When you read a menu, you normally look at the entrées first, not the side dishes. A lot of times, the sides aren’t even written on the menu and the waitperson has to tell you what they are.
The thing is, side dishes are, or at least should be, as important to the dinner as the entrée. Take a nice Roast Leg of Lamb, which alone can be pretty good, and add a Pecan-Mint Pesto and caramelized Sweet Onion Relish with a little lamb au jus, and you’re talking a combination of flavors that will rock your taste buds into a different galaxy.
But wait, don’t stop there. That’s not the only thing that is going to come on the plate. There also will be some starch and vegetable in most cases. If they taste like something you would leave in a bowl for Fido, then it doesn’t matter how good the lamb was, you probably won’t be going back there until someone else takes you and pays the bill.
You want to take the time needed to compliment the entrée with stellar side dishes. Most of the time, it really doesn’t take much more time and only a little more effort to get the side dishes to the same level as your entrée. A lot of the time, it is a simple matter of taking the time to season and cook them properly as opposed to concentrating all your efforts on the entrée and then just cruising through the sides.
There are a ton of different ways to cook Potatoes au Gratin and like anything, there are some recipes I like better than others. Most recipes call for the potatoes to be sliced and then just tossed in the pan in no particular way for the cooking like a casserole. Although few people will actually notice, the problem is that some of the potatoes will be cooked more than others, because they won’t be evenly spaced or evenly cut.
This recipe calls for the potatoes to be laid out in a row similar to fallen dominos. They cook even, are easy to serve and make a nice presentation. So, the next time you are looking for a potato side dish, give this a try and enjoy.
Potatoes Au Gratin
For an 8-inch-by-8-inch pan
6 red potatoes, peeled & sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 pint heavy cream
1 C fresh parmesan cheese, grated
1 t nutmeg
Salt & pepper
Foil & plastic wrap
Lay the potatoes out like fallen dominos in rows in the pan. Cover the potatoes with the stock and season with a little salt and pepper. Cover with the plastic wrap and then a piece a foil and bake at 350 degrees until a knife can pass through the potato.
Pour the liquid into a bowl, using a wooden spoon or something to hold the potatoes in place. (You can save the liquid to make a soup.) Pour cream into the pan to the top of the potatoes; sprinkle in the nutmeg. Season with a salt and pepper; generously cover with cheese.
Put the plastic and foil wrap back on and bake 5 minutes to allow the cream to get hot. Remove the covering. Bake until the cheese is melted and the top is nice and golden.