Baker’s delightJune 22, 2010
How I love winter.
Well actually I don’t love winter, at all; I hate the cold. Ugh. Awful. But I do love winter food, specially the long-cooked, rich, stick-to-the-ribs decadent weekend variety.
And this potato bakey number, which I proudly invented on the weekend and then discovered to be an aeons-old classic called pommes boulangère, is my new favourite thing in the world. It’s got stock. It’s got spuds. My version’s got cream, and it’s got leek. If you can name one thing that’s not to love in this dish, I will personally come to your house and take it off your hands. It is also possibly the simplest potato gratin you’ll ever make, and your dinner guests will get down on their hands and knees and kiss your little toes for it.
I learn the origin of the name (‘baker’s potatoes’) from Damien Pignolet’s lovely book , French: “Tradition has it that one assembed the gratin at home and took it to the baker for cooking in the residual heat of the oven when the day’s baking was finished.”
Quantities and times are a little loose here and will depend on your oven, the dish and the spuds, but the idea is that the spuds slowly absorb the creamy stock and brown to a lovely chewy crisp on top while remaining soft and creamy beneath.
Pommes boulangère a la Marrickville (serves 4-6 greedy people)
- 1kg potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 1 leek, finely sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 3 cups (ish) chicken stock
- ½ cup thickened cream
- salt & pepper
- small sprig rosemary
- Layer the potatoes and leek & garlic mix in a shallow, oven-proof glass dish.
- Pour the stock and cream over the top, and push the rosemary sprig into the middle of the dish till hidden. The liquid should be just enough to come up to the top layer of potato – don’t drown them.
- Season (but be careful with the salt, depending on the saltiness of your stock as it’ll intensify as reduces).
- Cover with foil and bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and check whether spuds are too dry – add more stock and press the potatoes down into the creamy stock if needed.
- Return to the oven without the foil and bake for around 1 hour, or till golden on top, occasionally pressing the spuds into the liquid if necessary.
Remove the bubbling, golden, glistening joy of it from the oven, rest for a few minutes while you carve your roast lamb or chook and pour the wine, and serve hot from the dish at the table. Then swoon.