Friday, September 14, 2012

Who Doesn't Love Cheese and Cream?

Fall is in the air!! I remember my first fall in Texas very well. It was late September and hot. Though I've adjusted somewhat to the temps that come with East Texas, five years ago I was no where near ready to accept 90+ degrees in September. I remember speaking with a lovely lady, whom I believe she was a furniture sales person, and she mentioned that fall was definitely in the air. I thought she was nuts. HUH?! Fall for this girl meant hoodie sweatshirts, a high of maybe 60 degrees and lots of burnt orange leaves.  Ninety degrees does not fall weather make! However, as I begin my 6th fall season in Texas, I can feel it. She was right. For East Texas fall IS in the air. Oh the temps aren't cool, I'm still wearing tank tops and flip flops, and I can't bring myself to make chili yet, no matter how much I want to curl up with a bowl in front of a football game. That will come. But right now, the beginning of fall manifests itself by shorter days, a distinctive feel in the air, the echo of the football announcer from the university stadium just down the road, and yes....slightly cooler temps. Just slightly. And I'm ready for it - comfort food and all. Sifting through my large and embarrassingly messy notebook-turned-pile of favorite recipes, I was inspired to make this dish again. After a summer of menus revolving around fruit, veggies, salads and low temp foods that can fill a family without heating up the kitchen, the entire family was ready for some creamy goodness. I'm ready to heat up the kitchen again. Serve it up alongside a roasted chicken, some balsamic green beans and a fresh spinach salad. You really can use almost any cheese - layered between the potatoes, the cheese melts into a creamy filling. We make it with Gruyere or Swiss. Sometimes sharp cheddar. Even pepper jack for a little kick.
Potato Gratin
4-6 large potatoes, thinly sliced - I use the slicer on my food processor for uniformity.
1-2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup cream or half & half
2 1/2 cups grated cheese
Finely chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13 casserole dish. Heat the cream or half & half in a saucepan with the minced garlic. Do not boil, bring just to a  simmer, then remove from heat and seat aside. This allows the garlic to infuse the cream for a consistent flavor throughout. I prefer to layer the ingredients as opposed to stirring it all together and pouring it into the baking dish. I'm a little OCD so this works for me. Also, I leave the skins on the potatoes for the extra vitamin content. Begin with a layer of potatoes, slightly overlapping. Then a layer of thinly sliced onion, sprinkle with salt, pepper and cheese of your choice. Repeat steps until you have about 5-6 layers of potatoes, or until you've reached the top of your casserole, ending with cheese and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Drizzle the cream/garlic mixture slowly over the potatoes until all of the cream has been added. Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour or until potatoes are tender. Remove foil and place under broiler for about 10 minutes until the top of your potatoes are golden and bubbly.
I have to give props the ole iPhone for the below "in proccess" pic of raw potato/onion - I snapped it on my phone and am pretty impressed with the quality - way to go Apple, I'm your #1 fan!
This final pic was shot from my handy dandy Canon t3i with a standard 18-55mm lens and edited in Photoshop CS6.