Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Gratin Dauphinois

For today’s post my husband Aaron returns to take us through Julia Child’s Gratin Dauphinois (scalloped potatoes) from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Taking advantage of a reduced price Christmas ham, we needed a side dish that would go nicely with glazed ham, and we had wanted to try Julia Child’s scalloped potatoes for some time, so this was the perfect opportunity to give them a go.

When going over the recipe, my initial impression was that there wasn’t enough potatoes to feed our growing family, but when you add butter, cheese and milk, it gets to be quite heavy and there was plenty for us all.

The only real change we made from Julia’s recipe was to use crushed garlic in the stead of a 1/2 garlic clove, which possibly resulted in garlicky-er potatoes, but that really wasn’t a problem.

As above, the scalloped potatoes (I did old school thin-ish slices with a knife, but this recipe would definitely benefit from a mandolin) are joined by garlic, butter, milk and cheese (we had lots of Monterey Jack in the fridge so that’s what we used) . Add a bit of salt and pepper, throw this layered goodness into the (not quite working properly so they took a bit longer) oven, and we had a very tasty dish that complimented our ham very nicely, and the kids all LOVED it.

It will definitely be a recipe we will have again in the future.

Throwback Thursday: 3 Easy Recipes from The Food Lab

Throwback to November 2017, when the Food52 Cookbook Club was tackling J Kenji Lopez-Alt’s epic first cookbook, The Food Lab. We absolutely loved this book, so much so that we perpetually have it on reserve at the library on both our library cards and whenever it’s our turn to have it checked out, we welcome it home with a little hug.

Several recipes from The Food Lab were highlights on our Thanksgiving table (including the broccoli cauliflower casserole, the green bean casserole, the cranberry sauce and I’m sure there were more) but we’ve also made several others (eg pasta alla Norma, eggs florentine, biscuits and gravy) and the list just keeps growing.

The recipes in his book vary between simple and complex and we love the science sections where he explains a different ingredient or technique in depth. Here I’m going to tell you about 3 of our favorite simple recipes…

The Fry Sauce: My gosh is it good. And dead simple. Seriously, you chuck stuff in a bowl and stir it together. The first time we made it we used the dill pickle juice, but decided we wanted the texture relish offers so ever since we replace it 1:1. On burger night we usually buy frozen chips that we cook in the oven, and it has now become our standard condiment that we serve with them.

Similarly, the garlic croutons: Kenji says to use a good quality bread loaf, but one night I needed a salad and all I had was lettuce, store bought dressings and cheeses in the fridge so I thought if I had croutons we could make a caesar style salad. The only bread I had left was frozen wholemeal bread ends that I normally use for breadcrumbs (or often end up as my breakfast or lunch, cos you know, I’m a mom and that’s how I roll) so I cut them up and tossed them through a mixture of oil and garlic and a few other seasonings and baked them in the oven for about 20 minutes and voila! They were so addictive I kept coming back hours after dinner had finished and ate every last one. So good!

Lastly, his maple sage breakfast sausage. This recipe has changed my world. No seriously. Australia knows nothing of American style breakfast sausage and they are the poorer for it. And I have for ages been lamenting not having Jimmy Deans here. We have this delicious breakfast casserole recipe that I usually make at Christmas and special occasions and I’ve explored a few alternatives in the past but never been too convinced until I tried using this. And if you just buy pork mince like I did and omit the bacon, it is seriously no more than mixing the ingredients by hand in a bowl and leaving it in the fridge to marinate before frying it off in a pan. Dead set it is the bomb. We’ve used this in his biscuits and sausage gravy recipe and once when we had leftover mince we turned it into sausage and biscuit breakfast sandwiches (again something we don’t get here in Australia) and I feel instantly transported to America when I’m feeling a bit homesick even after almost 19 years.

There you have it, three reasons to get your hands on The Food Lab, or at the very least, follow J Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab column on Serious Eats.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Quiche Lorraine

This month the Food52 Cookbook Club is tackling Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. I’ve had this book for several years and really haven’t delved into it much so was keen to see why it’s so popular. For my first recipe, I chose Quiche Lorraine. Now I always thought quiche was a mixture of eggs, cream/milk & cheese with various fillings in a pastry crust but wouldn’t you know, Quiche Lorraine has no cheese. I was shocked!

So what goes into making the iconic Quiche Lorraine? Well, the pastry is super simple, basically flour, salt, sugar, butter and water. (I used all butter rather than 1/4 shortening because the shortening is recommended for American flour. And let’s face it Crisco is ridiculously expensive here.) Mix it together, shape it into a disc and freeze for an hour before rolling it out and partially blind baking in a pie plate. Piece of cake!

The filling is similarly breezy – dice up and lightly cook some lean bacon in a non stick frypan (Julia says you can blanch the bacon in simmering water to remove its salty smoky flavour but we skipped that step). Meanwhile combine the eggs (only 3!) with the cream and milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Put the bacon in the shell and pour over the egg mixture. Then dot the top with some diced butter (this is what helps it brown on top) and chuck it in the oven for half an hour.

It turned out light and custardy rather than eggy and cheesy and while Aaron was looking for the cheese (he loves nothing more than cheese and bacon and egg) I thought it was just lovely for a hot summer day with the leftover salads from yesterday’s bbq. Now what to make next?!

Throwback Thursday: Cauliflower Cake from Plenty More

Throwback to June 2017 when Food52’s Cookbook Club took on Yotam Ottolenghi’s plethora of beautiful cookbooks, and everyone was making this intriguing looking Cauliflower Cake from Plenty More…not only did I do the same at the time, but I’ve made it probably 6 times since then because it is just that good!

The recipe can be found online here so I won’t go into any detail about the ingredients or method, but I’ll share how I have tweaked it slightly to make it a bit quicker and easier to throw together as a midweek meal.

Firstly, the cauliflower…

…I do not buy a fresh whole cauliflower, but instead a frozen 500g bag and I cook it in salted water in the microwave for 4 minutes before straining. This happens while I cook the onion (except for the reserved onion rings) with dried rosemary in a nonstick frypan.

My next change is that I add a grated pizza cheese blend instead of freshly grated parmesan to the egg/flour/onion/herb & spice mixture.

My last change is that I use spray oil to grease my casserole dish before sprinkling the seeds into it and rolling them around until they stick.

Then I simply pour the rest of the ingredients into the dish and place the reserved onion on top before baking.

It is such a delightful meal with a side salad and some fresh bread and it gets gobbled up every time without fail. Definitely worth returning to!