Never underestimate the power of the potato. Not only because it gives us pretty little things like vodka and fries [which are ah-mazing]. But also because their humility allows you to really work magic with them. Add eggs and they make an awesome frittata. Bake them and season, resulting in glorious potato wedges. Grate them onto a skillet for a quick and crispy potato roesti. You get the gist.
What I chose to do with (or rather, to) my potatoes was a little more luxurious. My mum was having her gaggle of friends over for a lunch soiree, and in addition to a bunch of salads and desserts, the main course was heralded by this version of potatoes – the Dauphinoise.
The first time that I tried this spectacularly simple dish was at a restaurant in the city for a buffet lunch. I remember some friends of my parents going ga-ga over the preparation, which prompted them to call the chef out to the table to learn more about this new obsession. This is when the term ‘dauphinoise’ stuck. And just to clarify – this was some 15 odd years ago, when I had probably been given my first cellphone. I remember because I actually wrote the dish’s name out in a message to myself on that Nokia. And when I look back now, I’m so glad I did.
Back to 2014.
My preparation of the potato dauphinoise, which is a french classic, is cooked carefully in milk and cream, with a few cloves of garlic and a good healthy douse of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Variations that I have made include lacing the finished dish with some truffle or truffle oil, or layering the potatoes with a few handfuls of gruyere. Irrespective, each and every time, the end result is a luscious filling main. This is precisely why I am going to apologise for the lack of pictures. It was made several times while entertaining, and in the hullabaloo of it all, the more artistic and individual pictures during prepping and serving were both left out.
Make this ahead of time when you plan to entertain, or for a simple weeknight meal accompanied by a side salad. It is actually not a painful dish to prepare. What I would recommend for ease is a mandoline. Once you have that in tow, the rest is a breeze. Measure out the potatoes, wash them nicely as you’ll be using them with the peel on. Slice them into discs using the mandoline, cook in milk and cream and garlic for just about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish and add variant of choice (optional). Yes, its really that simple! What emerges from your oven is a golden slightly charred top of potatoes, a garlicky creamy sauce, and sheer satisfaction in a plate.
Ok, I think I’m gonna have to go make some now, yet again.
- 1.5 kg potatoes, scrubbed and washed
- 400ml milk
- 400ml cream
- 2-3 cloves garlic, grated
- salt, to taste
- freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 200gm gruyere cheese/ 20ml truffle oil (optional)
- Fill a large enough bowl with icy cold water.
- Measure out the potatoes, wash them nicely as you'll be using them with the peel on.
- Slice them into 1cm discs using a mandoline, directly into the bowl of cold water. Leave in the water for 10 minutes, effectively getting rid some of that waxy starch.
- In the meantime, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over low flame in a large saucepan. Mix in the garlic, using 2 cloves first, and adding more only if needed. Season and taste.
- Drain the potato slices. Slowly add in the potatoes to the creamy sauce, and cook for just about 10-12 minutes, stirring every few minutes to make sure the bottom and edges don't burn.
- Transfer to a baking dish and add variant of choice (optional).
- Bake in a preheated oven at 160*c for 45-60 minutes, till it is golden and sizzling. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
This is an amazing dish to keep in your repertoire, as the ingredients are pantry staples and you really don’t need too dress it up with anything fresh. I used:
Potatoes – The regular kind, that we use at home everyday. Use whatever type of white potato you have on hand.
Milk – I use full fat milk such as Amul Taaza for this recipe. Feel free to use any other full fat milk at home. I don’t think that the richness that is required in this dish will be achieved with slim/fat free milk.
Cream – I’ve used varying brands from imported Elle & Vire and Even. I’ve also made it using Amul fresh cream, which worked just fine and come in conveniently sized 200ml tetrapacks.