Last year … OK, just last month (does that joke ever get old?) … my college girlfriends got together for our annual holiday meal. As of the last couple of years, we have been ordering out food so no one is burdened with cooking when they already have so much going on during the holidays. However, this year, I was inspired to go back to our roots and cook. I enlisted our host, and my cooking sister, Lisa.
A quick text exchange between Lisa and I netted a similar approach—beef, gratin potatoes, fish and vegetable—but soon, Lisa mentioned adding red velvet cake and a special pistachio ginger chocolate tart (she is a dynamite baker) to the mix. I had to come back with courses of roasted butternut squash soup with chipotle roasted seeds and chives and big green salad with lemon thyme vinaigrette. So there, Lisa!
After a long overdue tandem shopping experience at Fairway, our beef would be flank steak I marinated in a chipotle in adobo and soy sauce. Our fish would be butter-poached wild cod with Meyer lemon and lemon thyme, which is so simple to do—325-degree preheated oven, melt butter with lemon zest, thyme and garlic in a baking dish, season room temperature filets with salt and pepper and add to melted butter, cook 15 minutes and carefully remove from oven and serve with lemon wedges.
For the sides, I had to redeem myself from many holiday gatherings-past, when I made way-underdone brussels sprouts. This time, they would be flash fried (WARNING: They splatter like no one’s business, so be careful) and tossed in a garlic and balsamic glaze. They were a hit!
For the gratin potatoes, I was going to make my simple Gruyere and creme fraiche recipe, but leave it to Lisa to come up with a new permutation. Give this recipe a try!
3 ounces finely grated Gruyere or comte cheese
2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-reggiano
2 cups heavy cream
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced one-eighth-inch thick on a mandolin slicer (five to 6 medium, see note above)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine cheeses in a large bowl. Transfer one-third of cheese mixture to a separate bowl and set aside. Add cream, garlic and thyme to cheese mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add potato slices and toss with hands until every slice is coated with cream mixture, making sure to separate any slices that are sticking together to get the cream mixture between them.
Grease a two-quart casserole dish with butter. Take a handful of potatoes, organizing them into a neat stack, and lay them in the casserole dish with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing potatoes in casserole, working around the perimeter and into the center until all potatoes have been added. Potatoes should be very tightly packed. If necessary, slice additional potato, coat with cream mixture and add to casserole. Pour excess cream and cheese mixture evenly over potatoes until the mixture comes half way up the sides of the casserole. You may not need all excess liquid.
Cover tightly with parchment lined foil and transfer to oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking until top is pale golden brown, about 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese and return to oven. Bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, approximately 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for 10 minutes, and serve.
The Ponche, champagne and wine-infused evening was stellar, but not as stellar as the company. Until next year ladies … I mean later this year …somebody stop me.
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl and on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.