Potatoes à la Crème, au Gratin

This is a recipe from Francatelli’s Modern Cook, published in 1865. Its laborious methods and extravagant presentation do not seem in the spirit of these times but the book is a real joy. Charles Elme Francatelli was chief cook to Queen Victoria. His recipes include ornamental Borders of Potato-Paste, Scollops of Sheep’s Tongues and Calf’s Brains. The following recipe is altogether more manageable in a modern context.

‘Cut some boiled potatoes in slices, about an inch in diameter. Put a large ragout-spoonful of Béchamel or Velouté sauce into a stewpan with four ounces of grated Parmesan cheese, two ounces of fresh butter, the yolks of four eggs, a small piece of glaze, some lemon juice, nutmeg, pepper and salt; stir this preparation over a stove-fire, until it be well mixed, without boiling. Stick some neatly cut pointed croutons of fried bread round the bottom of the dish, in the form of a coronet; place a close circular row of potatoes within this border and spread a layer of the ragout over them, then repeat until the dish is complete. Smooth the top over with some of the sauce, shake some fried breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese over the surface, so as to entirely cover it; put the potatoes in the oven for about twenty minutes to be warmed through and serve.’

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Francatelli invented a potato soup for Queen Victoria which consisted of a potato broth poured onto French beans, asparagus heads and little quenelles of potato.

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