potato and cabbage gratin
Wed, 20 January, 2021
Don’t believe when they tell you that potatoes and cabbage are poor man’s food. This potato and cabbage gratin is fit for a king’s table.
The ingredient list for this dish reads like a dream wishlist for comfort. Potatoes! Cabbage! Cheese! Cream! Butter! It’s vegetarian but if you’re a meat eater and if I added bacon to the list, reading the recipe might make you faint with lust.
It is an obviously rich dish so I like to have it as the centre of my main course. As a side, with a slab of meat and extra vegetables it would, to me, become overbearing. But if you’re a 19-year-old boy or a farm hand, you’ll manage the combo easily I’m sure.
As I’m neither, I tend to be sparing with my gratin. But it’s so gorgeous it’s really hard not to go for second helpings.
Where’s the bacon?
I do have to argue with myself when it comes to constructing this dish: to add bacon or not to add bacon? It’s unquestionably the environment made for it. But in order to make the recipe suit vegetarians too, I skipped the bacon this time.
If you’re interested, it’s easy to add it in: cook some diced streaky lardons in a dry skillet and scrape them into the rest at point 5 below. You’ll thank me for this tip; your bathroom scales will not.
Do I need to parboil cabbage?
Yes, otherwise it will be stringy and tough. I don’t know what it is about cabbage but it does not like oven treatment. My favourite, crispy caramelised cabbage, starts its life firmly on the hob. Boil it, stir fry it, braise it – but baked cabbage is not a thing.
It doesn’t need fuss though: chop it roughly, blanch it briefly and then squeeze out all the moisture like it was spinach instead of cabbage.
Do I need to parboil potatoes?
Ah, there’s the rub. It depends on personal preference: I like spuds with a little bite in gratins like this, so I say: stick them in raw. After all, potatoes dauphinoise cook entirely in the oven, cream and cheese. On the other hand there’s tartiflette which wants potato slices pre-cooked.
Verdict: if you have time and enthusiasm enough, and prefer your potatoes really soft, parboil the slices for 2 minutes; make sure you use a waxy variety. Of course, if you have plenty of leftover boiled potatoes sitting in the fridge, you’ll have the best of both worlds.
Recipe based on Martha Rose Shulman's Cabbage and Potato Gratin from NY Times Cooking.
potato and cabbage gratinServings: 4Time: 3 hours
- 1 head of spring or green cabbage
- 500g potatoes
- a few sprigs of fresh sage
- a few sprigs of fresh dill
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 150g grated hard cheese (Cheddar, Gruyere)
- 60ml double cream
- 60ml soured cream
- 1 tbsp. butter
1. Halve and core the cabbage, shred it roughly. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Blanch the cabbage for 5 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and leave on a colander to cool.
2. Peel the potatoes and slice them very thinly (2mm) using a mandolin. Place them in a large mixing bowl. Reserve a handful to arrange on top of the gratin.
3. Squeeze moisture out of the cooked cabbage and add it to the potatoes. Mix well together with your hands.
4. Finely chop the sage leaves and add them to the potatoes. Finely chop the dill and add half to the potatoes.
5. Press the garlic cloves and add to the bowl with the salt, black pepper and two thirds of the grated cheese. Stir the double cream and soured cream together and pour into the bowl. Mix it all very well again with your hands.
6. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Butter a large gratin dish, about 30 x 25cm.
7. Transfer the mix into the dish and press it down to form a compact layer. Top with reserved potato slices. Dot with a little butter, cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.
8. Take off the foil, press the mix down again with a back of a large spoon, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and return to the oven uncovered. Bake for another 45 minutes to 1 hour until the potatoes are tender when prodded with a tip of the knife, all the liquid has been absorbed and the top is crisp and dark golden.
9. Let the gratin stand for a couple of minutes before serving.