Another meat fest, now featuring potatoes au gratin!

Yesterday, Nick bought a barbecue, which I think means that “we” got a barbecue, so I may be out of luck for a birthday present. I think this decision, which has been long in the works, was largely influenced by a burger on a cooking show we saw on Friday that involved two hamburger patties smooshed together, but not before being stuffed with a handful of cheddar cheese and some chopped bacon. Apparently, an improved version of this will be on the menu tonight, with Nick “doing the cooking,” which mostly means that I’ll assemble and prepare all the food, but Nick will man the fire and flip things and bask in all the praise. I’m hoping that Nick isn’t planning on “doing the cooking” for my birthday next weekend …

Being something of an attention whore, and not content to let Nick take all the glory for the feast, I’m planning some sumptuous sides, in particular Jeffrey Steingarten’s potatoes au gratin dauphinoise, the recipe he detailed in It Must Have Been Something I Ate (required reading). Steingarten attests that a true gratin contains no cheese; these should take on a cheesy taste through the cooking process. And my, they do! I add bacon to mine, because anytime I see a recipe containing half a cup of butter and a cup and a half of cream, I figure it’s probably going to be a contributing factor in my inevitable coronary, so what the hell, right?

I’ve made these in both a glass pan and an enameled cast iron pan, and I liked the cast iron better, which is what Jeffrey Steingarten advises – it makes for a crispier bottom. Butter the pan thoroughly, on all sides.

Potatoes au Gratin Dauphinoise á la Jeffrey Steingarten

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 lbs thinly-sliced potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped (optional)

Using a good dollop of the butter, grease the inside of your pan on all sides. Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a pan on your stove, bring the milk, salt, pepper, garlic clove, and nutmeg to a boil. Remove from heat and turn off the element.

Line your pan with potatoes and bacon (if you choose … but I don’t know why you wouldn’t).

Put your pot of milk and spices back on the stove – bring it to a boil once more. When it’s come to a boil, pull the clove of garlic out, and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes.

Bring the cream to a boil. Remove from heat, and turn off element.

When the potatoes come out of the oven, bring the cream to a boil once again. Pour the boiled cream over the potatoes, and dot the whole thing on the top with the remaining butter.

Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

The last time I made these, they were perfectly crispy on the top and bottom, and delectably creamy on the inside. I figure that eating them caused me to gain eight pounds. Since we’re having these again tonight, with burgers stuffed with cheese and meat, I bet I’ll be adorably chubby by bedtime. Also, am wondering where to buy those pants with the adjustable waistband.