This past Wednesday on “Top Chef Masters” we had the wedding wars challenge. We were split into two teams of four and cooked a meal for an entire wedding catered to the bride or groom’s preferences. My team, consisting of Marcus Samuelsson, Susar Lee and Carmen Gonzalez, cooked for the groom. We immediately learned that he is a meats and potato guy and one of the first things out of his mouth was that he loved potatoes au gratin. I don’t want to give too much away, so I invite you to watch the episode online on Bravo’s site.
But one of the main takeaways from this episode is learning to listen to your guests. To truly become a successful chef, its imperative to listen to your guests likes and dislikes. If you’re able to create what they really want, while still infusing your style, then the food will be a memorable experience. In this instance, luckily, when i heard of the groom’s desire for potato au gratin, I knew I had to recreate my mother’s recipe for this dish. It won many positive comments from guests and the critics and has been a hit in my family for generations. While the recipe is posted online, I wanted to share a bit more accurate version of my mother’s recipe (which rarely happens in Italian families) in honor of Mother’s Day. Thanks Mom! I couldn’t have done this with out you!
Potatoes au Gratin
Ingredients, Serves 8
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter an 11×7x2-inch glass baking dish. Whisk the milk and cream in a bowl to blend. Arrange 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom of prepared dish, overlapping slightly and covering completely. Pour 1/3 of the cream mixture over, sprinkle with 1/3 cup of cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Repeat layering 2 more times. Bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and top is golden brown in spots, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
written by Tony Mantuano