Au gratin dishes are the ultimate in comfort food to me. If you were wondering, “gratin” is of French etymology, coming from a combination of the words “gratter” (to scrape or to grate) and “gratiné” (having a crust or skin). So it’s any baked dish with a nice crust on top, usually made with bread crumbs or melted cheese. So much cheese.
For Easter dinner I bought some new potatoes in homage to spring. And then I wanted to cover them with cheese, in homage to the fact that the weather is still miserable here and it might as well be winter yet. This recipe is in essence the same as the one I made with Jerusalem artichokes last year, but with a few tweaks to reflect the season.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Start with your potatoes, however many will fit in the dish you wish to use. Use a mandolin to slice them super thin. I prefer them thin over thick, because they cook faster, and it means I don’t have to let them cook in the pan first before putting on the cheese crust. I can put the cheese on before I bung it in the oven and I don’t have to worry about it burning. I like to give them a rinse in cold water, too, to get rid of some of the starch.
In a measuring cup, pour about 2/3 cup heavy cream. Obviously if you’re just making a small dish you can use less.
Fill it to about the 1 1/2 cup mark with milk and liberally add ground black pepper. Give that a stir.
Grate a whole heckuva lotta cheese. I have a mix here of gruyère and aged cheddar.
While you’re at it, chop up a bunch of Italian parsley.
Generously butter the dish you want to serve your potatoes in. Line the bottom with a layer of potatoes.
Sprinkle on some parsley, then some cheese.
Repeat that until you get to the top layer. Sprinkle on your parsley, then pour your milk mixture all over the whole thing.
THEN cover it with the rest of the cheese.
Pop that baby in the oven and bake until the top is crusty and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Enjoy!
It’s a cold, cold day today. They say it’s going to snow tomorrow. Need some warming chowder.
Or something like that. We’re nearing the end of our Jerusalem artichoke harvest. Time for some soup. I got this recipe from Laura Werlin and changed it around a little bit. And, having made it, I think I would do it a bit differently next time. But we can talk about that later.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan, and add in 1 large onion, chopped. Stir that around for a minute or so.
Slice up 2 pounds Jerusalem artichokes and 1 pound carrots.
Chuck both of those things in the pot and stir it around for a little bit. Add in a little less than half a cup of flour and mix well.
Gradually add 5 cups chicken stock.
Stir, then cover and let simmer for about 45 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat and blend with an immersion blender or food processor. I like to leave a few chunks in. It is chowder, of course.
Grate 2 cups cheese. The original calls for gruyère, but I only had bergeron and gouda, so I used those.
Pour in 2 1/2 cups milk, the cheese, and a teaspoon dry mustard. Blend it again.
Pour the soup carefully into a clean pot and gently reheat it without allowing it to boil.
Chop up some parsley and serve it over top. Maybe a dash of chili or paprika if you like, for colour.
Next time I think I would leave the flour out until the vegetables were fully simmered and tender all the way through. Then I would make a slurry with the broth and the flour and then bring it to a boil so it will thicken. That way the vegetables would be nice and soft.
In Newfoundland it’s not called “macaroni and cheese”, nor is it even known by the short form of “mac and cheese.” No, here it’s called “cheese ‘n’ do”. The ‘cheese’ is pretty self-explanatory, but the ‘do’ comes from what locals refer to as “scooby-do pasta,” which is not formed in the shape of a cartoon dog’s face, believe it or not. It’s the long macaroni that curls around itself a few times in a helix, otherwise known as cavatappi (“corkscrew”). I feel like we also called it scooby-do pasta when I was growing up in Nova Scotia, but I need a sibling or parent to back me up on that one. Feel free to tell me as well that I’m completely wrong.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find any cavatappi for this particular recipe (which is odd, this being Newfoundland), so I went with gemelli instead, which is like the double-helix version of scooby-do.
Mac and cheese is one of the Pie’s favourite meals, and this is one that he has perfected over the years. We like to experiment with our cheese sauce, adding spices or even other sauces, and we have in the past added sausages and peppers to the mix. As with most traditional recipes where each of us has preconceived notions of ingredient proportions, my cheese sauce has more cheese in it than he does, and it is a constant fight to get him to add tomatoes. While I used to think tomatoes were a horrid addition to this casserole, my mother always insisted and now I have seen the light. The Pie has not yet come around to the idea. It’s a constant struggle. Anyway, this is mostly his recipe, though I was allowed to contribute in order to post it. Now I know all his secrets.
Tonight we took advantage of our overabundance of Ontario cheese, as well as the fresh basil now growing in the kitchen.
Grate up between two and three cups of cheese for this recipe, and what kind you use is up to you (though mozzarella doesn’t work very well, gotta say). We used a combination of emmentaler, gruyère, and regular old cheddar. Make sure you have all your additions ready (like if you’re adding meat, it’s cooked and ready to go) before you start melting the cheese. Once the cheese has melted you have a limited amount of time before it starts to burn so you want to work quickly.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Melt about two tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Add in two tablespoons flour, and mix well so there are no lumps.
Pour in two cups milk and make it nice and hot, though don’t let it boil or burn.
While that’s going on, cook up a box (450g) of small noodles (like macaroni) according to package instructions. Drain and return to the pot you cooked it in.
Whisk two to three cups grated cheese into your hot milk. You can retain some of this for sprinkling on top of the casserole but that’s up to you. Add lots of salt and pepper to the cheesy mix. We also added several sliced leaves of fresh basil to the sauce at this point.
When the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is thick (careful not to burn it!), empty your sauce into the pot with the noodles and give it a good stir. Make sure the cheese coats all the noodles and whatever else you put in there. We like to add a few things to the noodles, so we put in half a can of diced, drained tomatoes. We also put in some diced cooked bacon.Be thorough in your stirring.Pour out into a sufficiently large casserole dish (9″ x 13″ works well) and smooth out the top. The noise made when stirring macaroni in a sauce is truly disgusting. I love it.
You can sprinkle on any leftover cheese at this stage. Some people like to top their mac with a butter and bread crumb mixture, but we figure we have enough carbs going on, so we just add more fat. Mmmm.Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until the top is crispy and bubbling throughout. Remove from the oven and let it cool for ten minutes or so before serving. If you don’t you will sear the inside of your mouth with molten cheese and everything will get all over the place. The casserole needs to solidify a bit first.Serve it with some vegetables on the side or whatever you want. I like to add a few drops of Tabasco to mine for added spiciness.This keeps well for leftovers, if your husband doesn’t eat it all immediately.