Gratin de Jabron

This is the best gratin dauphinoise potato I have tasted and was a regular accompaniment to rack of lamb and rib of beef at the Capital Hotel in London when I worked there. It came via Pierre Gleize, an early adviser to the Capital, who owns and cooks at La Bonne Étape in south-eastern France.

The dish is a course on its own. It is creamy and garlicky and yet doesn’t lose the flavour of potato. If you have a choice, use potatoes that aren’t too floury. They will hold together better when cooked.

I have split the recipe into two stages because that is how I cook it, preparing most of the dish in advance. You may, of course, proceed directly from the first to the second stage if you prefer. The grated cheese is optional and I now use it less often, especially when the gratin is to partner meat.

Jabron potatoes converted my Uncle Frank to garlic. A conservative in dress and taste, he associated garlic only with the breath and armpit smells of the rush-hour London Underground as it lurches from north to west across the city. As a proper Englishman he was convinced that it was garlic which differentiated our island race from the wops. Imagine his surprise then at how good this very garlicky dish tastes and the realisation that the problems of Tottenham Court Road’s tube station were not dietary – merely absence of deodorant and toothpaste.

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Ingredients

Stage 1

  • 2 lb (900 g) maincrop potatoes
  • 6 oz (175 g) unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stage 2

  • 10 fl oz (300 ml) milk
  • 10 fl oz (300 ml) double cream
  • 2 oz (50 g) hard cheese, preferably Cheddar or Gruy è re, grated

Method

Stage 1 (up to 1 day in advance)

  1. Wash and sort the potatoes. You are going to boil them in their skins so it will be an advantage if they are approximately the same size.
  2. Boil the potatoes until they are just cooked, perhaps even a fraction underdone. Drain the water. Peel off the skin and then cut the potatoes into thickish – ¼ (6 mm) – slices.
  3. Melt the butter with the crushed garlic in a frying pan. Unless you have a really big pan you will probably need to do this exercise two or three times in a smaller one. When the butter is melted, and mixed with the garlic but not yet hot or sizzling, add the potatoes and toss them. The object is to coat the potato slices with the garlic butter, not to fry them. Season with salt and pepper and then spoon them into a container until needed.

Stage 2 (20 minutes before you eat)

  • Spread the potato on to a pie dish about 1 in (2.5 cm) deep. Pour on the milk and cream. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
  • Bake at 350°F (180°C) Gas 4 for 20 minutes.
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