As a long-time freelance food writer, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City ‘burbs.
Photo by Judith Hausman
Recently, I researched ways to make something similar to potatoes au gratin but without the heavy cream. While I’m not a huge fan in general, I do like the comforting, Swiss-ish combination of Gruyere (or Parmesan, for that matter) and spuds in winter. Post-holidays, loads of cream just seemed over the top although there was still the decadence of that wonderful bacon that I wanted to try again with potatoes. I figured this time I could at least incorporate healthy, sweet potatoes and maybe carrots or squash. I also wanted a recipe that didn’t ask me to cook the potatoes first — that seemed like a waste of time.
The recipe I came up with filled the bill perfectly. First, the food processor made quick work of slicing all the vegetables thinly enough to avoid precooking them. The slices are conveniently baked in the same sauté pan in which you soften the bacon and onions. The result was a hearty, winter-y side dish, rich and flavorful while not cloy or heavy. Three slices of bacon was enough to give a smoky perfume, but not to overwhelm, and the orange vegetables were both prettier and healthier than solo white potatoes. To make a vegetarian version, substitute butter for the bacon and choose vegetable broth. A 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish, smoked paprika can fill in for the bacon flavors well. I ate the gratin “as is” but I can imagine it nicely accompanying roast chicken or pork, or even as balance for a simple baked or broiled salmon.
Recipe: Potatoes and Carrots “Au Gratin”
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
- 3 strips best-quality bacon, diced
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 large sweet potato, thinly sliced
- 1 large Red Bliss or Yukon Gold potato, thinly sliced
- 2-3 large carrots, thinly sliced
- 2-3 tablespoons flour
- 1/2-3/4 cup Gruyere or Parmesan cheese, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
Pre-heat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Cook the bacon in a 10-inch, ovenproof skillet, spooning off all but 1 to 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Add the sliced onion and cook until softened. Remove from heat.
In the same pan, pile half of both the sliced potatoes and carrots on top of the onions. Sprinkle with 1 generous tablespoon of flour and half the cheese and thyme. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, carrots, thyme and flour, ending with the cheese. Pour the broth around the vegetables. Cook in the oven covered for 30 to 40 minutes or until soft. Uncover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes more or until slightly browned.
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