Sunday, January 10, 2010

Potatoes au Gratin with Onions, Mushrooms, and Bacon

After spending a couple of weeks without cooking anything more substantial than finger foods, I was looking forward to this weekend so that I could try something a little more labour intensive. Since I wanted something really comforting (which, for me, usually translates into a liberal use of dairy products), and as I'm always on a mission to jazz up potatoes, my choice was to try potatoes au gratin. Jeff bought me some Russet potatoes from the farmer's market, and I started to hatch my plan.

While researching recipes, I couldn't believe the variation. Some people parboil their sliced potatoes before baking them, and some use them raw; some people put cheese between each layer of potatoes, some only put it on top, some make a cheese sauce, and some don't use cheese at all (I don't quite understand that last one). Cheddar or gruyere? Heavy cream or whole milk? Would you like to add onions, turnips, or go pure potato? Choices, choices!

Since it was obvious that there was no set formula to follow, I figured that I couldn't possibly mess up that much; so, I decided to wing it. I sauteed sliced onions and cremini mushrooms with some chopped garlic in olive oil, and fried and crumbled a few slices of bacon. Then, I layered this mixture with the potato slices in a buttered baking dish.

To some heavy cream, I added kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, and, since I love what it does to alfedo sauce, a little bit of ground nutmeg. I heated it to a simmer in a sauce pan to thicken it a bit, and poured it gently over the potatoes, until they were just covered.

I covered the dish with foil and baked it until the potatoes were cooked through; then, I added plenty of aged cheddar cheese and dried thyme on top before baking it uncovered.

Once it was beautifully browned, it was time for the hardest part: letting the dish rest before digging in.

As usual with labours of foodie love, it was worth the wait. Decadently creamy and full of flavour, the potatoes au gratin were just what I wanted on a cozy Sunday evening. They would make a great side dish to just about anything, but since we were eating them as a main dish, I served them with a simple salad. I'm so glad I made much more than I needed (I can't wait to eat them with tomorrow night's salmon!)

I think this dish is elegant enough to serve at a nice dinner party. A convenient bonus is that you could assemble the entire thing the day before, and just throw it in the oven while you get everything else ready. I know I'll be serving it with pride very soon!


Potatoes au Gratin with Onions, Mushrooms, and Bacon: The Recipe

Ingredients
3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 lb sliced cremini mushrooms
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
3-4 cups heavy cream
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
pinch nutmeg
2 cups shredded aged cheddar
dried thyme

Directions
Preheat oven to 375C. Saute onions, mushrooms, and garlic in olive oil with kosher salt and fresh pepper, until softened. Place a layer of potato slices in the bottom of a buttered 9x13 in baking dish, overlapping slightly. Spread half of onion and mushroom mixture and half of bacon over the potatoes, top with another layer of potatoes; repeat.

Add kosher salt, fresh pepper, and nutmeg to the heavy cream; bring to a simmer. Pour over potatoes until just covered. Cover baking dish with foil, and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender (pierce with a fork.) Remove foil and top with cheese, and sprinkle with thyme. Bake for another 30-35 minutes to brown. Broil for a few minutes, if desired. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

9 comments:

  1. This dish looks oh so good, but it tasted even better. What an amazingly comforting meal to enjoy on a cold winter's day.

    Bravo! You did it again! Love you.

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  2. Kevin made a dish like this for my birthday last year...I'm tempted to ask for it again this year! :) Looks awesome!

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  3. It's hard to say, but potatoes rank up there as one of my favorite foods...any style, i'm not picky. This sounds and looks amazing. Comfort food is the best! Good work.

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  4. Thanks, Jeff! Happy to share with you. xoxox

    You inspired me by mentioning it over Christmas, Kris! Thanks! :)

    Thanks so much, Sarah. I'm coming around to them more and more as I find amazing ways to eat them. I'm glad I tried this!

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  5. Oh my goodness this looks SOOO good!I was def a potato girl growing up (very large farm- animals and vegetables/grains) so potatoes were something we had plentiful! Cant wait to try this :)

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  6. It's funny, I don't think I even have a set way to make potatoes au gratin. Sometimes I parboil, sometimes I don't, and the dairy is totally dependant on what I have on hand. I've never added mushrooms, I'll have to try that sometime.

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  7. Thanks, Jennifer! Yep, us New Brunswickers are well versed in potatoes, aren't we? Hope you enjoy! :)

    Hi, taste traveller! Interesting! I guess it's one of those dishes that just can't go wrong. I really liked the taste of the mushrooms in there, you should try it.

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  8. when i am cooking i usually add bacon because the taste is really delicious. Actually the bacon for the breakfast is really good i enjoyed a lot. Although the ingredients of the meals be simply if you chose the right ones,the taste will be wonderful.


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