldn't have?

Like last night. Wife and daughter head out for a visit late in the day. Nothing was said, but I know they expect something delicious on the table when they return. To late for a roast and uncertain of their exact return (you know when sisters get together), inspiration was lacking.

A quick reconoitre of the kitchen, mouldy leftovers had already been turfed out, not really in the mood for cooking, what to do? Then I spotted them. Homegrown potatoes from the sister-in-law's garden.

For those of you having a yawn and saying so what, they're just potatoes, nothing special about that, waste of garden space really, you need to know that you haven't tasted potatoes until you have tried homegrown. They have a superior texture and the taste is out of this world, it sounds obvious to say, but they taste OF potato, sort of like comparing vanilla essence to vanilla extract.

It has fallen to me to select the potatoes for each years crop, after bringing it on myself one year when I suggested different varieties to the supermarket ones (sebago and desiree) the sister-in-law was planting. In that first year I bought pink eyes (southern gold) and patrones for her, both waxy potatoes, which serendipitously mature at different times. No-one could believe how good they were, so every year sees me at the potato shop at Prahran Market, buying 20 odd kilos of small potatoes for planting. Other varieties we have tried include kipfler, king edward, dutch creams, binjte, russet burbank and nicola. Even purple congo had a run one year, a purple fleshed potato, great in beetroot soup, which is about the only place they don't look out of place.

So there I was standing in the kitchen, looking at our bags of potatoes, when inspiration came, which I'm sure was sent by the devil himself. Gratin Dauphinois. Potatoes and cream, baked in the oven until the top is browned. So old fashioned, but oh so nice.

There are many versions of this classic dish, but they can all be boiled down to two schools of thought, Curnonsky's and Fernand Point's. These two gourmands from the mid 1900's diverged markedly over the same dish. Curnonsky's version is simple, potatoes and cream, Point's was more elaborate with added milk and eggs, some versions also add cheese, and no doubt someone would have made it with truffles, but this is to miss the point, above all this is a dish about potatoes, which with the addition of cream forms a sort of lumpy cheese anyway.

There is no need for a recipe, it comes down to how many potatoes you can fit into your gratin dish. Start by rubbing the inside of the dish with a cut clove of garlic, then butter the dish; if you like a more pronounced garlic taste, crush a whole small clove and scatter over a buttered gratin. Peel and thinly slice as many potatoes as you can fit neatly in the gratin, layer them in and season each layer with salt and pepper, don't fill above the rim. Next pour in single cream (35% milk fat), until it is just under the top layer, then dot the surface with butter. Bake in a 200 c (400 f) for about one hour, until browned on top.

Because this dish is so rich, a little goes a long way. We like to have it just by itself, with perhaps a green salad.
  posted at 8:27 am


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