Monday, March 25, 2013

Quick, Creamy, Cast Iron Pan Potato Gratin

Quick, Creamy, Cast-Iron Pan Potato Gratin
This winter is becoming known as the winter that dragged on into summer. Honestly, this time last year I was planting stuff, and this year I haven't even raked anything yet. I want to be cooking and writing about spring food, but, since it's snowing (again), we're still craving soothing, creamy, cozy food. I don't know about you, but right about now, my patience is wearing thin with long drawn out recipes, and I just want to be able to grill. Outside. On our Big Green Egg. Even Chuck, who's not exactly Mr. Nature Boy, is starting to hate this icy, gray weather.

We had to settle for a flank steak grilled indoors, our nod to spring, and backed it up with a fast version of a potato gratin, like scalloped potatoes, made in a cast iron skillet from start to finish, in less than an hour. This should serve 4, but these are so good we polished them off between the two of us. Too good to leave any leftovers.

You could use any sort of frying pan, not just cast iron, as long as it is ovenproof and about 9" or 10" in diameter.  Cast iron, however does the best job, and has enough rustic charm to come to the table. Lodge makes great pre-seasoned pans, made here in American that you should start collecting, because no kitchen is complete without a few good cast iron pans. While the gratin bakes, you can grill your steak, or relax with a glass of wine and watch the tulips grow. If its spring where you are. If you're here, just watch it snow.

Note: A mandoline will make slicing the potatoes and onions fast and easy. I recommend this one as its simple to adjust and clean, and stays sharp thanks to the ceramic blade. Just remember to use the hand guard. And if you have a Microplane zester / grater, use it on the cheese to get a fine cloud of cheese to spread evenly over the top of the gratin.You can make this gluten free by omitting the flour, but the end result won't be as creamy.

Quick Creamy One-Pan Potato Gratin

1T unsalted butter
4 med - large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8" thick
1 small yellow onion, peeled, and sliced into 1/8" rounds
3T Wondra or AP (All Purpose) flour
1-1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
salt, nutmeg and fresh ground pepper
1 oz, Parmesan or Romano finely grated

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a 9" or 10" ovenproof skillet or frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Into the pan, place 1/2 of the potato slices in concentric circles covering the bottom of the pan evenly, using broken bits and off-slices as needed to fill in, saving the best looking potato slices for the top layer. 

Lightly salt, add a few grinds of black pepper and a light dusting of nutmeg. Next, dust the flour evenly over the potato slices. Wondra is easier to use because it won't clump, but AP will work.

Spread all of the slice onions over the flour layer, and then top with the remaining half of the potatoes. Again sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg. 

Mix the creme fraiche or the cream and the stock together, and pour evenly over the top. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, partially cover with a lid or foil, and cook about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just beginning to soften. Do not boil hard, or it'll boil over. Remove the lid, and sprinkle the cheese over the top, and place the pan, uncovered in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, and the top is browned.

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