A potato gratin that cooks in half the time, can be made ahead, and—best of all—lets you have control all the way through. "This is the kind of food you close your eyes to eat," our Social Media Manager Rachel Christensen said, after tasting the gratin pictured here, made exactly as written. But the extra flexibility and control also makes it adaptable -- something we'd be reluctant to do in the black box of traditional gratinery. Coleman sometimes adds hot sauce or fresh thyme, or uses a Dutch oven to make it truly one-pot and oven-to-table. You can switch in a different type of potatoes, dairy, or allium, if that's what you have. And if you don't have the right size pan, you can scale up without worry. Or down -- but why would you do that? Adapted slightly from "Gratin Made Easy" (Saveur, December 2006). —Genius Recipes
large waxy potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), such as red bliss, peeled and sliced about 1/8-inch thick
freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
In This Recipe
Preheat oven to 400° F. Rub the inside of an 8- × 8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Smash the garlic with the side of a knife and sprinkle generously with salt. Chop and scrape the garlic into a mushy paste.
Combine garlic paste, potatoes, half-and-half, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces) in a pot; stir. Season with salt and pepper and grate in a hint of nutmeg. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon. After 8 to 10 minutes the potatoes will be a little tender, and their starch will have thickened the liquid considerably. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish; smooth the top as much as possible. At this point you can hold the dish until you're ready to bake, even overnight in the refrigerator. Cover the gratin with Gruyère and bake until deeply golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes (longer if chilled overnight). Let the gratin cool and set a little before serving.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore.