The next dish in my Thanksgiving dinner was not the prettiest dish but it may just have been the tastiest one! This potato gratin was inspired by a recipe that appeared in Food & Drink last year that I had just been itching to try it. Potatoes in pretty much any form have to be one of my favourite comfort foods and when you bake them until tender in a creamy cheese sauce like this you really cannot go wrong. Even though a plain old potato gratin is irresistibly addictive this recipe takes things way beyond by adding tons of pure umami and flavour with pancetta and dried porcini mushrooms. Pancetta is an Italian form of bacon and it adds a nice saltiness and an amazing crispy texture that is hidden throughout the gratin. Dried porchini mushrooms are just packed with flavour which we extract by soaking them in hot water and then using both by sprinkling the mushrooms in the gratin and adding the water they were soaked in to the creamy sauce. Of course the final component of the grain is the cheese and for this one I used a gruyere that is sprinkled both in between layers of potatoes and on top. This tasty potato gratin certainly did disappear quickly!
Pancetta and Porcini Potato Gratin
Thinly sliced potatoes baked in a creamy cheese sauce flavoured with porcini mushrooms and pancetta.
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 6 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 2 pounds potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thin (on a mandolin)
- 2 cups gruyere, grated
- Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the water for 20 minutes.
- Remove the mushrooms from the water, reserving the water, squeeze the excess water from them and coarsely chop them.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Add the pancetta and saute until it starts to turn golden brown, about 4-6 minutes.
- Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and saute for a minute and remove from heat.
- Bring the cream, milk, reserved mushroom water and nutmeg to a simmer and remove from heat.
- Pour a bit of the cream over the bottom of an 8x8x2 inch baking pan and layer 1/2 of the sliced potatoes on top followed by half of the pancetta and mushroom mixture and cheese, followed by the remaining potatoes, the cream and the remaining pancetta and mushroom mixture and cheese and cover in foil.
- Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven until fork tender, about 45-60 minutes. Note: At the end of this step you can let the gratin sit at room temperature for up two 2 hours before continuing.
- Remove the foil and continue to cook until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes.
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