The weather had turned autumn-ward several weeks ago. And while I wish we’d have had our full share of summer, and not had it truncated at the end of July (I mean, where DID the August go, really?), I also can’t say I am unhappy about the excuse to get out pretty and warm clothes, drink hot drinks, and cook cold-weather comfort food.
Most comforting dishes such as my beloved cassoulet and various beef stews, are long-and-slow cooked creations that require thinking ahead and preparation. Happily, this one is not one of those – the entire prep and initial cooking takes maybe 15 minutes, and then it is 40-45 minutes of doing nothing while the oven does its job. An hour may not sound like it’s a very fast dish, but when you consider that most potato gratins take more like an hour and a half or two to achieve that perfect consistency, then an hour from start to finish with only a quarter-hour of active involvement really isn’t so much of an investment. Especially – especially!!! – when the results are so creamily, comfort-heavenly good.
This generous portion will serve two for a generous dinner, or four as a decent side dish to steak or roast chicken. The recipe is somewhat adapted from Nigella Express – quantities changed a little, and I chose to use heavy cream for part of the milk specified, black pepper instead of white, and a little more wine than was called for. The results were just the right thing to take the edge off a tiring Monday night grown rapidly chill with sunset.
A word about the potatoes – the main star of this show: I bought the pre-washed shiny golden ones that ambushed me in the entrance to the supermarket. But really, any will do. Don’t bother peeling, but if they are dirty, do give them a good scrubbing in addition to the non-optional rinse.
What you need:
- 700g potatoes, rinsed and patted dry, sliced into 3-4mm thick slices
- 150-200g mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 2.5dl full-fat milk
- 1dl heavy (36%+ fat) cream
- 0.5dl white wine
- 2-3 tablespoons butter
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Garlic granules or powder (optional), to taste
What to do:
- Preheat oven to 220C. Butter a large casserole dish thoroughly.
- Put potatoes, milk, cream and wine into a pot. Place on medium-high heat, bring to a boil and add salt and garlic granules if using (I did, and they worked wonderfully well). Cover, turn heat down a little to avoid burning the milk, and let simmer while you prepare the mushrooms.
- Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat. Dump mushrooms into the pan and saute until they are giving off a tiny bit of liquid and are turning soft and a little translucent, maybe 5 minutes.
- Pour the entirety of the mushroom pan into the pot with potatoes and stir carefully, avoiding breaking the potato slices.
- Pour the contents of the pot into the buttered casserole dish, and pat gently with a spatula into a uniform layer.
- Place casserole dish on a rack in the middle of the oven and set timer for 40 minutes. Go take a bath, power nap, or finish that last bit of business for the day to get it off your mind.
- When timer goes off, check the gratin. If it is not quite golden enough on top for you, turn the broiler (top grill) on for a few minutes while you watch it (watch it, it will brown FAST!).
- Take out of oven, and shovel into plates (warm the plates if you want to be really decadent). Eat on sofa off your lap, or serve with half a glass of white wine for a luxury workday dinner.
P.S. I’d like to note that the clean-up for this isn’t half bad – if the casserole dish was buttered well (mine was), all it takes to loosen the browned dairy bits off the sides is a bit of soaking in water, and a light brushing. No heavy scrubbing required!