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December 05, 2016

The Easiest, Cheesiest, Best Au Gratin Potatoes. Ever!

My Take on a Classic Winter Dish

Is there any vegetable more synonymous with winter than the humble potato? I think not! This simple tuber can go from plain to fancy with minimal fuss, from deeply satisfying to unbelievably indulgent with a handful of ingredients. Perhaps it's my peasant roots (no pun intended), but I've long had a love affair with the potato and there isn't an end in sight.

In recent years the potato has been wrongfully accused of bringing a host of unwelcome health maladies to those who partake, everything from kicking on the switch in the brain for increased sugar cravings to obesity, but I know better. In the 1970s, my grandmother worked for the United States of Agricultural at The Potato Board--the government entity that took on a public relations campaign for the tuber. Along with a handful of colorful recipe booklets, my grandmother came to the table with a wealth of nutritional information and an order to 'eat those potato skins' that nearly shocked us all.

When I set about creating my take on the classic Au Gratin, I had little to work with. It was Sunday and I was too cold and lazy to head to the store, so I had to make do with a nearly empty cheese drawer, very little milk, and only a smattering of butter. But, ingenuity is the mother of invention, so while there were obstacles, there were no impossibilities. The resulting dish was savory and satisfying, well-worth an addition to my winter rotation, and in hindsight, one of the most versatile recipes I've ever come across. Best of all, it paired perfectly with a glass of wine and an evening spent on the sofa, still clad in my pajamas.


Mel's Au Gratin Potatoes

8 medium potatoes, washed, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin or in the food processor on the thinnest slicing disc
1 small clove of garlic, peeled and mashed
1 T olive oil
Good quality parmesan cheese, finely grated
8 oz. Aged Swiss (or another strong cheese) finely grated
1 cup whole milk, preferably organic
Extra Crunchy Panko
Salt and Pepper

1. Add the olive oil and garlic to a well-seasoned cast iron skillet and rub over the bottom and up the sides, until fully oiled.
2. Make a layer of potatoes, laying them out in a circular, flower petal manner, with each slice just overlapping the previous; cover the center.
3. Generously sprinkle the layer with parmesan and Swiss, top with freshly ground pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt.
4. Continue building layers, adding cheeses, pepper, and salt as you go.
5. Once the completed, pour one cup of milk over the top, making sure to add it equally.
6. Top the final layer with cheese, salt and pepper and a few spoonfuls of the Extra Crunch Panko.
7. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the potatoes are tender, the milk and cheese bubbling, and the top just beginning to turn golden.
8. Increase heat to 385 degrees and cook until deeply golden and hot.
9. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes; serve.

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