My parents host a huge Easter dinner every year. My mother has four brothers and in turn I have lots of cousins, who have lots of children. Easter is so much fun, complete with an Easter egg hunt for the kids, bunny sack races and other fun games, and an incredible meal. For decades my mother would cook the dinner, but once the guest list began to grow – sometimes we’re almost 50 – she began to have the meal catered. Her caterer of choice, who is now unfortunately out of business, always brought big pans of Hasselback potatoes. It was my favorite dish of the meal. The potatoes were thinly sliced and in an incredible sauce, which seemed to me to be made primarily of butter. I have tried numerous times to recreate them with no luck. My potatoes have been good, but not exactly the same. This recipe is the one that has come the closest. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s incredibly delicious and if you like potatoes and cheese, this recipe is for you. The tops of the potatoes get nice and crispy and the centers remain soft.
Be warned that this is a time consuming recipe. I recommend making the recipe when you have an extra set of hands in the kitchen. If one person can peel the potatoes while the other is cutting them, the whole process moves along much faster. Because the potatoes cook for at least an hour and a half, you’ll need to start this recipe at a minimum, 2 hours before you plan to serve it. It’s a great dinner party recipe.
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Cheesy Hasselback Potato Gratin
Recipe by Emily Weinstein from the New York Times
3 ounces finely grated Gruyère or comté cheese
2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cups heavy cream
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 to 4 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick on a mandoline slicer (~7 to 8 medium, but you might want to have a couple of extra on hand if the ones you slice don’t completely fill your casserole dish)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine cheeses in a large bowl. Transfer 1/3 of cheese mixture to a separate bowl and set aside. Add cream, garlic and thyme to cheese mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add potato slices and toss with your hands until every slice is coated with cream mixture, making sure to separate any slices that are sticking together to get the cream mixture in between them.
Grease a 2-quart casserole dish with butter. Pick up a handful of potatoes, organizing them into a neat stack, and lay them in the casserole dish with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing potatoes in the dish, working around the perimeter and into the center until all the potatoes have been added. The potatoes should be very tightly packed. If necessary, slice an additional potato, coat with cream mixture, and add to casserole. Pour the excess cream/cheese mixture evenly over the potatoes until the mixture comes halfway up the sides of the casserole. You may not need all the excess liquid.
Cover dish tightly with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until the top is pale golden brown, about 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to oven. Bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for a few minutes, and serve.
Yield: 6 servings
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