rosemary and blue cheese potato gratin

My birthday is just a few weeks away. I'm rounding the corner towards 30, turning 28 this year. Of course, as my birthday nears each year, I spend more time in self-reflection than usual. Am I focused on the right things? Where do my priorities lie? Have I made good decisions in the past 12 months? How fast is my entire head going to turn gray? 

Someone said to me recently that holidays are only powerful if you can connect with the memories of how they were to you as a child, if they hold significance. Otherwise, it's just another day. My mom and dad always did everything (and more) they could possibly do to make all of our birthdays special. I find that gift all the more precious now, when I still wake up on my birthday feeling special, loved, important. Without gifts, without fanfare, it doesn't matter. Isn't that an amazing present? I think so.

What do I want my next year to look like? Well...I'd like it to be (more) stable. The past two years, everything has been in constant flux. These past few months, we've made great progress towards stabilizing. I'm excited to see what the upcoming year has in store. So far, Atlanta has been incredible. I know it's going to keep getting better.

One thing is for sure: this potato gratin will participate. It's one of my favorite recipes. I present it to you here with two options. Think of like a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Either way is fabulous, or you can come up with your own riff on it! Cream + cheese + potatoes pretty much leads to good things. I made two different kinds, in separate ramekins, so I could freeze them and pull them out two at a time as sides for meals. You can certainly make one kind and just do it in a 13x9. First, I did one with plain cream and Boursin cheese. Then I made a second one with blue cheese and fresh minced rosemary in the cream. They are equally amazing.

This is always on my holiday tables. I make up holidays to have this with dinner. It's indulgent, decadent, comforting, and generally amazing. If you don't have a mandoline, you can make it with a very sharp knife and patience, but the mandoline would definitely be easier. Mine is packed away in a box somewhere, so I did it the old fashioned way. 

Here's how it's done:

Preheat your oven to 375. Grease a 13x9 well with butter.

Combine the cream, salt and pepper, and minced rosemary (if you're using). 

Peel your potatoes and slice them very thinly. A mandoline is your best friend here. You want the potatoes to be the same thickness throughout and as thin as you can get them. If you don't have a mandoline, make sure you have a very sharp knife. The easiest way to slice them by hand is to cut to potatoes in half first so they lay flat, then slice them carefully.

Slice up all the potatoes and set aside. Now you're ready to assemble!

Line your baking dish with one layer of sliced potatoes.

You want the layers to be thin and as flat as possible. Now drop in a few crumbles of cheese and add enough of the cream mixture to just cover the layer.

In my ramekins, that was about a tablespoon of cream. In a 13x9, it would be about 1/3-1/4 cup. 

Continue layering this way, making sure each layer of potatoes is thin and pushed down flat. Your goal is to have as little air between the layers as possible. 

When you get to about 1/8" below the top of your baking dish, stop there. This is already prone to bubbling over, and you don't want to lose lots of your cream sauce. Finish the top with any cheese you have left and the remainder of the cream mixture. 

Put the pan on a baking sheet (even better if you line the baking sheet with aluminum foil first) and pop it in your preheated oven.

While they are baking, your house will smell AMAZING. Much to the torture of everyone waiting for your gratin to come out of the oven. Delicious anticipation! Truman prefers to wait as close to my physical presence as possible.

Once they come out of the oven, let them sit for about ten minutes or you will feel like you are eating a meteor. In this case, slightly cooler is better.


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