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Potatoes, The Perfect Comfort Food

The glorious weather we are having is perfect for comfort food, and I know none better than potatoes au gratin. In the South, we call it scalloped potatoes, and to the French, it is potatoes dauphinoise. There are some minor differences in the recipes, but basically, all are made with potatoes cooked in heavy cream and cheese. What better combination could there be?

This is such a simple dish but so delicious and easy to make. The only ingredient that you might have trouble finding is the gruyere cheese, but Rouses always has it. All that’s left is thinly sliced potatoes, and the best quality heavy cream you can find. I season only with Tony’s and red pepper flakes. 

Gruyere is a French cave aged cheese that experts consider the best melting cheese in the world. A grilled cheese sandwich made with gruyere will change your world. 

The quality of the heavy cream is very important. The absolute best can sometimes be found at a local farmer’s market. You have got to get there early, as the milk and cream always sell out early. Cream is nothing more than churned whole milk (cream always rises to the top, right?), what’s left over after the cream is skimmed off, by the way, is butter milk. 

The easiest way to make this dish is to layer a casserole pan with thin slices of potatoes, grated gruyere cheese and heavy cream (you can simmer the cream with a little flour (a white roux) just until it thickens if you like. Do not add too much cream or it will boil over.  Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, then cover and reduce the heat to 350 and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. A sharp knife inserted in the au gratin will tell you it is done or not. 

My mother made scalloped potatoes all the time and I loved it, but while traveling in the south of France, many years ago, I had the real deal, and it was simply one of the best things I have ever eaten. It was made with the best quality gruyere cheese and local (Alpine) cream. I quit trying to make mine as good when I realized that I would never be able to find that quality of cheese and cream. 

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Written by Julian Brunt

Julian Brunt is a food and travel writer that has been writing about the food culture of the Deep South for over a decade. He is the eleventh generation of his family to live in the South, grew up in Europe, traveled extensively for the first fifteen years after graduating from the University of Maryland, University College, Heidelberg, Germany. Today, he's a contributor for multiple publications, including Our Mississippi Home. He's also appeared on Gordon Ramsay's television show, "To Hell and Back in 24 Hours."

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