It's always a little dicey when it's late, I'm hungry and tired, and I decide to try out a new recipe. Sometimes it turns out just lovely, and I go to sleep with a full stomach and a new go-to recipe, and sometimes I wind up with something charred, soggy, tasteless, and/or disgusting. Last night, after I'd been working on this new recipe for 45 minutes and realized I was still at the "prepping my ingredients" phase, I got worried. I was making a potato and tomato gratin that would have to eventually cook for an hour and a half, meaning I'd be pulling it out of the oven at 7 o'clock, a whole hour after I usually try to go to sleep (I work mornings). If it was a disaster, I didn't even have a box of Mac n Cheese around that I could toss into a pot. My apprehension growing, I followed the recipe, stuck it in the oven, and left to shower and catch up on Lost (Ben! Did you see him read "Little Boy Blue" on Jimmy Fallon? Wonder what's it like to be so naturally frightening?).
And finally, I pulled it out of the oven, nervous and hungry. Would it be delicious? Mediocre? Cringe-inducing?
I took my first bite and was immediately relieved: delish.
I found this recipe online at O Pistachio, where I was sold pretty much completely by the picture (posted here). Gorgeous golden crispy potatoes, bright beautiful tomatoes, delicate crinkled thyme--it looked amazing (more reason for me to get my butt in gear and get a nice new camera). Philomena, who blogged about this potato, tomato, garlic gratin, said she got the recipe from Patricia Wells's introduction to the cooking of French chef Joel Robuchon, Simply French. I made a few tiny adjustments, since I don't like onions and I wanted a smaller portion (I am not 6 to 8 people). The result was amazing: the sweetness of the tomato sauce nicely highlighted the potatoes, which ranged from crispy and flavorful to moist, hot, and rich. I also love garlic, which only added to the drool-worthiness (my mouth is seriously watering right now).
You can get the original gratin recipe here, but I've posted the one I used below. The original calls for 5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cored, and diced, and Philomena suggests slitting the skin of the tomatoes, boiling them for one minute, and then dredging them in cold water, which will help remove the skins. This is what took me forever, as I had to wait for the water to boil, then peel the tomatoes, then core, then dice. I only used 2 tomatoes, but only ended up using one, after I was worried about so much time I was spending on getting the ingredients going. For authenticity, I would recommend going through the motions, but for speed, I'm going with canned diced tomatoes (already peeled, cored, seeded, and diced).
POTATO, TOMATO, AND GARLIC GRATIN
2 tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and diced (or 1/2 to 1 can diced)
2 large potatoes, about 1lb or a little less
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, snipped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over a high heat.
When hot, add the garlic and cook until just tender, 1 or 2 minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic burn, or it will taste bitter in the final dish.
Add the tomatoes and cook until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.
Add the sugar, and season, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.
Taste for seasoning.
Meanwhile, prepare the potatoes: peel, wash, and cut the potatoes into very thin slices.
Wash again and dry thoroughly.
In a small bowl, set aside about one quarter of the potatoes, which will be used as the topping.
Rub the bottom of an oval baking dish with the garlic and 1 tablespoon of the butter.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining potatoes with the sauce and toss carefully to blend. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon.
Add enough chicken stock to cover.
In a medium-size bowl, combine the reserved topping potatoes, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, and the parsley.
Toss to coat evenly.
Beginning at one end of the dish, place the buttered potatoes, one by one, in slightly overlapping rows on top of the tomato-covered potatoes, until the entire dish is covered with an even potato layer.
Sprinkle with the thyme.
Place the dish in the centre of the oven and bake until the potatoes are soft, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the top is golden, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.