I live in a bubble. It’s not something I’m proud of but it’s something I can’t escape. Sure, every now and then I can expand this bubble but I can’t break it. My only consolation is you have a bubble too. We all do. We’re all locked in a collection of our experiences and from these personal triumphs, let downs and lessons we construct our worldview. There’s nothing wrong with this – it’s human nature. The problem arises when we forget about our bubble. And, as the news cycle continuously and mercilessly remind us, not recognizing our bubble can lead to hurtful and disastrous actions. But this isn’t that kind of blog. Instead, let’s talk about the more lighthearted misunderstandings that come from suddenly seeing beyond one’s bubble. For instance, when I set out to make this Granny Smith Potato Gratin, I had no idea I was wading into controversy.
When I set out to make this dish I had a different name in mind. I thought I was making scalloped potatoes but they Internet assured me I was wrong. Yes, while researching the tips and tricks associated with the ideal batch of scalloped potatoes (you know, just going that extra mile for you) I came across some very passionate opinions about the definition of scallop potatoes vs. potato gratin. There were many an exclamation point and I’ll admit my ears were more than a little pinned back.
Before I go any further, I feel I should divulge my history with the potatoes in question. When I was growing up, scalloped potatoes graced every holiday table. In fact, they were so popular they made far more common appearances as well. Basically, I’m very familiar with the dish or, at least, I thought I was.
Every pan of scalloped potatoes I’ve ever eaten has contained cheese. Apparently, this is incorrect. In fact, it’s so incorrect that it’s called something else. It’s called a ‘gratin’. A gratin! I mean, I knew what a gratin was. I was aware of the existence of potato gratin but I thought it was a fancier more complicated dish. And! I had no idea scalloped potatoes were simply potatoes cooked in cream. Cream! That’s it. So, all those years I was technically eating potato gratin, not scalloped potatoes. My entire childhood was a lie.
See? In my wee bubble, potato gratin was scalloped potatoes. And when I looked beyond my bubble, I was shocked to find I was wrong. That’s what being aware of your expanding bubble feels like. Even things as trivial as the inclusion of cheese in a potato dish can deliver rude awakenings. Anyway, that’s why today’s Granny Smith Potato Gratin is called a gratin. And you know what? It still feels weird to me.
But let’s not dwell on it. Let’s instead talk about how decadent and creamy Granny Smith Potato Gratin is because it is very much both of those things. I understand that this gratin is probably going to have to duke it out with the mashed potatoes to snag a spot on your holiday table, but I feel they’re up to the challenge. They most certainly will be on my table because we’re BBQing this year, so we’re dining sans pan drippings, which means we’ll be gravy-less. At first, I’ll admit I was a bit bummed, but once I pulled this gratin out of the oven during one of its early test drives, I knew we’d be more than taken care of this Thanksgiving. Gravy who?
So, I won’t even bother mentioning how much I love when salty meets sweet. It’s a very well-documented fact on this blog, so it would be repetitive to talk about…except I just did and it was. Anyway, I thought it’d be good and nifty to add apple shingles to my potato and yam slices. I was a little concerned the apples would leech a bit too much water into the creamy, creamy sauce, so I limited my apple quota to 1. And not only did the sauce hold onto its creaminess, but the dish also had the right amount of sweet. I certainly didn’t want the apple to dominate, I still wanted that classic potato gratin flavor, but with a hint of something different. Plus, the acidity of the granny smith variety cut the richness of the sauce ever so slightly.
Apple and cheese is kind of a no-brainer combo. I grew up putting slabs of cheddar on my apple pie and I live to pile apple slices and brie on a cracker with a drizzle of honey. But the gouda entered into the picture because of a sandwich that recently came into my life. For some unknown reason, I started adding thin slices of apple and gouda to my turkey sandwiches. I don’t know where I got this from, as I’m usually a turkey-Havarti-sort-of-lady. So, when I thought to add a granny smith apple to my gratin, the gouda was quick on its heels.
Now, for the ultimate selling feature of this fall-over-delicious Granny Smith Potato Gratin: it can be assembled a day ahead and it’s dead simple to make. It has Thanksgiving candidate written all over it. Honestly, the most labor-intensive aspect of this dish is slicing the fruit and veg. But you can cut the time in half by using a mandoline. Just make sure you have a safety glove because the last place you want to spend Thanksgiving is in the ER with your fingertip on ice. Ugh! Sorry, dismemberment should never be discussed on a food blog. Hungry?
Anyway, that’s all I have to say about this Granny Smith Potato Gratin. If you’re a mashed potato loyalist, I don’t think this gratin will be invited to your Thanksgiving table anytime soon. But if you’re questioning your allegiances or you just feel more for cheese than you do for smashed tubers, this Granny Smith Potato Gratin is your Thanksgiving dream come true.
Granny Smith Potato Gratin with Gouda Cheese
- 2 small Russet potatoes thinly sliced
- 1 small sweet potato or yam I used a Japanese yam, thinly sliced
- 1 granny smith apple thinly sliced
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup white wine divided
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 cups half and half
- 1 cup shredded gouda divided
- 3/4 cup sharp cheddar divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Grease a small casserole dish and layer half of the potato, yam and apple slices in the casserole, adding three potato slices for every two yam and one apple. Put the remaining slices and the casserole dish aside.
- Heat a quarter-sized amount of olive oil in a large, deep skillet until shimmering. Add the onion, the garlic an a large pinch of salt. Saute until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer the onion and garlic from the pan to a bowl and set aside.
- Add half of the wine to the hot skillet and deglaze the pan. Toss in the butter and let it melt. Once the butter is frothy, whisk in the flour to form a roux. Cook the roux until it assumes a warm caramel color and gives off a nutty aroma. Slowly add the remaining wine and half and half, whisking constantly. Bring the cream mixture up to a gentle boil and add 3/4 cup of gouda and 1/4 cup of cheddar to the skillet. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir to melt the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, stir in the salt and the Dijon mustard. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the fresh thyme.
- Pour half of the gouda sauce over top of the potato, yam, and apple layer you laid out earlier. Use the back of a spoon to ensure the sauce is evenly dispersed. Place the remaining potato, yam and apple slices on top of the sauce and pour the other half of the sauce over top. Sprinkle a mixture of the remaining cheeses over top of the gratin and pop it in the oven. Bake the gratin uncovered for 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender and the cheese is golden. Remove the gratin from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.