Because I do not often crave potatoes slow-baked in a cream bath with a burnish of cheese and fine crunch top, when I do, I know exactly how I want it to taste and how much work I’m willing to do to make it happen. Since it’s been eleven years (!) since I last shared a potato gratin here, I think it’s worth revisiting as we head into gratin season, which is not a thing, I absolutely just made that up, but really should be for colder weather and shorter days.
I prefer my potatoes unpeeled; I like the definition on the edges as they bake up. I prefer stacks of potatoes leaning this way and that versus the traditional flat layers, because it creates more texture and a looser density. I love big chunks of leeks in a potato gratin, not sautéed and hidden, but wedged in all over, sharing the spotlight. I prefer cheese only on top and while I like crumbs, too, they have to be tossed in butter first so they remind me of buttered toast and not, say, sawdust. And while I in the past have made gratins with milk and/or half-and-half, I feel especially at this moment in time that if we’re going to do anything, we might as well do it spectacularly, and that will require heavy cream. Not so much that the potatoes are drowning, but enough that they bake up to the luxurious texture that makes a gratin worth daydreaming about.
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