Creamy, Cheesy, Russet Potatoes
When you hear stories surrounding the use of best quality, fresh, local ingredients what do you think of?
Does the imagery stir inside of you Farmers Market displays of tables lined with freshly picked, brightly colored vegetable selections? Swiss chard, kale, parsnips, turnips, butternut squash.
Many of these vegetables now hold a popular stature as if they were a new invention, and yet they very commonly graced American tables in an era past. One Farmers Market staple not often popularized, but even in its simplicity, has always retained its place at the table is the Russet Potato.
Today, with its cousins lining shelves of small fingerlings, baby reds, baby whites, Yukon golds, even purple varieties, it’s easy to take for granted that versatile tuber whose earthy, dirt worn skins and translucently winding net- like coverings with a pale colored interior that continues to offer fresh, common, sustenance to many a daily meal and amply provide among a broad range of all-purpose uses.
Russet Potatoes most commonly complemented the weekly roast or a giant baked potato stuffed between a chunk of creamy butter, perhaps topped with a dollop of sour cream.
There are many culturally diverse uses of the Russet Potato too, a yogurt spiced Indian potato and spinach side, an El Salvadoran vegetable soup, a spicy Korean stewed chicken with potatoes simmered in its traditional components of rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil, a Sri Lankan potato curry seasoned with spices and lemongrass, finished with coconut milk.
Today’s peeled and thinly sliced Russet Potatoes simmered in heavy cream before assembling between a bit of butter and grated cheeses and baked into a lovely creamy gratin resembles a potato dish of France, and, it also provides a luscious nod to this ingredient that perhaps should be shown a bit more popular appreciation.
There are even limited fact references provided on the Russet, or the Russet Burbank, a tuber cultivated, it appears, in Idaho in late 1800’s as a new strain to withstand disease such as the plight that once spread across Ireland causing starvation or flight to many among its people.
One easily searchable distinction is that Russet potatoes are grown in many states across the USA and like some products taken to naming by brand, in this case, Russets have often been referred to as Idaho Potatoes, the single correct distinction being that a potato can only be singularly called an Idaho Potato if it is grown in the state of Idaho, so there you have it.
Although this fresh and simple ingredient has not been featured in any newly relegated glamor and perhaps is not acknowledged as the highlight of a shoppers dream at the Farmers Market, still, the Russet continues as a common staple with many diverse uses as the base for combining diverse flavors including today’s Creamy, Cheesy, Russet Potatoes. Made from the ever enduring Russet Potato.
Creamy, Cheesy, Russet Potatoes
- 2 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, rinsed in a colander
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 small to medium size onion, halved, cut in half moon slices
- 4 tablespoons butter cut into very small pieces
- 1 cup grated cheese, Gruyere, or a combination of two types cheese
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, more or less according to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- butter for greasing gratin dish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Grease a shallow casserole or gratin dish with one tablespoon of butter
- Drop rinsed potato slices into a pot of salted boiling water and cook for ten minutes, drain
- Heat heavy cream on very low heat in a saucepan large enough to hold the potatoes
- Transfer drained potatoes to the pot of warmed heavy cream, sprinkle in the nutmeg, and simmer potatoes, stirring occasionally, gently, on very low heat until potatoes are just cooked but not falling apart, about fifteen minutes
- Lay half of the uncooked onions on the bottom of the dish.
- Layer half of the cooked potatoes on top to cover the dish
- Ladle over half of the warm heavy cream from the potato pot
- Dot potatoes with half of the small bits of butter
- Sprinkle a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the pepper over the potatoes
- Top potatoes with half of the shredded cheese and half of the Parmesan
- Scatter on the other half of the onion slices
- Top with the other half of the potato slices
- Pour over the remaining cream
- Dot with the remaining bits of butter
- Sprinkle over the other half teaspoon of salt
- Top with remaining shredded cheese, and Parmesan
- Set filled gratin dish onto a parchment lined baking sheet
- Bake until the potatoes are bubbling hot and the top has turned golden brown, around twenty- five to thirty minutes