Today is Julia Child’s birthday. Happy Birthday Julia! Last week I decided that I wasn’t really pushing myself enough, cooking and baking wise. Besides, Le Marquis, none of the dishes I baked/cooked out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking have been super difficult. In an effort to challenge myself, I picked a recipe out of the middle of the book, Gratin de Pommes de Terre Aux Anchois (Gratin of Potatoes, Onions and Anchovies). This dish surprised me.
Gratin de Pommes de Terre Aux Anchois (Gratin of Potatoes, Onions and Anchovies) surprised me because I had a few preconceived notions about it. One, I had no idea what it was or what it would look like but I bought a slightly larger glass baking dish from the grocery store than Julia recommended so at least I would be cooking the dish in the right shaped pan. Two, I thought it would taste terrible, or terrible because I cooked it wrong. Then all sorts of insecurities popped into my head. I was wrong on both counts.
It’s like a quiche without the pastry. It fills you up and makes you feel good inside. Though the anchovies tasted a bit too strong for mine and Tom’s palate, I was pleased. I felt that there was some hope for me yet as a cook.
This can take about an hour or so but if you’re like me and you have a husband that comes home late (I get home 2-3 hours earlier than he does), you can prepare some of the things in advance and make things a little easier and save some time.
Special Equipment – a 3-4 cup baking dish 1 1/2-2 inches deep. Note – I used a 9 inch baking dish and I barely had enough room for everything.
1) 2/3 cup minced onions
2) 2 tablespoons butter
3) 1/2 pound diced raw potatoes (about 2 cups)
4) 8-10 anchovies packed in olive oil
5) 3 eggs
6) 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
7) 1/2 teaspoon salt
8) 1/8 teaspoon pepper
9) grated Swiss cheese
10) 1 tablespoon butter or oil from the anchovy can
Preparation and Cooking #1 – Prepare the Gratin
1) Turn the oven to 375 degrees
2) Dice the onions.
3) Dice the potatoes.
4) Fill a pot with water and let it come to a boil. Then add the potatoes and let them cook for 6-8 minutes (until barely done), then drain thoroughly.
5) While the potatoes are cooking, grate the Swiss cheese.
6) Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan or work and saute the diced onions slowly for 5 minutes (until they are tender and not browned).
7) Butter the baking dish.
8) Place half the potatoes on the bottom.
9) Then place half the onions on top of the potatoes
10) Lay the anchovies fillets on top of the potatoes and onions.
11) Add the rest of the onions.
12) Add the rest of the potatoes.
Preparation and Cooking #2 – Make the Sauce
1) In a separate bowl (from the baking dish), crack three eggs open and beat thoroughly.
2) Add the whipping cream.
3) Add the salt.
4) Add the pepper.
Note – Julia writes that you can substitute béchamel sauce but I didn’t so I’m using the sauce described in the recipe.
Preparation and Cooking #3 – Put It All Together and Finish
1) Add the sauce to the baking dish, making sure to shake the dish to send the liquid to the bottom.
2) Add the grated Swiss cheese.
3) Dribble a little of the olive oil from the anchovy can or dot with butter.
Note – at this point I was a little worried because the liquid went almost to the top and I thought that if it bubbled it would get all over the oven, but that wasn’t the case at all. It all stayed within the baking dish.
4) Place on the top third of the oven and bake 30-40 minutes until the top is nicely browned.