Potatoes Au Gratin

This extravagant and decadent umami bomb feast is simple and quick to prepare but fantastically savory… for us, this is the ultimate comfort food. We have combined the cheesiness of Au Gratin with the creaminess of Scalloped Potatoes, along with smoked meats, wild mushrooms, and herbs of Provence like tarragon, thyme and rosemary.

If you know of a great smoke house or meat market who sells the smoked meats so necessary for real handmade home cooking, this is the dish that cries out for it.

In this savory feast, one of our secret ingredients, the one that separates it from other versions, is the cheesy, truffley, exquisite smoky tastes of the wild mushrooms we hunt for in the mountains around us, called Black Trumpets, which craves creams and cheeses, and is a perfect match to the smoked bacon.

But you can use any mushrooms for their wonderful umami flavor. And the Gruyere cheese, which is the sexy cousin of Swiss cheese, is also savory, without all the dryness and remote flavors of Swiss. It is a perfect match for both bacon and mushrooms. Enjoy!

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 pound smoked bacon, or pancetta, chopped
4 to 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, depending on size, thickly sliced
2 cups reconstituted dried wild mushrooms, or 1 pound fresh mushrooms
1 1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup shredded peppered jack cheese or smoked provolone
4 big cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large or 2 small shallots, finely chopped or minced in a food processor
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt (another 1/2 teaspoon if you don’t have smoked bacon, which is salty)
black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, (some folks like thyme or rosemary)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prep Work
Saute the bacon, chop into pieces and set aside.

If you are using fresh mushrooms, saute until browned, about 10 minutes. If you are using dehydrated wild mushrooms, place in a bowl of warm water and rehydrate for half an hour.

We use the classic 14 x 2 by 9 inch Pyrex baking pan. We place half the sliced potatoes down on the bottom, tightly packed together, add half the salt and ground black pepper. 

The next layer is a combination of half of the total of the following ingredients: grated Gruyere, chopped bacon, tarragon (or other herbs) and wild mushrooms.

Now the rest of the potatoes, using the last half of the salt and pepper, and tightly packed.  Now the final layer of grated Gruyere, bacon, tarragon and mushrooms.

In a 10 inch pan, heat the olive oil and add the shallots and saute gently until opaque, then add the garlic and saute until aromatic. Add the cream and simmer until it bubbles and then turn off the heat.

Now add the simmered cream, evenly, over all the ingredients in the pan.

Finally, add the peppered jack cheese or provolone on top and bake for one hour at 350 degrees.

Allow to cool slightly, and then serve. Followed by an extended food coma. Enjoy!