Monday, May 14, 2012

Potato Gratin with Green Garlic

Green garlic is a particularly delicious treat in spring. It looks like a small leek with a purplish hue on the root end. This is garlic before the head forms. It is abundant now in the farmers' markets. The great thing about this recipe is that it is so simple and the potatoes are a perfect foil for the delicate flavor of green garlic. You may also use 2-3 heads of 'green' garlic if it is too late for the ones that look like leeks. Chop the entire head up fine, no need to break into cloves. Stew as per directions here.


Ingredients:
2-2.5 lbs of Yukon Gold or large red potatoes
6-8 stalks of green garlic (about the diameter of your thumb
1 C. half & half
½ C. heavy cream
½ t. champagne vinegar (may substitute tarragon vinegar, just something acidic without too much flavor)
2 T. butter
2 T. water
Salt (preferably Kosher or sea salt) and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel and slice the potatoes about ¼ inch thick. Rinse them in water, drain and lay them out on a dry towel.


Cut the root from the green garlic. Approximately 6-7 inches above the root end cut off  the upper green portion of the stalk. You should now have a six to seven inch piece of green garlic. Some lighter green at the upper end is fine. Remove outer layer of skin. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut in small pieces crosswise (about 1/8 to ¼ inch thick.) Immerse in plenty of water to shake loose any dirt. Move to a colander to drain.


In a small saucepan add one tablespoon of butter and the green garlic. Add a few generous pinches of salt and the 2 T. of water. Cover and set heat to medium. Cook for about ten minutes until just soft. Take ½ cup of the half & half and the green garlic and place into a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the ½ teaspoon of vinegar and taste for salt.


In a 9 x 13 baking dish rub the remaining 1 T. of butter on the bottom and sides. Leave any excess in the dish. Place a layer of potatoes and season generously with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add all of the garlic puree. Add a final layer of potatoes. Here you may wish to be a little fussy and layer the potato slices neatly. If your having company for dinner, you might want to take the extra time. It does look great when it comes out of the oven.


Next, add a heaping quarter teaspoon of salt to the remaining cream/half and half mixture. Pour over potatoes.


Season the top layer of potatoes. Cover with wax paper or parchment. Press the mixture with both hands. You want to make sure when you do this the liquid in the baking dish comes up to the top of the potatoes. This is a little trick to make sure you have enough liquid. If necessary add a little more milk, or half & half. Recover and redo the test. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and parchment. Press firmly with a spatula/pancake turner. Return to oven for another 20 minutes. Press again. The potatoes should be just about done. Now concentrate on getting a nice brown top, and not letting the cream mixture cook too long.
The cream/half & half mixture should be bubbling and thick. When it appears the bubbles are looking quite thick, remove the dish from the oven. If necessary you can put under the broiler for a few minutes for a browner top. It looks best with a beautiful brown top.


Tips: the technique for determining if you have adequate liquid (pressing down on the parchment.) If the liquid rises to barely cover the potatoes there is sufficient milk/cream. Stop cooking when the liquid mixture has thick rich looking bubbles. Don't cook too long. If you do, the mixture breaks (you lose the creamy sauce) and the top looks a little greasy. That's why you use the broiler to get that last little browning, if needed. Brown well. If you have "broken" it, you can try adding a little half & half or cream. It may come back together. Lastly, yes if you feel compelled, you may use milk to cut down on the fat content, but potatoes love a little richness…trust me on this.


Enjoy! We had this dish a few nights ago with fava beans (and rosemary), crusty bread and a glass of Pinot Grigio. Yummy!

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