Monday, April 29, 2013

Cheesy Potato Gratin

This is the gratin my mom has been making for years and it's just how I like it: decadent (hello, heavy cream!) and delicious! I do not claim that it is a traditional recipe for gratin dauphinois. Actually, because of the addition of gruyère cheese, it might be considered more of a gratin savoyard (from the Savoie region in the Alps). Also, I skip the step of pre-cooking the potatoes in milk before baking the gratin in the oven -- it works just fine and saves time!

Here are a few tips for achieving the perfect scalloped potatoes:
- use Yukon Gold potatoes,
- slice them thin (between ⅛ and ¼ inch thick) using a food processor or mandoline, or a sharp chef's knife,
- do not rinse or soak the potatoes once they are sliced (you need the potatoes to hold on to their starch which will give the gratin a smooth and creamy texture),
- make ahead of time, turn off oven, and let the gratin sit in the warm oven for up to one hour,
- for a lighter version, use broth (or homemade stock) instead of cream/milk.

Serves 6-8
  • About 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, rinsed and thinly sliced = 1 kg de pommes de terre (type Charlotte), épluchées, nettoyées et coupées en fines rondelles
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter = 20-30 g de beurre
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped = 1 gousse d'ail, finement hâchée
  • 1 cup heavy cream = 240 ml de crème liquide
  • ½ cup milk = 120 ml de lait
  • 1 cup (packed) shredded gruyère cheese = 125 g de gruyère râpé
  • Salt & pepper = sel et poivre
  • A pinch of nutmeg = une pincée de noix de muscade

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C.

Generously butter a baking dish (about 12” x 8“) and sprinkle the garlic all over the bottom.

Place a layer of potatoes slices in the prepared dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with ¼ cup heavy cream and ¼ cup cheese. Repeat 3 times until all potatoes, cream and cheese are used up. After the last layer, add nutmeg to the milk and pour all over. Bake, uncovered, for about one hour until all liquid is absorbed, potatoes are tender and top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vinaigrette in a Jar

This is the easiest way to make vinaigrette: put all the ingredients in a jar, shake, done!

It makes enough to last a few days. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days. Remove and let it come back to room temperature for 15 minutes before using, shake well to blend again.

The proportions I use are rather traditional: three parts oil to one part vinegar (as my grand-mother taught me!) but you can adjust to your liking.

Makes about ¾ cup
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped = 2 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard = 1 cuillère à soupe de moutarde forte
  • ¼ teaspoon salt = ¼ cuillère à café de sel
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper = ¼ cuillère à café  de poivre
  • 2 tablespoons red whine vinegar = 2 cuillères à soupe de vinaigre de vin rouge
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar = 1 cuillère à soupe de vinaigre balsamique
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil = 130 ml d'huile d'olive

Put all the ingredients in a 8 oz. glass jar. Screw lid on tightly and shake very well.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


My mom came for spring break (which really should have been renamed winter break this year!) and in her honor, I wanted to make a special French dessert for Easter lunch. Profiteroles blissfully crossed my mind. Behind the fancy name are cream puffs, filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Yes, heaven!

The best choux (“cream puffs”) are risen and golden, yet soft and moist, with a hollow inside that awaits any type of cream (ice, whipped, pastry...) you wish. You can definitely make the dough in a food processor, but I do it the old-fashioned way: with a wooden spoon and my right arm – which feels like it's about to fall off by the end of the process. I figure I am getting a much-needed arm workout so it's all good!

Makes 12-14 medium profiteroles

For the cream puffs:
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour, sifted = 100 g de farine, tamisée
  • ¼ teaspoon salt = ¼ cuillère à café de sel
  • ¾ cup water = 175 ml d'eau
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces = 85 g de beurre, coupé en 6 morceaux
  • 3 eggs = 3 oeufs

For the chocolate sauce:
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips = 150 g de pépites de chocolat
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream = 80 ml de crème liquid
For the filling:
  • Vanilla ice cream = glace à la vanille

Preheat oven to 400° F / 200° C.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the dry ingredients (flour and salt) all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon for about one minute until well blended and the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Place the pan back on the heat, set to low, and cook the mixture for 2 minutes, beating constantly. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Beat 1 egg in a small bowl and set aside. Add the 2 remaining eggs, one at a time, to the flour mixture, beating until completely incorporated. Add the beaten egg by teaspoonfuls until the dough is smooth and shiny. Put the dough into a ziplock bag, cut off a corner and pipe 12 to 14 mounds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 25 minutes until the choux are risen and golden brown. Turn off the oven, open the door and leave the puffs to cool in there for about 30 minutes. Then remove from the oven, and set aside to cool completely. [At that point, you can save the choux for later by storing them in a closed plastic container or cookie tin for up to a couple of days.]

When ready to serve, make the chocolate sauce: heat up the heavy cream in a small saucepan to a bare simmer. Turn off the heat and whisk chocolate chips into the hot cream until smooth.
Carefully cut the puffs in half and put a small scoop of ice cream in each middle. Top with chocolate sauce and serve immediately. Enjoy! 
This recipe can be used to make other yummy things:
- Top with pearl sugar before baking. Ta-da, you now have chouquettes for snack!
- Add shredded gruyère to the dough to make savory cougères (cheesy puffs). Those are wonderful with mixed greens.
- Pipe into an oblong shape, stuff with pastry cream and top with glaze and you have yourself a delicious éclair!