When I was a child, I had a boundless imagination. It made being grounded fun, and punishing me next to impossible. As an adult and a writer, I actively nurture my imagination and my inner child. I like to laugh make up stories, and generally enjoy myself. On special days, I play with my food. Enter the Potato, Portabella and Parmesan Gratin.
This recipe takes a bit of time to assemble, so I treated it like a culinary puzzle picking the perfectly shaped piece of potato to create the layers. I then added the cheese and even tossed in some mushrooms. The result was a filling, decadent gratin that was as simple as it was flavorful, and served with a quick salad, you have a delicious (and meatless) dinner. And I even snuck mushrooms past my inner child.
Potato, Portabella and Parmesan Gratin
Adapted from Oriana Neri’s recipe
4 lb medium boiling potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 to 2 ½ cups half & half
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
7 oz finely grated parmesan cheese (3 1/2 to 4 cups)*
1/2 to 1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned and diced
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Peel potatoes and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices with a food processor or an adjustable-blade slicer. Spread slices out on a large kitchen towel. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Dot bottom of a 3-quart shallow baking dish (13 by 9 inches) with half of butter and pour in 1/3 cup of dairy. Layer potatoes in baking dish, season lightly with black pepper.
Spread 1/3 cup half & half and about 1/4 of cheese between layers. Drizzle remaining cream over potatoes and dot with remaining butter. Season with black pepper and sprinkle a bit of extra cheese and any mushrooms you have left.
Bake, uncovered, until potatoes are very tender and top is browned, about 2 hours. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.
*Chef’s Note: I did use an imported Italian cheese from the cheese counter, but not Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the gratin was fantastic. Just use quality cheese, and you’ll be fine.