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.