This past Saturday we were looking for something to make for dinner. Something that used potatoes. Plus, we had some mushrooms sitting in the fridge that needed to be used soon, so we typed “mushroom potato recipe” into Google, and saw this New York Times recipe for Wild Mushroom and Potato Gratin. A quick check of the ingredients showed that we were set, so it got put on the menu.
Now, we will say that we changed the recipe slightly, but not a lot, so following either recipe would result in pretty much the same dish. We figure that, since you’re here, you might want to see how we scratched it out.
We listed the dried mushrooms that we used in the dish, but use what you have, or even use all fresh mushrooms. We chose Yukon Gold potatoes because they hold up well in gratin dishes. Baking potatoes tend to be mealier and fall apart when baked a long time, so we avoided using russets. We also peeled our potatoes because they weren’t organic — potatoes are one of the crops that are heavily sprayed with everything under the sun. Consider that a word to the wise. We went with Swiss cheese, and not the Gruyère that was in the original recipe, simply because we had Swiss on hand, and we know that Gruyère is basically a French version of Swiss cheese. For the wine, use something you like to drink; for us, that’s Barefoot brand Pinot Grigio.
Procedure in detail:
Prepare dried mushrooms. Place the dried mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and cover with about 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. If possible, place a dish over the top to hold the mushrooms under the water. Let stand 30 minutes, remove, rinse, and chop or slice the dried mushrooms. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter or cheese cloth to remove the grit and reserve 1 cup of the liquid.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Prepare pan. We always wonder if this makes any difference in the flavor; we doubt it, but we did it anyway, since it only takes a minute. Slice one of the garlic cloves in half and rub it over the inside of a 3- quart baking dish, then lightly oil the dish and set it aside. Now you can mince the garlic.
Cook onions. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender and translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add mushrooms. Increase the heat to high and add all the mushrooms. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and cook, stirring all the time, until the mushrooms begin to release liquid, about 3 minutes more.
Add seasonings. Add the garlic, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Reduce to medium heat and stir for about 30 seconds.
Add wine. Pour in about 1/4 cup of wine — we just pour right out of the bottle, because it doesn’t matter if your measurement is off. The wine will loosen up the bits stuck to the pan, so scrape those loose. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pan is almost dry. Remove from heat.
Mix potatoes, cheese, and mushrooms. Place half the cheese in a large bowl. Peel the potatoes and slice 1/4 inch thick, placing the slices into the bowl as you work. Work with alacrity, so the potatoes won’t brown, and do not rinse them, as that will rinse away starch, which helps make for a thick, creamy gratin. Finally, add the mushroom mixture and toss to coat and to peel apart any potato slices that are sticking together.
Fill pan. Pour the potato mixture into the prepared pan and spread it around to make a somewhat even layer. It’s not super critical to get a nicely layered dish as you’ll be pressing and adjusting the potatoes as they bake.
Add liquid. In a medium bowl, or large measuring cup, mix together the milk, reserved mushroom liquid, and heavy cream. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper over the top, and add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Stir to combine, then pour over the potatoes. Use a spatula to press them down under the liquid.
Bake and press. Slide the dish into the oven and bake for an hour, remembering to remove the dish every 20 minutes or so to press the potatoes down into the liquid. We just set a timer for 20 minutes each time to help us remember.
Top with cheese. Remove the gratin from the oven, press the potatoes into the liquid one more time, then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
Bake. Now, we want the cheese to brown nicely, so place the dish back in the oven and bake, undisturbed, for about 30 minutes more. The cheese will be melted and browned, and the potatoes bubbling.
Settle. Gratin dishes really need to settle for a few minutes before serving. If you serve them too early, it’ll seem as if they have too much liquid, but, if you let them sit on a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes, the excess liquid should be absorbed.
Call us underwhelmed. We really thought that this would be a good potato dish, but it was just okay. Using mostly milk, instead of a lot of heavy cream, is a mistake, and the same is true of using olive oil instead of butter. It robs the dish of flavor and texture. So much so that the cheese can’t correct for it. Plus, this does take a long time to bake, and, if you’re going to wait that long, go with our other recipe for Potatoes Gratin. It’s much, much better, and you can easily add mushrooms, too. Only three stars for this recipe.