I’ve had Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking for about a year and a half now, and the only recipe I’ve ever made was her spectacular Boeuf Bourguignon. Why you ask? Well, I’m a bit intimidated to be honest. French food is scary- it just seems so exacting and fancy and complicated. I look at the recipes and I come up with excuses like… oh man, it’s Sunday and I don’t have vermouth or cognac or port (yep, CT still has those pesky blue laws), and man, I just used up the last of my Fois Gras and beef marrow, darn, I guess I can’t cook anything French tonight. But, I decided recently that I need to get over that fear… I need to go all Julie and Julia and master the art of French cooking. So I sat down with my cookbook this weekend and decided to pick a recipe. I tend to forget that Mastering the Art of French Cooking actually has chapters other than Poultry and Meat. It also has these recipes for eggs and soup and stuff. I originally was thinking quiche, but then came the gratins and my mind was instantly made up.
So what is a gratin? Julia Child says that it’s kind of like a quiche, but it’s baked in a shallow fireproof dish or pie plate instead of a pastry shell, so hey, that’s easier than making pastry and then a filling. Wikipedia also tells me that a gratin is topped with a brown crust using stuff like breadcrumbs, grated cheese, eggs, or butter. So here you just need a filling and a brown crust, and the first one in the Gratin section sounded awesome- shredded potatoes? Yum! Ham? Yum! Eggs? Yum! Onions? Yum! Mind made up! This was super-easy to make, and extremely delicious, and it made my apartment smell just wonderful when cooking… it still smells wonderful a couple hours later. I think I’ll make a Gratin everyday from now on just to make my apartment smell like this always. Why hasn’t anyone invented a candle infused with Gratin smell yet?!?!?! By the way, when I told my brother I was making a Gratin I pronounced it in an Americanized way, and he corrected me, so now I must always pronounce it like the French… much fancier that way!
Gratin of Shredded Potatoes with Ham and Eggs and Onions
1/2 cup onions, finely minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 1/2 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup (3 ounces) cooked ham, finely diced
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp parsley and/or chives and chervil
2/3 cup (3 ounces) Swiss cheese, grated
4 Tbsp whipping cream, light cream, or milk
Pinch of pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3 medium-sized potatoes (about 10 ounces)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Melt 2 Tbsp butter and oil in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender but not brown.
3. Raise heat to medium, add ham to pan, and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, garlic, herbs, cheese, milk, salt and pepper together. Add the ham and onion mixture to the eggs when it has cooled a bit, and mix together.
5. Peel and grate potatoes. Use the large holes. Squeeze the water out of the potatoes, a handful at a time, and then stir them into the egg mixture.
6. Heat 2 Tbsp butter in an 10-12 inch baking dish or oven-proof skillet, by either heating it on the stovetop or in the oven. When the butter is foaming, pour the egg and potato mixture into the dish/skillet. Dot with the remaining 1/2 Tbsp butter (cut into small pieces). Place dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until top is browned.
Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1
- Do not panic if you shred the potatoes a little early and they turn pink- or even grey! This is a normal reaction caused by the oxidation of the potato flesh. It’s okay, it won’t harm the flavor, and will not effect the color of the finished dish.
- The Swiss cheese was delicious in this Gratin, but I’m thinking substituting other cheeses would be awesome as well- I’m thinking a cheddar next time would be just wonderful… or maybe a gouda!
- Bacon would be a good substitution for the ham… or sausage would also be delicious. Or you could make it vegetarian and do mushrooms or peppers!
- The original recipe says to use an 11 to 12 inch pan for this, but I used my 10 inch Pyrex baking dish and it turned out just fine!