Sunday, 11 January 2015

8. Potato Dauphinoise

Photo Ludovic Peron

   8.   Potato Dauphinoise
   This is a delicious way of cooking potatoes that originated in the Dauphiné area of southeastern France, the Alpine foothills, centered on Grenoble. 
     Every celebrity chef has his own take on this dish which has titillated palates since its first recorded introduction at a banquet in 1788.  Some suggest using waxy potatoes, (Elizabeth David and Raymond Blanc), while Michel Roux Jnr and others like prefer a floury variety.  My personal preference for this dish is a floury potato, Maris Piper or King Edward for instance, which soaks up all the delicious creamy cooking liquid.  
     James Martin adds mozzarella cheese as a covering to his recipe while Jamie Oliver makes a major production, adding onion, anchovies, olive oil, bay leaf, and thyme, and topping it off with Parmesan cheese. The legendary Auguste Escoffier, writing in his Guide Culinaire in 1903, adds eggs and cheese to his recipe.
     I prefer, where possible, to keep cooking simple in both preparation and method, and Potato Dauphinoise needs no additional ingredients.  However, I do sometimes ring the changes by alternating the layers of potato with layers of thinly sliced parsnip.
     Potato Dauphinoise is scrumptious as a side dish to spring lamb but I think I enjoy it best on its own as a main dish, (particularly if I add the parsnips), complemented by a simple tomato salad dressed with a little olive oil and cider vinegar. 
     The Dauphiné area of France is also noted for its Croze Hermitage AOC wine from the northern Rhone wine region; a soft fruity red, available in UK from most wine merchants and supermarkets.  A glass goes nicely with this dish…. and helps the digestion. 

Ingredients.  Prep: 20 minutes.  Serves 4.
5 large potatoes;  300ml of double cream;  250ml of whole milk;  Three cloves of garlic, minced;  Small piece of butter;  Salt and pepper; pinch of nutmeg, (optional) 

Method.  Cook 90 -100 minutes
Pre-heat the oven to 190 C/gas 5.  Rub a 10” baking dish with oil and slice of garlic.  Peel and thinly slice the potatoes (about 4mm thick) and rinse them in cold water.  Mix the cream, milk and minced garlic together and season well with salt, (and optional nutmeg).   Layer the potatoes in a baking dish, pouring a little of the milk mixture over each layer. Dot the top layer of potatoes with butter and pour over the rest of the liquid.  Cover the dish with foil.  Bake for 60 minutes in the middle of the oven.  Remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes until the top layer is golden and bubbling.  Check with a fork that the potatoes are soft.  If they still feel a little hard, return to the oven for a further 10 or 15 minutes. 

    The nutritional value of the humble potato is vastly underrated.  Due to the increased interest in low-carb or low-glycemic index foods, the potato has unjustly earned a bad reputation because of its starchy makeup, leading many to believe that it should be cut out of the diet altogether. This nutrient-dense tuber, however, is packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that help to ward off disease, including cancer, and benefit human health. It is  rich in potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sulphur and copper. It also contains good amounts of the following vitamins: beta-carotene, vitamin A, C, B1, B2, B6, and folic acid as well as small amounts of fibre and protein.

Further Reading:
Medical News Today  The Health Benefits of Potatoes

Food for thought: A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.
James Beard
quoted beneath his portrait in Charley O's Bar, New York City.

A glutton digs his grave with his teeth
French Proverb

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