I like this best when the potatoes are sliced quite thin (a mandoline makes this easy):that way the potato slices are less likely to curl up and burn on the edges. Yukon Goldand other waxy, yellow-fleshed potatoes keep their texture in a gratin; floury potatoeslike russets fall apart.Rub a 9- by 12-inch gratin dish with:
Peel and slice about 1/16 inch thick:
4 large yellow potatoes(about 11/2 pounds)
Make a layer of potato slices in the gratin dish, overlapping them slightly, like shingles.Sprinkle with:
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Continue to layer the potato slices, seasoning each layer, until the potatoes are usedup. You should have two or, at the most, three layers. Carefully pour over the potatoes:
1 cup milk
The liquid should come up to the bottom of the top layer of potatoes. Add more ifnecessary. Generously dot the top of the potatoes with:
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Bake in a 350°F oven until browned and bubbling, about 1 hour. Halfway through thebaking, take the gratin dish out of the oven and press the potatoes flat with a metalspatula to keep the top moist. Return to the oven and keep checking. The gratin is donewhen the potatoes are soft and the top is golden brown.
Peel and smash a garlic clove and rub it all over the inside of the gratin dish beforebuttering it.
Use duck fat instead of butter.
Use heavy cream or a mixture of half-and-half and cream. Omit the butter.
Substitute celery root, parsnip, or turnip slices for up to half the potatoes.
Add chopped herbs such as thyme, parsley, chives, or chervil between the layers.
Sauté mushrooms, sorrel, spinach, or leeks, and layer them between the potatoslices.
Sprinkle grated Gruyère or Parmesan cheese on each layer and sprinkle more on topfor the last 15 minutes of baking.
The Art of Simple Food
by Alice Waters Copyright © 2007 by Alice Waters. Excerpted by permission of ClarksonPotter, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted withoutpermission in writing from the publisher.