- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It’s all about the crust for me. Whether it is a warm apple crisp, onion soup gratinee or any vegetable or potato gratin dish, I go for lots of crust.

I used to cook this recipe in a deep souffle dish, but through trial and error I discovered that a shallow baking dish cooked more evenly and allowed for much more topping. So here is a hint for all of you crust lovers. Look for a shallow baking dish for any gratins you may cook so there is more area on top for — you guessed it — the crust.

This potato dish uses the russet potato (often called an Idaho potato), known for its starchy interior, which becomes slightly creamy as it bakes in liquid. You’ll notice that the potatoes aren’t peeled, which makes the dish faster to prepare.

This crusty potato gratin from France’s Savoy region uses chicken or vegetable broth and a bit of butter to moisten the potatoes. Layers of garlic, chopped parsley and Gruyere cheese flavor the simple russet potato slices.

A number of excellent slicing tools are available. You can use the Oxo V-Blade Mandoline Slicer, the Microplane Hand-Held Adjustable Slicer or the slicer blade in your food processor. Of course, you also can slice the potatoes by hand with a heavy kitchen knife. I like to have the potatoes sliced and the filling ready to assemble so it takes just a few minutes to put together.

This is a hearty side dish. Serve this with simple roasted meats, chicken or fish. You also could serve this as a vegetarian dish along with sauteed green beans or zucchini.

Help is on the way:

• Look for russets that are firm, smooth-skinned and dark brown. Make sure there is no green discoloration on the potato.

• Keep potatoes in a cool, dark place and make sure you remove the plastic bag; otherwise they will go bad very quickly.

• Choose other favorite melting cheeses such as Fontina, Gouda or Comte.

• Add some bread crumbs to the final one-third of filling for the topping to make it even crisper.

• For more information on slicers, check out www.oxo.com.

Potatoes Savoyarde

FILLING:

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1½ cups Gruyere cheese

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon melted butter

2½ pounds russet baking potatoes, unpeeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces

1½ cups chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the garlic, parsley, cheese and pepper in a small mixing bowl.

Brush a 2-quart shallow baking dish with the melted butter.

Layer the potatoes in thirds, sprinkling the garlic-cheese mixture over each layer and a tablespoon of butter, reserving the last third of the garlic-cheese mixture and a tablespoon of butter.

Pour the chicken stock over the potatoes, sprinkle the rest of the garlic-cheese mixture evenly over the top and dot with the remaining tablespoon of butter.

Cover with buttered foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking uncovered for 30 to 40 more minutes or until the top is brown and crusty and the potatoes are fork tender. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.

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