I’m reading three different books right now, and one of them spurred me on to try this recipe for the second time. The book was “Knives at Dawn,” interesting title right? Yet it is really a great book, detailing the U.S. involvement in the Bocuse d’Or, which is basically the largest cooking competition in the world held every two years in Lyon, France. The book talks, among other things, about all of the work that goes into organizing the event, and that means that it talks about Daniel Boulud, the famous chef of New York City.
While I read the book, I couldn’t help but think, I should be cooking, I should be cooking! Yet I could never find the time until last night, when I forced myself to face a recipe of his with my new mandoline in hand; a recipe that went very wrong a couple of years ago.
A couple of years ago for Christmas our family decided to invite my grandparents and some family friends to our house for dinner. Of course, I decided to go all out and make this recipe which calls for 2 pounds of potatoes to be cut to a near impossible thinness, preferably with a mandoline. Despite not having a mandoline, and instead only a dull chef’s knife, I attacked the recipe, and basically, even after two and half hours, it wasn’t cooked. In fact, it actually turned a blue-gray sort of color, from being partially cooked and then cooled. Needless to say, I didn’t want to face the recipe ever again until I got this new mandoline and had my confidence renewed in Boulud.
With the mandoline, it was incredibly easy, and the potatoes were cut in no time. I only used a cup of cream because I wanted to have enough for some biscuits I plan to make this weekend. The last half cup I just replaced with 1 % milk and it was still great. The potatoes are creamy and soft and lightly perfumed with nutmeg and thyme, So, please try this, but help yourself out a lot and only do so if you have a mandoline.
Potato Gratin Forestier
Adapted from Daniel Boulud’s recipe in “A Table for Two”
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces assorted mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste (I used black pepper)
Pinch of minced fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and heat butter over medium high heat in an ovenproof saute pan.
Add mushrooms and saute until just tender. Once tender, remove to a bowl and add the thyme and garlic, then go on to the potatoes.
Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes thinly. Mix together the cream, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the potatoes to the cream mixture so that all pieces are covered.
Wipe the saute pan clean and butter the sides and bottom of the pan. Place the slices of potatoes so that they form a circle one layer thick and pour over some of the excess cream. Make another layer with the potatoes and pour over more of the cream. Then, spoon all of the mushrooms onto the potatoes. While you do these steps with the layering of the potatoes, make sure that they are packed in tightly. Continue to make circular layers of potatoes and pour cream over each layer until you run out of potatoes. The original recipe says that you may not use all of the cream/ milk specified, but I did and it worked well. Of course, I think that I may have used a little more than 2 pounds of potatoes, so just use your best judgement here.
Finally, sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top of the gratin and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Then place on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 45 minutes. At 45 minutes, you may want to reduce the temperature to 300 degrees if it is browning substantially, though I did not find this to be a problem at all. Continue to cook, at either 300 or 350 degrees for 15 more minutes. If after 15 more minutes, the gratin isn’t browned enough, you may place it under the broiler for a few minutes until it browns.