Although it is spring now it has been raining constantly for days in Melbourne. So last night I made a winter standby, potato dauphinoise. This is ultimate comfort food. Nigella Lawson has a lovely section on comfort food in her brilliant book Feast. She includes things like onion rings and mash. To me comfort food has to be creamy and eaten mostly with a spoon. And if that is in front of an open fridge door (Nigella and I have that in common) then so be it.
There are many many versions of this recipe so I lay no claims to originality here - in any event a truly original recipe is a rare thing these days. I always make enough to give to the children the next day. Even if you get the liquid amounts wrong, by which I mean having regard to the amount of potato because I never weigh my potatoes, it doesn't matter, you can just leave that behind in the baking dish.
Contrary to what you may think, this recipe is not the favourite food of a Dauphin (the title given the heir apparent to the throne of France between 1350 to 1781, which makes me think of sad little French boys drssed in gold embroidered finery) but rather derives from the region of dauphine in France near the Italian border, from where the recipe originates.
Pot Dauph (based on recipe from Nick Nairn, my favourite Scottish cook).
1.25 kilos potatoes (he suggests Maris Piper, I use Nicola). I don't know how many 1.25 kg is - I use about 4 large potatoes
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tsp of Maldon salt
300 ml thickened cream
300 ml milk
half a cup of freshly grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 140. Peel and slice potatoes very thinly. You should do this with a mandolin slicer.
(As an aside, I use the Japanese Benriner slicer, which I bought in Tasmania, of all places. I love this piece of equipment with a passion. I love its packaging, which you can see below slightly (happy Japanese housewife) and I love its efficacy, and I am kind of thrilled by the fact that any slip of the protector and you are destined for a quite nasty slicing accident).
Crush the garlic with the blade of a knife and mash it with 1/2 tsp of salt. Put the milk, cream, garlic and the rest of the salt in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Add the potatoes and gently stir so they are covered with the milky mixture. Cook at medium simmer for about 15 minutes. You want the starch to have been released but not have the potatoes falling apart.
Put the whole contents of the pan into a buttered shallow ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the grated parmesan and cook for about 45 minutes.
Note: I find the cooking times very variable. You want the dauphinoise to be browned on the top. There may still be liquid, you can ignore this. This dish can be left to cool and reheated in a slow oven. You can also use a scone cutter to cut out little circles and reheat gently. If you are into sculptural food this looks very nice.