Cook Your Way To The Bone Zone: Potatoes Au Gratin
Right now you’re probably thinking, “Thanksgiving was last week, asshole. What am I supposed to do with this recipe now?” Well, friend, the good thing about a food recipe is that it can be used tonight, or tomorrow, or literally at any other time in the future. That’s why in the old days people used to write down and save recipes. It’s also why people buy cookbooks. It’s so that when they want to make food, the list of ingredients and directions for how to prepare the dish are already in their possession. See? I just taught you something you didn’t already know!
The thing about potatoes au gratin — that is, MY potatoes au gratin — is that they’re really fucking good. Each Thanksgiving (and on some Christmases) my friends all anticipate my variation on the dish. It is so good, in fact, that my friends freaked out last year when I announced I would be bringing a different dish to our Thanksgiving dinner. It’s so good my ex asked for my recipe so she could bring the dish to a pot luck. It’s so good…it’ll get you laid if you feed it to the right woman (the right woman in this instance being one who loves food that is rich in whole milk, heavy cream, and lots of cheese and potatoes).
First things first. It is ALWAYS introduced and/or described as “Potatoes au gratin.” Never — I repeat, NEVER — refer to your dish as “scalloped potatoes.” This isn’t a fucking seafood dish. Plus it doesn’t sound as cool, and it won’t make your date nearly as wet as speaking three words of French will. That IS French, by the way, right? Au gratin? It sounds French. Could it be German? Ah, fuck it. I’m not going to waste time looking it up. Just make sure you lay on the ridiculous French accent as thick as you can. It makes you look like you know what you’re talking about.
Now, secondly, I should tell you I’m not a very good cook. That’s probably not the best way to introduce my most famous recipe, but it really is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about making food. My inability to put together a dish (or sometimes a full meal!) likely stems from a combination of severe laziness, lack of coordination, and a shockingly short attention span. Wait. What was I talking about? Oh, right. Food. Somehow this has not stopped me from impressing many, many women with my cooking prowess. Either that, or I look incredibly fuckable in an apron. I figure if I can cook Potatoes Au Gratin, so can you shlubs. Here, let me help you cook your way into the bedroom of a lucky lady or twelve.
Potatoes Au Gratin, Goat Cheese, Dried Porchini Crumble
Wow. When I describe it like that, it looks like it belongs on a menu at Comme Ca! Ah, who am I kidding? It’d look more at home on a menu at Dusty’s or that French bistro on Vermont I always walk by but never enter. When I describe it like that to a woman…I can pretty much smell her arousal. Just kidding. I can’t breathe through my nose properly so my sense of smell is terrible.
I hope your date likes starch and cream and fat, because that’s pretty much all you’re feeding her tonight. At the very least, run down to your local grocery store and pick up one of those already baked chickens so you don’t look like an asshole. I know you’re not much of a chef but you can at least look the part if you serve her a protein AND a side dish. Maybe while you’re there you can pick up something for dessert? A fruit tart or a red velvet cupcake, perhaps? Try to make an effort. The more you feed her the more likely she is to blow you afterwards. Note: This does not give you permission to get all weird when she says, “What’s for dessert?” and point at your crotch while going, “Eh? Eh!? EH!?” No. Don’t do that. Trust me, it only works one out of every thirty or forty times you try it.
Without getting too technical, Potatoes Au Gratin is a bunch of thinly sliced potatoes layered on top of each other that are covered in cheese and cream. Basically it involves a lot of skinning and chopping potatoes and an ability to tell whether or not you’ve used the right amount of cream/cheese mixture for each layer you build. Sounds easy, right? It’s all about combining elements to create a harmonious dish. Just like how you’re going to combine YOUR parts with your GIRL’S parts in order to create a harmonious SEX that will last about thirty seconds because you still suffer from that incredibly awkward premature ejaculation problem you keep trying to ignore.
For this past Thanksgiving, I barely put together a real Potatoes Au Gratin dish. Don’t get me wrong, I intended to…but then Katherine and Tom and Nate started complaining that I was spending too much time in the kitchen and not enough time playing Mario Kart Wii with them…so I gave up and stopped trying. Hence I didn’t take a lot of photos. Hence I gave up on recording my preparation in an easy-to-download MP3 so that you can follow along as you cook. Oh well. “C’est la vie!” as they also say in France. Because it’s be really weird if people in France ONLY walked around saying “Potatoes Au Gratin.”
You’ll need to buy some groceries before you can start, idiot:
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (I usually buy 2 cups)
1 cup crumble gorgonzola (or bleu) cheese (optional – I usually buy one goat and one gorgonzola)
1 garlic clove, minced (you don’t buy it minced, asshole, you mince it at home)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional!)
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced (again, you can’t buy them peeled/sliced)
Another variation of this dish that I have prepared before uses fresh thyme (2 tbsps fresh, divided). It’s not mandatory, but it tastes good.
If you want to max-out your umami quotient get these ingredients to make a fancy little crumble to sit atop the Gratin. Note: I wouldn’t include the porcini crumble if I’m also going to use thyme. I don’t happen to think those taste good together, but that’s just me. If so, the ingredients are:
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, coarsely chopped (optional!)
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs) (optional!)
– Preheat your oven to 400°F. You can try to set it to Celsius, but I’m preeeeetty sure it’s not going to get that hot.
– Flash-boil your potatoes. You won’t find this step in most recipes, but if you remember to do this step you’re going to get much more soft, delicate potatoes than if you just chop ’em up and throw ’em in the oven. Think of it this way: do you think your date is going to want you to fuck her like a frenzied jackhammer or a delicate, soft potato?
By the way, I have no idea how long a flash-boil is supposed to take. I just kind of eyeball it. You know that phrase “Gone in a flash?” Find out whoever coined it and ask them how long they meant. Or Google it. By the time you find your answer the potatoes should be ready for peeling. Once peeled, they should be sliced as thin as a quarter. You know, the twenty-five cent piece? That.
– Generously butter an 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Think of the dish as your girl’s butt, and the butter as, well, butter of course. Because who doesn’t use a stick of butter as lubricant!?
– Whisk the first SEVEN ingredients (that’s the whole milk, the whipping cream, the goat and bleu cheese, the garlic, the salt, the pepper, and the nutmeg/thyme if you so desire) into a medium bowl “to blend.” I don’t know what that phrase means either. I just stir the ingredients together for about fifteen seconds and then my wrist gets tired. Have I mentioned what a huge wuss I am? The sun hurts my skin. I throw like a girl.
– Here’s the fun part. Arrange 1/3 of the potatoes along the bottom of the buttered glass baking dish, overlapping slightly and covering completely. It should look like a beautiful Native American woven quilt when you’re a done.
– Pour 1/3 of the cream mixture over that first layer of potatoes. Feel free to make your first cream/semen joke here. Even if you’re alone in your apartment it’ll be funny for at least one person.
– Repeat layering potatoes and cream mixture two more times. Any times more than that and you’re going to seriously fuck up the cream/potatoes ratio. Doing this is not going to get you laid.
– Bake uncovered until poatoes are tender and top is golden brown in spots, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
– While the potatoes are cooking, you can work on your crumble. Remember, only use the crumble if you want to. It’s not mandatory. It is, of course, super easy. Take your dried porcini mushrooms and put them in a food processor. Or a blender works, too. I learned that on Thanksgiving when I realized I don’t own a food processor. A blender is, like, a food processor for liquids. Lucky for you it also works for food. So pulse the porcini mushrooms until they resemble coarse crumbs. If you don’t know what that means, look it up. I can’t always be there to hold your hand through life.
– Add the panko to the blender/food processor and pulse 4 times.
– Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl and whisky in about a 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Or a half. You know, whatever. I always err on the side of more cheese.
– Remove the potatoes from the oven after 75 minutes and sprinkle the porcini crumbs evenly over the top and bake for about 20 more minutes, until the cream is bubbling and the top is golden brown.
– Serve that fucker along with the chicken you “made” “earlier” (remember you went to Ralph’s and got that whole roasted chicken earlier?). Offer your girl a beer (something autumnal would be nice, perhaps a seasonal offering or something dark with coffee or chocolate) or wine if she’s one of those stuck-up wine-drinking bitches. Make sure you pull out your dick right when she drops her fork and says, “I’m so full I couldn’t eat another bite!” A moment too soon and she won’t be into it.
At its best, Potatoes Au Gratin is a soft, creamy, delicate and extremely fattening side dish that can be served alongside poultry or fowl or whatever the fuck you’d call chicken or turkey. It’s rustic, and you’re a big brawny rustic guy. You wear flannel and chop wood and have a beard, right? No? Oh well. It’s also French, and French food drives women wild. Just the very mention of French food puts a woman in the mood to fuck. At its worst, Potatoes Au Gratin is a burnt potato casserole that isn’t cheesy or creamy enough, and it tastes either inedible or bland as hell. Lucky for you it’s pretty hard to get food poisoning from, so you can’t screw it up THAT bad. But if you do it right, and you follow my simple instructions, I can guarantee your date will scrape clean both her dinner plate AND the walls of your seminal vesicle. Hopefully she won’t use a kitchen utensil for the latter.
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