What’s not to love about potatoes cooked in heavy cream? Not much, especially when you’re talking about Gratin Dauphinois — a dish based on thinly sliced potatoes bathed in heavy cream and topped with a thick layer of Gruyère cheese.
But I did discover one downside to the dish at a recent cooking class at The French Kitchen taught by Blandine Brutel.
“This is a dish that is a specialty of the Dauphiné region of France where I grew up,” she said. “I have found it is easier to cook the potatoes on the stovetop before layering them in the baking dish. Otherwise, it is so hard to tell when the potatoes are done.”
You must be diligent about stirring the potatoes when precooking with the cream. Before you know it, you’ll have a layer of scorched stuff to scrape off the bottom of the pot. That’s what happened during our class in spite of all six of us fussing over the simmering pot.
While soaking and scrubbing the crusty pan, I had a sort of culinary epiphany: Cook the potatoes and cream in the microwave.
I hardly could wait to get home to give the idea a try. It worked great and there was not a speck of scorched gook with to clean up.
Essentially, microwave cooking is using steam to cook, so you’re not likely to have the scorching issue. What you do need to remember is to use a lower power and stir the mixture often. I used 50 percent power, stirring at 5-minute intervals.
Finding the proper cooking vessel is necessary, too. I used a two-quart Pyrex measuring bowl. It had a handle that made moving the bowl in and out of the microwave easier. It also had a wide base so I could stir the potatoes easily from top to bottom. As the starch was released from the potatoes during cooking, it thickened the cream.
Brutel is correct about precooking the potatoes to assure the correct doneness, particularly at our altitude. Using the microwave method for her class would not be practical, since she usually is doubling the recipes. But for the home cook, using the microwave is the way to go.
Brutel teaches an array of classes, including one that is entirely about potatoes. Visit tfkcc.com. Here’s her recipe adapted for the microwave.
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