Sunday dinner is perhaps not as popular as it once was. At one time, preparing a robust, soul-satisfying meal for Sunday afternoon (after church of course) was the norm. It would often feature an entree that could be cooked low and slow for hours like a roast or stew since the lady of the house would need to attend service and still be able to get dinner on the table. I’m a fan of Sunday dinners because it turns the day before the work week into something more than that. Even though Mr. Foodie and are not regular church goers, we both like the luxuriousness of a Sunday dinner which seems to somehow stretch the weekend out.
This week, because of guests, we ended up cooking a Sunday dinner style meal earlier in the week. Remember when we used frozen fries for burger night? Well that’s because we were saving the potatoes for the beauty pictured here. Au Gratin potatoes were the star of this little fete. I have made many potato dishes in my life mostly because my family is midwestern and if there is something you should know how to make from there it is a potato. One of our Christmas traditions is to make lefse – a thin Norwegian potato cake (like a tortilla or crepe) which is spread with butter and sugar, rolled up, and eaten with the fingers. My grandmother who taught me how to make it uses instant potatoes for the ease and consistent texture, but the first time I made it, I used real mashed potatoes. She was impressed.
For the Au Gratin I whipped out my new mandolin. Yes, I used to cut potatoes for this dish by hand – never again. Even a rather inexpensive one like mine is better than trying to get even-ish slices by hand. I am not a fan of kitchen unitaskers, so I hesitate to buy any kitchen equipment I can accomplish with a knife or other tool (a good impulse for someone who really wants to buy everything she sees in a kitchen store). Given that, I really should have bought a mandolin ages ago. That thing makes slicing up a bag and a half of potatoes for au gratin fly by.
Au Gratin means “with the scraping” literally, but in relation to potatoes, it means a baked dish with breadcrumbs and/or cheese and which is browned on top. There are many ways to make au gratin. Due to limited ingredients and time, mine is the most basic version that I know of – sliced potatoes layered in a dish, sprinkled with cheese throughout (I used a parm/romano blend), dusted with flower, covered in milk. I cooked it longer and lower since it was a sizable dish – an hour at 350. Instead of making a bechemel sauce (a white sauce that is also awesome on au gratin potatoes), I did the “cheat” version. The result is that the dish will not be as “firm” when you go to eat it, but it was still perfectly cooked and creamy.
My two older guests were mid-westerners who absolutely adored the dish. They said they hadn’t had homemade au gratin since their mothers made it for them. I think the kids would have preferred the soggy fries from the night before, but c’est la vie. We ended up having the leftover taters for breakfast the next day.