Before I really knew David, I was well aware of his dad’s (Bill) cooking skills. See, my best guy friend from college, Chris, is best friends with David’s younger brother, Jonathan. Chris and I bonded on many levels, but our love of good food was definitely the most enjoyable subject for both of us. He always spoke enthusiastically of his meals at the Sage’s.
Appropriately enough, the first Valentine’s Day meal he cooked for his then-girlfriend Clair in our ill-equipped dorm kitchen was a Bill Sage classic — Parmesan-crusted Halibut. When the two of them tied the knot their request was a collection of family recipes; and so Sage Family Favorites was born.
These potatoes, in the book. I only wish I didn’t wait a year before learning of their existence at Christmas a few years back — they’re so, soooo good. Remember, I like potatoes when they’re swimming in cheese — and oh boy do these meet that requirement. While I can understand — from a richness standpoint — why you might be inclined to confine these to major holidays, I encourage you not to (at least on occasion). They’re a perfect side for steak (
soon, soon, I promise! here you go!), which get tossed in a hot pan when the potatoes come out of the oven — the timing works out really well.
Au Gratin Potatoes
Preparation Time: 30
Baking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Serves: 4 – 6
- 8 ounces (227 grams or about 2 cups, lightly packed) finely grated cave-aged gruyère, divided
- 1 cup (227 grams) whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) crème fraîche
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds (from about 2 – 3 whole) very thinly sliced, peeled russet potatoes, soak in cold water
- 1/2 ounce (14 grams or about 2 tablespoons, lightly packed) finely grated Parmesan cheese
Arrange oven rack on center level and preheat oven to 375°F. Get out an 8″ square baking dish and set it aside.
In a medium (4-quart) bowl, mix together 7 ounces (1 3/4 cups) of the gruyère through black pepper; set aside. Drain potatoes; swish around in another change of cold water to remove more of the starch. Drain very well. (I like to use a large salad spinner — easy to soak and drain then spin off some of the water.) Scatter about half of the potatoes over the surface of a large, clean dishtowel. Top with another towel, and roll up the towel-potato-towel. Unroll and transfer dried potatoes to the cheese mixture. Repeat with remaining potatoes.
Scoop potatoes and cheese into the casserole dish, leveling the slices (you’ll have about 1/2″ of room at the top). Top with remaining 1 ounce gruyère (1/4 cup) and Parmesan. Grind more pepper on top, if desired.
Transfer casserole to preheated oven and bake until bubbly, browned and cooked through, about 1 1/2 hours — to prevent it from overbrowning, I tent it after the first 30 minutes, bake another 30, then uncover for the last 30. When cooked through, a knife inserted in the center will encounter little resistance. Allow to cool for about 10 – 15 minutes before slicing and serving.