This is understandably the most important part of a gratin. Darina Allen favours floury potatoes for her ones. "The most important consideration is to find really good potatoes. I generally tend to favour the older varieties - eg, Golden Wonder or Kerr's Pinks, which are both floury and flavourful."
Darina says that this the difference between a good and a great gratin. "It is vital to season every layer. Do it lightly with your fingers, using Maldon sea salt or pure dairy salt rather than fine salt with chemicals."
The most common complaint that we see in relation to gratin failures, is a curdled one. This is generally caused by cooking the dish over too high a heat, causing the liquid to curdle and separate. If you are worried, it is always a good idea to cook your gratin in the oven, placing your ovenproof dish into a roasting tin and pouring boiling water into the tin until it comes up half the sides of your gratin dish. This will prevent curdling.
If you are dealing with this issue, I would venture that your oven is set to a temperature that is too high, and that your potatoes are sliced too thick. Pour a little extra cream into the dish, cover with tin foil and cook for an extra forty minutes.
The best gratin is one that has been left to rest for at least twenty minutes before serving. It will slice well, keep its shape and above all, taste like the most delicious potatoes you have ever eaten.
Once you have mastered the basic recipe, begin to experiment with additions. Try different cheese, adding chicken, ham or smoked fish. Gratins are wonderful vehicles for cured meat like chorizo or Parma ham and stretch a small amount of fish to create a family-sized meal, especially when served with a crisp green salad.
This creamy side dish with delicate, thinly sliced potato is delicious with roast meat and fresh salad
Preparation Time 15 mins
Cooking Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
1.1kg potatoes thinly sliced
110g Cheddar, grated
55g Parmesan, grated
55g butter, cut into small pieces
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
Heat oven to 190°C and lightly butter a gratin dish.
Put a layer of potatoes in the dish and sprinkle on some cheese and pieces of butter. Continue until all the potato is used.
Mix cream, salt, pepper and garlic in a jug and pour over the potatoes
Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, cover with tinfoil and bake for an hour.
Remove tinfoil and bake for about 15 minutes until bubbling and nicely browned
Leave it set in the dish for about 15 mins before serving.
Potato gratin with Shanagarry smoked salmon
Is there anything more comforting than this creamy one-tray dinner?
Preparation Time 30 mins
Cooking Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hours 15 mins
900g even-sized ‘old’ potatoes (Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks)
275ml double cream
small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
110-170g Irish smoked salmon
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp chives, chopped
4 small ovenproof gratin dishes: 11.5cm bottom and 15cm top
Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
Peel the potatoes with a potato peeler and slice them into very thin rounds (3mm thick). Do not wash them but dab them dry with a cloth.
Spread them out on the worktop and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, mixing it in with your hands.
Pour milk into a saucepan, add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Add the cream, garlic and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg, continue to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the potatoes do not stick to the saucepan.
Just as soon as the potatoes are cooked put a layer into four ovenproof gratin dishes, sprinkle each with some parsley and chives, add 30-45g smoked salmon cut into 5mm strips, cover with another layer of potato.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until they are bubbly and golden on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and chives. Note: You could substitute the smoked salmon for some of Frank Hederman’s smoked mackerel. Can also be made in one large ovenproof dish instead of four small ones.