November 24, 2020

A la Carte: A Day for Dauphinois (aka Scalloped Potatoes)

If you are reading this column today, you know that yesterday was Christmas. If you have little ones, they probably woke you up at dawn, to let you know that Santa had arrived.

When our little ones were young, we spent Christmas with my husband’s sister in East Bloomfield, N.Y. We arrived on Christmas Eve, early enough to get to my in-laws’ church in Rochester. There my husband turned the pages of the lovely old pipe organ as my father-in-law played.

After that, we all drove to Roslyn’s house. Our children, our parents and we slept everywhere—kids in sleeping bags in the living room and family room, our parents in the bedrooms upstairs/ Doug and I slept in a Sofabed  two rooms away from the living room (that room, much later, became the bird room, but that’s another long story).

I’m not sure how Ros made this happen, but no presents were open until we had a full breakfast, waffles or pancakes or French toast, bacon and sausage and, for us, gallons of coffee. Then the fun began.

Wrapping paper and bows filled the living room and the kids squealed. We adults opened our gifts one at a time, exclaimed how thrilled we were with every present. We showed each of our treasures to the others. And every year we gave Roslyn a special one—always a gag gift, often naughty. She was supposed to show them to our parents.  Sometimes she didn’t.

Dinner, around 4 p.m., was easy: often prime rib, which came out of the oven as we turned the heat to 450 degrees. Then we placed the pan of Yorkshire pudding, which, of course, is not a pudding at all. Sometimes it was a ham, instead. If it was, there would be scalloped potatoes, which everyone loved. 

Today I am making a big ham for my neighbors, their son and his teenage daughter. If I could have gotten one, it would be a spiral sliced, Honey Baked Ham. It may not be local and it may be overly sweet, but I love that ham. There will be sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese (for my neighbors’ granddaughter), lots of vegetables and for dessert something special—perhaps crème brulee or chocolate pots de crème. The next day I will make a very French scalloped potatoes with slivered left-over ham nestled inside.

I love this recipe! (See below)

Gratin Dauphinois

From A Passion for Potatoes by Lydie Marshall (Harper Perennial, New York, 1992)

1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled and sliced one-eighth- to one-sixteenth-inch thick
1 and one-half teaspoons sat*
1 and one-third cups half-and-half cream
1 tablespoons cold butter
One-half cup heavy cream

Yield: serves 4 to 6 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2-quart rectangular or oval dish 14 by 8 by 2 inches.  Scatter the minced garlic in the dish.

Overlap 3 layers of potatoes in the pan, sprinkling salt between each layer. Dribble in the half and half, barely covering them. Dot the top with butter.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Pour the heavy cream on top of the potatoes and tilt the pan to baste the top layer. Bake for 45 minutes more, or until golden brown.

*If you are adding ham to the gratin, leave out the salt in the recipe, but serve with a nice finishing salt at the table.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for, and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.


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