Monday, April 28, 2008

Gratin Dauphinois (Page 572)

  • Date: Sunday, April 27, 2008 -- 2pm
  • Location: Bloomington. IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: D

NOTE: This review has been updated. Please click here for the new review.

The annual math department picnic was yesterday afternoon. I am leaving for the summer in a few days so I am hesitant to make any big recipes this week because I don't want the leftovers to go to waste. The picnic seemed like a good opportunity to get some cooking done though, since things were sure to get eaten by hoards of hungry mathematicians! Gratin potatoes seemed like the perfect picnic side dish -- who doesn't love potatoes drowned in dairy?!? The one flaw in my plan was that I didn't account for the possibility that this recipe could be so gross that instead of ending up on a picnic table in the park it ended up in the garbage disposal! As soon as I started making this though, I became a little wary. The recipe was very simple. Sliced potatoes get poached in half-and-half, then the whole mixture gets baked with Gruyere on top. Sounds delicious, no? However, it was clear from the beginning that there was just way too much liquid for the amount of potatoes. There was no way that the liquid was going to absorb or bake off enough to form something reasonable. And indeed it didn't. Even worse, the half-and-half somewhat curdled in the oven. So the end result had pools of watery substance in it, and white curdled chunks of cream. It was foul. The texture of the potatoes themselves was nice, and the melted Gruyere was of course delicious, but neither was enough to save the dish. Even if you were able to get beyond the atrocious visual appearance, and the revolting texture, the flavor wasn't even very good. Aside from the cheese, it was pretty bland. Here's my kiss of death review of this recipe: for Easter Emilee, Brian, and I made some scary cheesy potato recipe involving canned cream of mushroom soup and that one was vastly, vastly superior to this recipe. My guess: there is a typo in this recipe. With half as much liquid it could have been good, but as it was it was borderline inedible, and certainly unservable to my colleagues.

This recipe isn't online.

One of my new year's resolutions was to eat less junk (candy, chips...). I learned at an early age that denying myself food of any variety doesn't particularly work for me. I am just not a dieter. But it would probably be better for me if I ate less sweets and processed food. My solution: I never buy junk food for my apartment. (The one exception: microwave popcorn. I can't live without it.) I like candy and chips and stuff, but if it's not in front of me, I don't miss it. I make cookies and other sweet stuff from The Book all the time, and I eat as many as I like, but I never buy packaged cookies or anything like that. It works out pretty well. Homemade baked goods are obviously fatty and bad for you, but I believe (whether it is true or not) that they are still better for you than their processed, packaged counterparts. Plus, it's good motivation to bake -- when there is nothing sweet in my apartment it's either bake something or go without!

When my mom visited in the fall she bought 5 different flavors of ice cream and 2 boxes of cookies. It took me months to eat all that junk food, but eventually it disappeared. Since then my apartment has been more or less junk-food free. That is, until yesterday. The math department picnic was yesterday, and I helped out with it a little bit (preparing some shrimp and salmon for the grill, etc...). I also helped clean up. I hate to see food go to waste and I do love the kind of trashy food I never buy, so somehow I ended up taking home with me several bags of chips, a box of cookies, some graham crackers... even a partial bag of marshmallows (we had smores at our picnic!). I feel like a kid in a candy store now! I have eaten so much junk already today that I feel a little sick...


Ruth Reichl said...

I can't believe this! I've made this recipe, exactly as printed, at least a hundred times, and it is always fabulous. It is definitely one of the best recipes in the book. It's the first thing my son asks for when he comes home from college. I can't understand how this went so wrong for you, but it would be a shame if others were discouraged from making these incredibly delicious potatoes.

Teena said...

Thanks so much for your comment -- it's an honor! In case it's not clear from my blog, I love your cookbook! It has become like a dear friend to me throughout the 700+ recipes I have made so far.

As for these potatoes, I have no explanation. I thought I made them exactly as directed (I am quite careful to follow the instructions), but it was a disaster. I completely trust your opinion though, so maybe I made a measuring error. I will remake them this weekend (hopefully with better results!) and repost about this recipe.

Thanks again for reading! I'm sorry I had one of my (very few) book disasters with one of your favorite recipes!

Anonymous said...

I wish I could read this recipe to compare it to the one I have made for years and loved(from old issue of Bon Appetit). It uses whole cream instead of half and half which would be more likely to curdle(the half and half would curdle). Does your recipe use half and half in the final baking of the dish or whole cream? If you made this dish using cream I can assure you your friends would genuflect and hold you in highest regard! It can be a great dish.

Sorry to be so late in posting--I have just discovered your blog.

Ruth Reichl said...

I'm so happy and honored (and also a bit flabbergasted) that you've taken on this project. And I wouldn't normally feel entitled to object to a comment on a recipe of ours. But in this case, it's not only one I dearly love, but it's also one borrowed from Jacques Pepin, who published the recipe in the magazine about a million years ago. I'm eager to hear how you do when you try it again.