Wednesday, July 25, 2012

From the Garden: Recipe for Oven Roasted Potato Gratin with Bacon and Cream

New russet potato
These days, my cooking style leans heavily toward whimsy.  Rarely do I plan a recipe or meal ahead of time other than ethereal thoughts.  (Which is why you will seldom see a holiday recipe on this blog that is posted before the actual holiday in any given year.)

And while it's true that I wake up most mornings thinking about what I'll cook for dinner, they are wispy thoughts, changing often during the day, usually inspired by what's directly in front of me - say, a freshly dug potato the proportions of which could easily feed two people.

Garden-fresh China rose garlic and sweet onions

So when I pulled said potato from the ground the other day, not so much visions of a meal appeared as floating bubbles containing words, tastes and smells and all I knew was that that particular very large potato would be combined with also-just-pulled onions and garlic.  Simple, straightforward food.

Bacon came into play when dicing changed to slicing which conjured up layers; cream, as onions and garlic were sizzling in bacon fat.

I know.  Bacon fat.  Cream.  Forgive me.    This is whimsy at its delicious worst.

Oven roasted garden potatoes with bacon and cream

Eat too much of this and it will expand your waistline.  [Suggestion: serve it to a crowd, guaranteeing no leftovers.]

Just dug, first-of-the-season russet potatoes have a thin skin (at least in my garden), are drier than the more waxy, less absorbent Yukon golds, and combine beautifully with any liquid that you want the potato to absorb, giving back creamy goodness on your plate. I recommend them in a dish like this.
The potatoes are growing just behind those wild onion stalks
Am I terrible to post a hot, oven-centric recipe like this in July?  Not in my kitchen.  The "summer" months of coastal far-northern California are foggy and cool - sometimes darn cold.  My zucchini struggle. The potatoes love it.

Oven Roasted Potato Gratin with Onions, Garlic, Bacon and Cream
Recipe by Christine Hills
Serves 8-12 small slices
  • 1 or 2 large new russet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced crosswise in 1/8" to 1/4" thickness
  • 1 medium sweet onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, peeled, cut in half from stalk to roots, then thinly sliced into half moons
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked to well done, save the bacon fat!
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup cream
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black peppercorns to taste
Set the oven to 350-degrees.
Prep the potatoes, onions and garlic per the descriptions above and set aside.
Start a large cast iron skillet or other heavy 12-inch skillet over high heat and add the bacon. When the bacon fat starts to melt turn the heat to medium-high and cook, turning over halfway through, until just crispy.  Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain.  Pour all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the skillet, reserving the bacon fat, and return the skillet to the heat.
Add the sliced onions and garlic to the pan and saut√© over medium heat until soft and just beginning to get golden.  Remove them to a plate and set aside.
Add a bit more bacon fat to the skillet and warm it, if necessary, until fully liquid then remove the pan from the heat.
Place a layer of sliced potatoes in the bottom of the skillet.  I usually lay them down in overlapping rings beginning at the outside edge of the skillet and working to the center. Salt and pepper liberally then put down a second layer of potatoes. 
Spread the onion mixture evenly over the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Do another layer of potatoes over the onions and yet another layer if you have enough potatoes.  Again, salt and pepper liberally but to your own taste.  Potatoes love salt.
Pour the cream around the edge of the skillet all the way around and then over the top of the potatoes.
Cut or crumble the bacon into small pieces and sprinkle these over the top.
Cover the skillet with a lid or foil and roast for 40-60 minutes or until all the cream is absorbed and the potatoes come apart when nudged with a fork.
Remove the lid and roast 7-10 minutes more to brown the top.
Slice into wedges to serve.

[That whimsy part I was talking about? - where I change my mind mid-chop/slice/or dice and, whoops!, go off in another direction? - that can be a bit disconcerting to friends or family members helping out in the kitchen .  (Which, I suppose, is why I prefer to cook by myself.)  Although Mr CC, who is quite used to my culinary antics after almost 30 years of wedded bliss, has become quite the sous chef, able to deftly change directions at my whim - and he doesn't give me grief about it.]

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