Anne’s gratin dauphinois

Anne Philit was a French au pair in the neighbouring village to mine during the summer before I went to study in Avignon. We spent our summer helping each other learn our respective languages while walking my dog through the fields that joined our villages and preparing meals for the kids she was looking after.

Anne reading a map preparing me for a tour of Lyon
Anne reading a map preparing me for a tour of Lyon
What strikes me about Anne is her ease and grace. She is patient, kind and always willing to help. It is through her that I met ‘Vinaigrette Claudie’, my landlady in Avignon – this introduction set me up for one of the best years of my life. Ashamedly, I’ve lost touch with Anne, something I hope to redress (she lived in Lyon, so if you know her, drop me a line).

The enduring image I have of Anne is a picture she sent me of her autumn wedding – elfin, graceful and demure.

Anne’s recipe is not a traditional dauphinois, as it has cheese and onion in it. I’ve tweaked the method to bring in the more traditional way of cooking the potatoes.

Music to prepare this to: ‘Don’t speak’ by No Doubt

Ingredients

  • 1kg Potatoes, peeled and sliced. Make sure the slices are thin and even (try 3mm)
  • 2 Onions finely diced
  • 300g Strong cheese, grated (I prefer Apfenzeller but good cheddar will do)
  • 800ml Whole milk
  • 200ml Double cream
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • I Sprig of thyme
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Line up your prepared ingredients – this dish is all about assembly.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180C.
  3. Put the milk in a pan with the bay leaf and the sprig of thyme, and a little salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and add the potatoes. Cook very gently on a low heat for about 15-20 mins. The potatoes need to have bite to them still.
  4. Strain the potatoes (keep the milk but discard the bay leaf and thyme).
  5. Now it’s time to assemble: in a lasagna dish, add a layer of potatoes, a smattering of onions, a sprinkle of cheese, a little garlic and a dusting of salt and pepper.
  6. Repeat until the dish is full, ensuring the top layer is covered in cheese.
  7. Pour the cream into the dish and top up with the milk. The liquid should just touch the top layer (but not cover it).
  8. Bake at 180C for 30 to 40 min.
  9. This is the important bit, leave it to stand for around 45mins. It won’t go cold but it will settle down nicely.

This is a great alternative to Mum’s roast potatoes if you’re tight for oven space.

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