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Something wonderful happened to me today while cleaning out my closet!  Through piles of decorations and baking dishes and bulk rolls of paper towels, something caught my eye: an unused Christmas present.

Now I remember convincing Santa that I needed, needed, needed the slicer attachment for my Kitchen Aid.  I also remember tearing off the paper like a crazed child on Christmas morning and yelling “It’s a Christmas miracle! It’s a Christmas miracle!” (I learned years ago that people who are “fun to give gifts to”, get the most gifts…next time you get a gift, go wild.  Trust me. It will pay off.)  And then–the spoiled brat that I am–I stacked it in my closet and forgot all about that lovely gift.

To make it up to Santa and ensure my name wouldn’t be banned to the Naughty List this year, I thought I should do something really spectacular with it.  This isn’t too far off from a classic gratin, but something about this creamy, crunchy, yummy mess is just out of this world.  The rosemary is used subtly enough that it has a definite presence, but isn’t overwhelming.  And gruyere cheese — I mean, come on.  Nothing bad you can say about that.

Need proof?  My boyfriend, bless his heart, has a palette that knows only three flavors: buffalo sauce, beer, and caramel.  When I told him we were having a Gruyere and Rosemary Gratin with dinner, he rolled his eyes at my pretentiousness.  But, I’ll be damned, that boy ate the whole thing and then proceeded to scrape the sides of the casserole dish.  He’s a gem. 🙂

So, here you go.  Fancy, shmancy, yummy, goodness.

The Ingredients

1.5 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch
2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
3 sprigs of fresh Rosemary
2 cups fat free half and half
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 large onion (about 3/4 cup), diced

The Directions

Serves: 6, Cooking Time: 40-60 minutes, depeding on dish

1. Begin by preheating oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  In a medium saucepan, melt 3 tbsp of butter over medium heat.  Once melted, add 3 tbsp of flour and stir well.  This will begin the roux, which will help thicken the sauce.  You’ll want the butter/flour mixture to cook for a 2-3 minutes so that the flour taste is cooked out.  It should look like a paste.

3.  Add the half and half and one sprig of rosemary (we’ll remove this later, so keep it on the stem) and stir constantly.  Half and half can be substituted with milk, but the sauce won’t be quite as creamy.  Pick your poison.  Keep a close eye on the half and half mixture, because you don’t want it to boil.

4.  Keep stirring the half and half mixture until it has started to thicken.  When the mixture is ready, it should easily coat the back of a spoon.  This may take 5 to 10 minutes depending on the heat of your stove.  Once ready, remove the sprig of rosemary.  This will infuse the flavor of the herb without leaving the big pieces in the dish.

5.  Add 1 cup of the gruyere cheese to the half and half mixture and stir over low heat until the cheese has melted into the sauce.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  I added 2 tsp of kosher salt, since I used unsalted butter.  If your butter is salted, you may want to use less.

6.  Set sauce aside.  Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small saute pan.  Add onion and cook until translucent.  Transfer onions out of pan and into a dish.  Set aside.

7.  In the same pan you used for your onions, add 1 tbsp of butter and melt over medium heat.  Add 2 tsp of very finely chopped rosemary to the melted butter and let the butter lightly fry the rosemary.  Add the panko bread crumbs and 1 tsp of kosher salt to the pan and toss together.  You want bread crumbs to be lightly coated with the rosemary butter mixture, but you dont need to toast the bread crumbs at this point.  Remove bread crumb mixture from heat and set aside.

8.  Peel your potatos.  If you have a mandolin or a fancy Kitchen Aid slicer, use them to thinly slice the potatos, ideally around 1/4 inch thickness.  If you don’t have those tools, you can do this with a knife, but your potatoes might be a be thicker, which may increase your cooking time.

9.  Toss onions in with the sliced potatoes.

10.  Begin assembling your gratin by buttering the bottom of a casserole dish, and then layering potatos, cream sauce, and a handful of cheese in as many layers as fit–starting with and ending with potatoes.  I used small casserole dishes to make smaller portions for freezing, but you can use any size casserole dish to make one full batch.  I would suggest 2qt to get the right depth, but you can be creative.  Just note that the deth of your dish may affect cooking times.

11.  Top your casserole with any remaining gruyere and the breadcrumb mixture you made earlier.

12.  If making the casserole in a large dish, cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes covered to cook the potatoes.  Then uncover and cook for another 15-25 minutes under a fork inserted into the gratin easily goes through the potatoes and the top is nice and brown.  If your top isn’t browning enough, you can put it under the broiler for the last few minutes.  For smaller dishes, like the ones I used, you can cook uncovered the whole time, and it will take about 45 minutes to cook.  Please note that the dish you use and the thickness of the potatoes will affect cooking times.  Typically you can expect anywhere between 40 minutes and 1 hour, but keep an eye on it and check that the potatoes are tender before removing from the heat.

Happy cooking!