VDP: Potato Gratin with Braised Mushrooms

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Well, I had some mushrooms I needed to use up and I had to inaugurate my large Colombian clay baking dish. Supposedly, the casein in milk is very good for strengthening clay pottery and it’s a good idea to cook some milk in a clay pot before starting to use it. According to Paula Wolfert, she uses her new pots to make some rice pudding, this way no milk would be wasted and you’ll have a nice dessert to eat.

In the baking dish I decided to make a simple potato gratin. The base recipe is from Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian“. I used my mandolin to thinly cut the potatoes, layered them with salt, pepper and cheese (yeah, I used one of those mixed cheese bags I had in the fridge from the last time we made fajitas). Before baking I poured in a combination of garlic flavored milk and cream that should reach about ¾ of the way up the potato layers. That’s it. Easy and looks as good as it tastes.

I love using mushrooms like meat. Here I seared them on high heat before quickly braising them with some port and shallots. I had a few tablespoons of the garlic flavored milk mixture from the gratin that I did not use. So, I finished the mushrooms with that.

I also wanted to try my hand at baking vegetables in salt crust. This week alone I saw both Alain Passard and Dan Barber bake a beat in a salt crust. I had one beet and some carrots, so I figured I’ll give it a try and got mixed results. The carrots with their thin skin came out way too salty and inedible. The beet on the other hand has a thick skin and worked great. It was soft but not mushy and had a great flavor with perfect salt. I guess Passard and Barber knew what they were doing roasting a beet like that but not a carrot. Hey, you can’t blame me for trying. I served it as a first course with a salad of mixed greens and a honey-Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

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