If there’s any dish that is more lusciously satisfying than a creamy potato casserole or gratin, I am yet to taste it. I mean, I like a lot of different foods. Love them even, but the soul-warming feeling I get when I place a bite of rich, layered potato in my mouth is quite unique.
Yet for some reason, I felt moved to mess with the original recipe, glorious as it is. I cannot stop the relentless drive to tweak here and there, to test out new takes on familiar food and make sure that there definitely isn’t a slightly better way to make a long-time favourite. I guess I feel that if something isn’t a little different in each meal, then I’m not truly learning.
So with autumn/winter coming up, when thinking of posting a recipe for the delight that is potato gratin, I thought I’d try something a bit unconventional. Gratin made with lovely, loose strands of potato, instead of hearty slices.
Now I’m not quite sure that I can say this is better than a traditional gratin. But it is absolutely gorgeous – at least as good – and it is a slightly novel take for you to experiment with.
The best potatoes to use for this dish are waxy potatoes, rather than floury potatoes. I grated my potato using the fine grater of a food processor, and these delicate strands stand up best to the simmering and softening if the potatoes have some structural integrity. More floury potatoes run the risk of turning a little mushy.
It is important that you soak and rinse the grated potato before adding to the sauce. The finely shredded potato releases a lot of starch, which will quickly darken the potato and lead to a gummy sauce if not removed. When properly cleaned and drained, the potato will be dry, fluffy and creamy white.
I have made gratins with just cream for the liquid, but I found it a bit too heavy and rich. Instead I use a mixture of vegetable stock and cream which has the double benefit of both lightening the dish and adding a whole lot more flavour than dairy alone. A touch of garlic, nutmeg and Parmesan round out the flavours.
I made the mistake of popping a bit of this dish into my mouth while shooting the photographs. Big mistake! I stopped everything I was doing and ate the whole plate. I then had to clean the plate and set the whole thing up again. Nom…
Tender, silky strands of potato. Garlicky, seasoned cream and stock. All baked until bubbly under a crisp, cheesy, peppery crust. Almost makes the cold Swedish winter welcome!
Shredded potato casserole with cheese
- 500 g waxy potatoes no need to peel
- 2 garlic cloves
- a glug of drinkable white wine
- 1 heaped tablespoon vegetable stock paste
- 200 ml water
- 150 ml double/heavy cream
- few scrapes of whole nutmeg or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- sea salt to taste
- 100 g flavourful hard cheese I used Parmesan, finely grated
- Finely grate the potatoes (I used the fine shredding blade on my food processor), soak for 10 minutes and drain. Repeat, soaking and draining again.
- Crush the garlic and add to a large saucepan with the wine, the water and the vegetable stock paste. On the stove top, over medium-low heat, stew the garlic for about 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200c. Add the cream and potatoes to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes - stir occasionally to stop the bottom catching. When the potato strands are fairly tender, but not completely soft, stir in 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Transfer to a casserole dish, top with the rest of the Parmesan, grind plenty of black pepper over and bake for around 20 minutes, until the top is golden. Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.