Lazy, humid afternoons spent in air-conditioning invariably lead to lazier evenings, when sipping a cup of coffee is all you can manage to be functional for. Today was one such day. Time went whizzing past as I spent the day dreaming about food that I wanted to eat but was in no frame of mind to get off my butt and make. When this happens, I usually find myself forced back to reality as dinner time comes closer, panicking over what’s easy enough to make, while not boring the living daylights out of me.
Hubs, whom I really feel for in retrospect, is usually facing the brunt of all this panic and listening to me ramble on about if we should eat this tonight or that or just give up and order in. Sometimes I just flop back on the bed till a dish magically makes its way into my mind. As this potato & caramelised onion au gratin did! (Au gratin is a French technique where a base is topped with a golden crust using bread crumbs, milk, eggs, cheese and/or butter. The base can have various ingredients – potatoes, veggies, meat & fish can all be cooked au gratin)
It has delightfully few ingredients and hardly any technique to it at all, unless you count grating the cheese without grating some of your skin off. This dish has all manner of forbidden carbs, so those of you on a diet should probably keep away from this. Because once you bake it, there’s no going back, gentle reader. This dish is perfect for weeknights or any day that you want to dive into something warm, comforting and flavourful.
Also, it’s my 10th post on this blog and I’m all about celebrating the small milestones, so YAY ME! *jig*
POTATO & CARAMELISED ONION AU GRATIN
Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 25-30 mins | Serves 4
- Pre-heat oven to 200°C / 400°F
- Peel & slice 5 medium onions. Meanwhile, heat 2-3 tbsp butter on medium heat in a shallow fry pan.
- Once the butter starts to bubble, add the onions and sauté till transparent – about 2-3 minutes
- Season the onions with salt, black pepper & 1 tsp of oregano and cook till caramelized – about 7-8 minutes
- While the onions are cooking, peel & thinly slice (about ½ cm each) 1 kilo potatoes. You can cook the potatoes in either of these two ways –
- Cook the potatoes in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes or till tender but firm
- Cook the potatoes in the microwave on high for about 4 minutes. For this, use a microwave safe bowl with a lid; put the potatoes in with about 100 ml water and cook covered. Poke with a fork after to check doneness.
- Once potatoes are done, drain in a colander, run cold water over them and set aside.
- While all this cooking and boiling is happening, grate 200g mozzarella (not fresh) and put it back in the fridge, so it’s nice and firm when you assemble the dish
- To assemble, grease with soft butter (optional) a 11” x 7” baking dish (Borosil or Pyrex is great for this) and arrange half the potato slices in a layer so that they overlap slightly. Don’t bother being overly precise about this. Now season generously with salt, pepper and dried rosemary. Sprinkle 1/3rd of the grated cheese over this.
- Top this layer with the caramelized onions. Layer the remaining potatoes on the onions and cover all of this with 2/3 cup of half-and-half (half milk, half cream). If you don’t have half-and-half, mix ½ cup of milk with a little over ¼ cup of fresh cream and pour this over the potatoes
- Top everything off with 1/3 cup of seasoned bread crumbs and the remaining cheese. Dot the upper layer with a few blobs of butter. This will give you a beautifully crunchy crust.
- Bake at 200°C for 25 – 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted and golden brown. I baked mine for 27 minutes.
- Let it sit for a couple of minutes before serving. Eat as is, or as a side with grilled veggies or protein.
ADAPTATIONS & HACKS
- If you’re short on time, boil & mash the potatoes instead of slicing them. They taste equally delicious!
- Wing it with whatever seasoning you have on hand, and don’t fret if something in the recipe isn’t available. The great thing about potatoes is that it goes with almost all flavours – so thyme, rosemary, oregano, herbes de provence, parsley – anything works!
- You can really give this dish some character with the kind of cheese you use. Use just one type like I have (cos this is all I had) or use a blend, but please, please use only cheeses that have a smooth, flowing melting tendency. Slightly stringy cheeses, like the mozzarella I used, are okay too. Some great options to play with are gruyere, cheddar, Monterey Jack. You can also use Parmesan in combination with any of these cheeses to provide a little texture. Use this excellent graphic as a guideline!
- Finally, if you’re not portioning off the whole dish immediately after baking, serve and put the dish back in the oven to keep warm.