Friday, March 11, 2011

Fast Fresh Friday: Mini-Potato Gratin

Happy Friday, and welcome to my very first Fast Fresh Friday!  I bought Fast, Fresh & Green a few months ago (right in the middle of my 50 in 50 challenge), and have been looking forward to preparing everything in the book!  Since I'm trying to cook more in season I decided to make the Mini-Potato Gratin.

What is it about food, or anything for that matter, that's presented in miniature?  Petit Fours, cupcakes, mini-bread loaves, and those single serving ramekins.  I just love them, but the real benefit for me is portion control.  Yes, I do find it easier to stop after eating one cute little gratin than if I had a big casserole in front of me that I could just keeping nibbling on.

I loved this dish!  Creamy, cheesy, and the bread topping adding a nice crunchy texture.  I did substitute some of the ingredients.  Try as I might, I could not find any Yukon Gold potatoes so I used Russet which worked fine, but I think I should have used red potatoes instead.  I used vegetable broth instead of the chicken (I'm not a fan of commercial chicken stock), and I forgot to buy fresh thyme so I used a teeny bit of fresh rosemary.  The rosemary was a little strong, but didn't overpower the dish.  Perhaps I should have used dried thyme.

I served the gratin with a side of sauteed spinach with bacon but maybe next time I'll serve the gratin with a mixed green salad.  It was a bit too rich serving the gratin and the spinach together -- I should have added a squeeze of lemon or balsamic vinegar to the spinach to help cut through all the oils in this meal.

I really appreciate the instructions given in the cookbook.  They are thorough, but not confusing, and really help you prepare a perfect dish.

Mini-Potato Gratin
Fast, Fresh & Green
Yield:  Serves 1 or 2

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, and more for rubbing the dish
1 Yukon gold potato (8 oz), peeled
Scant 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyere (use the large holes on a box grater)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp low sodium chicken broth

     Preheat the oven to 350.  Rub a 2 cup shallow gratin dish with a little olive oil.  In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the 1 tsp olive oil and set aside.
     Cut the potato in half lengthwise and turn both halves cut side down on a cutting board.  With a sharp knife, slice the halves across as thinly as you can so that you have thin half-moon pieces.  Put the potatoes in a mixing bowl.  Add the salt, several grinds of fresh pepper, the Gruyere, thyme leaves, heavy cream, and broth.  Mix well.  Using your hands, lift the potatoes out of the bowl and transfer them to the gratin dish, arranging them as snugly as possible.  Pour and scrape the liquids and any remaining herbs into the gratin dish and distribute them evenly.  Press down on the potatoes and adjust them again so that the liquid surrounds them as much as possible.  It won't cover the potatoes completely.  Cover the top evenly with the bread crumb mixture.
     Bake until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork (check the middle of the dish as well as the sides), the bread crumbs are brown, and the juices around the edges of the gratin are quite browned, 50 to 55 minutes.  Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Sauteed Spinach
from Ann's Brain
Yield:  2 servings

10 ounce bag of baby spinach, washed and drained.
2 slices thick cut bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 smashed cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice, or splash of balsamic (or red wine) vinegar to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown bacon bits in a large skillet over medium heat.  Remove bacon onto a paper towel to drain, and pour off most of the bacon fat (leave about 1-2 tsp).  Add the olive oil, and when add the garlic to saute for a few minutes, being careful to brown and not burn the garlic.  Add the baby spinach (with whatever water is clinging to the leaves) and saute until spinach is wilted.  Pour spinach into serving dish and toss with lemon juice or vinegar, add bacon bits, and serve.

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