After my stay in the south of France I took a train to Paris. I had my fill of the country side and was ready for a taste of city life. Maybe it is just me, but as much as I love to get away and submerge myself in a culture, a city always seem more like home to me. I guess it just fits my soul. The quite evenings and laid back pace of France’s country side was soothing, yet I was eager to be back in a place where you feel the pulse of all that surrounds you.
Luckily, I got to met my husband in Paris and we toured the city in and out, all day long. We walked through the streets from early morning until the sun went down and evening was present. We popped in & out of museums, gazed at art, tasted a lot of pastries, shopped the local farmer’s markets, took in the sites, and let ourselves pretend we were Parisian. Possibly the highlight of our time in Paris was our accommodations. Through a friend of a friend we ended up staying with a family there. We stayed with a lovely husband and wife, along with their three children. In all actuality we got to submerge ourselves in everyday Paris family life.
Brian and I spent the days touring, and shared our evenings we with them as a family. We ate dinners together, told stories, discussed our day, but most importantly they showed me how they made many of the foods they love to make for themselves. They took us to local shops and showed us where they get the best cheese, to bakeries that are well known for their bread, and even to a middle eastern food shop that had the most intoxicating aromas coming from it. Staying with them made me fall in love with the everyday life of Paris, so much that I easily began to see myself living there. (What a dangerous thought to put into my stubborn vagabond mind!)
But back to my stay with this lovely family. On our first evening with them they showed me how they make the most comforting potato dish - Gratin Dauphinois. It is a baked dish with cheese, potatoes, milk, and garlic. It was the most perfect dish to feed someone that has been traveling all day and just wants to veg out, settle in, and be cozy. They explained how this is a traditional southern French dish that they make on cold evenings and enjoy together; and after tasting it I can totally see why. It was rich, with garlicky undertones that were in no way overpowering. It paired wonderfully with an apple and endive salad that they served. I can also imagine this dish served along side slices of roasted pork, or with a perfectly seared steak. I made it the other night since I could not stop thinking about it. We had it with a some steamed veggies, and a crispy cucumber salad. It brought me back to their warm and inviting home; good food will do that. I miss that family. I only hope that I can one day have them all in our home in the U.S. and share this dish with them again. I will be waiting for them until then.
Gratin Dauphinois (feeds 4-6)
4 medium russet potatoes; peeled, rinsed, and sliced thin - using a food processor (should equal about 5 cups full)
6 cloves of garlic; trimmed, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise, and center sprout removed (*see note below)
1 quart milk
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups small diced gruyere
butter, for greasing your baking dish
First, heat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 - 10 inch pie plate / baking dish.
Next, place your potatoes in a pot and cover with the milk. Add the nutmeg, black pepper, and all but one of the garlic cloves. Place the pot over medium heat. Once it starts to heat through and simmer, let it cook gently for about 5 minutes. In the meantime use your remaining garlic clove to rub around the baking dish you have buttered, and then discard the clove.
Then, take one cup of your cheese and stir into your partially cooked potatoes. Pour the entire mixture into your baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved cheese. Place the dish on a sheet pan and place it in the center of your oven for 30 minutes. When the time is up, increase the temperature of the oven to 400 degrees and bake for another 10 - 15 minutes. You are looking for the top of your Gratin to be golden and bubbly.
Finally, remove from the oven and let it rest at lest 10 minutes before setting it on your table and begin serving. If your dish bubbled over and spilled a bit that is fine, it is unfortunately a result and likelihood of a dish of this nature.
*Note: This family taught me that the center sprout of garlic clove is actually bitter and hard for your stomach to digest. By removing it you result with a more delicate flavor and easier on your tummy in the long run.