Heather Lende, author of the beautiful memoirs Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs and If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name, has a new column in Woman’s Day. Her first piece is about being grateful for families during the holidays–you can read it in its entirety online. (Isn’t the illustration accompanying her piece fantastic?)
Here at Algonquin, we have a lot to be thankful for. The scent of galleys, fresh from the printer. Mail room birthday parties. Rescue dogs. Fine wine. And eating until you can no longer fit into your fat pants. On Thursday, we encourage you to add one more delicious dish to your already creaking table: scalloped potatoes á la Bill Smith, from his cookbook Seasoned in the South: Recipes from Crook’s Corner and from Home.
People always ask for this recipe. Because the gratin is so rich and thick, they want to know what kind of cheese is in it. There is none.
To prepare these potatoes, you will need a shallow, 2-quart baking dish that can be used both on top of the stove and in the oven. A 12-inch cast-iron skillet would do. I use an old French cast-iron gratin at home.
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 ½ cups heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the butter in a large pan on top of the stove over high heat and swirl it around to coat the bottom. As the butter begins to sizzle, add the garlic, marjoram, and pepper flakes. As soon as this begins to smell wonderful remove it from the heat. You don’t want browned garlic or burned herbs. Fill the pan with layers of sliced potatoes. Broadcast the salt and pepper over the top and wash this down with the half-and-half. Return the pan to the stovetop and turn the heat on full blast. When the butter begins to bubble through the half-and-half, drizzle the heavy cream all over the top of the potatoes.
Place the gratin in the oven, uncovered, for 60 to 70 minutes. Baste from time to time. The potatoes are done when they are completely tender and the top has become pretty and brown. Let the potatoes rest for 10 minutes before serving. This is a great side dish for steaks or for roast chicken.
There are endless variations of this recipe. Sliced mushrooms and onions are a good addition. Lately, I’ve been doing a winter version with sweet potatoes, celery root, parsnips, and carrots. No white potatoes at all. In the summer, odds and ends from the garden can be used: some sliced tomatoes, fresh herbs, sliced squash, even beets (although the color will be startling). And hot chiles are very good baked in heavy cream.