I hosted Sunday brunch last week and tried an appetizing dairy-free gratin recipe in Food and Wine. It was a hit, of course. Anything out of Food and Wine is tasty.
I was craving this dish a few days later and made some slight changes the second time around. Since there is absolutely no cheese, butter, or cream, I thought I could add some pancetta to introduce a flavor it was previously missing. Additionally, topping it with roasted tomatoes added a slight sharpness which contrasted wonderfully with the potatoes.
- 1 slice of pancetta, 1/4 inch thick
- 2 pounds medium sized red potatoes, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon of chopped thyme; reserve 1/2 teaspoon for garnish
- 1/2 tablespoon of chopped rosemary
- 1/2 tablespoon of dried basil
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
- 3-4 tomatoes, sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons of light extra virgin olive oil
- organic feta cheese for topping (optional)
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Prepare your ingredients. Wash, scrub, dry, and slice the red potatoes. Set them aside. Remove the thyme and rosemary leaves from their stems. Chop and set aside. Mince the shallot.
Rub oil or spray nonstick spray on the bottom of a 8-inch Pyrex dish or 8-inch round cake pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the first layer of sliced potatoes, slightly overlapping. Add a tiny pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Set aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan add one tablespoon of light extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for about three minutes until it’s golden brown. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and discard. Now add in the shallots, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Be sure to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan and mix it with the shallots. Cook for a couple minutes until the shallots are soft.
Now add the thyme, rosemary and basil. Stir and cook for one minute. Add in the chicken broth. Bring it to a boil and let it continue to boil for ten minutes or until the broth reduces to 3/4 cup. Remove from heat.
Now pour one ladle of the herb broth over the first layer of potatoes. Then add another layer of overlapping potatoes, salt and black pepper and broth. Repeat until all the potatoes are used and all the broth is gone.
Cover with foil and place in oven on center rack for one hour. Now slice the tomatoes about one-half inch thick and place in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet or Silpat. Drizzle olive oil and sea salt. Set aside.
When the potatoes reach the one hour mark, remove from oven and take off the foil cover. Place the gratin back into the oven on the center rack and add the sliced tomatoes on the lower rack. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes. Next, remove the gratin and tomatoes from oven. Turn the oven off and set it to “broil.” If your gas range offers a choice for “broil hi” or “broil low,” choose “broil hi.”
Place the roasted sliced tomatoes on top of the gratin and put in the oven or broiler. Let it broil for about five minutes until the tomatoes and top layer of potatoes turn brown. Remove from oven and top with the remaining fresh thyme. Serve immediately with a side of feta cheese for your cheese-loving guests.
This herb gratin dish can be a great addition to any brunch or dinner. I served it when we were hosting a co-op Board of Directors meeting at our loft. Everyone loved it. Ron can’t believe it doesn’t contain butter.
I think this dish is a great example of how you can do what’s stressed on this blog many times. Find a recipe, make it once as per the directions, and then try it another time with your own variations. This is great training for you to learn what food combinations work, and which don’t, helping lay the groundwork for you to begin creating your own original dishes. Until next time!