The table is busy, with arms in the air passing dishes and receiving others. Everyone is vying for the creamy one with the golden brown top. It's been baking for at least the last 2 hours, but waiting through the smell has made the minutes long and fluid, and the moment has arrived to finally taste it. Hastily, you dig the spoon in deep and claim a corner of the potato pie for yourself, as does everyone else.
Potatoes au gratin are one of those classic dishes with several variations. Mine is light on the cheese and spruced up a bit for Christmas with fragrant herbs. My favorite for this time of year is rosemary, as there's usually rosemary somewhere else on the table, and it pairs well with the other flavors of the season like oranges and cranberries.
Herbed Potatoes au Gratin
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 tablespoons fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley), finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat oven to 350º F. Rub the crushed garlic around the inside of the baking dish or dishes. You can choose to use a 2-quart dish or individual dishes for single-serve options. Set aside garlic. In the dish, place potatoes in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with rosemary, salt and pepper and then about 1 tablespoon of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Continue layering up the dish: potatoes, herbs and salt, cheese.
When all potatoes are layered evenly, pour cream over until it just comes to hit the very top of the top layer. You want the potatoes to be covered with cream, but they should not be floating. Place in the oven at 350º F and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until top is crispy and brown and cream has become creamy pockets and is no longer pooling. Smaller dishes will need slightly less baking time, approximately 20 minutes less. Halfway through the baking time, open the oven and push potatoes down under the cream again with the back of a spoon to ensure the cream is evenly distributed while baking. Remove from oven and allow to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings.
Photo by Shaina Olmanson
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