After getting kicked out of our previous, dog-unfriendly accommodation, we moved in with one of our neighbors and have decided to stay forever.
Not only is the dog treated like a little prince here, we are treated like family. Other pluses: we sleep exactly 3.1 meters away from our own bedroom, and – this is key – Francesco is 3.1 meters closer to work.
But the most important reason we love living at the house two doors down is its owner, Nicolette. Generous doesn’t even begin to describe her. But since I’m supposed to use this space to talk about food and not bore you with an ode to our neighbor, I’ll get right to the point: the woman can cook.
Though she purports to have been embarrassed of her cooking, I can’t understand why unless it was because it put everyone else to shame.
Her food is always simple and extraordinarily delicious. You give her a chicken (a “chook” in Australia) and she’ll rub and stuff it with garlic and pop it on the barbecue for an hour, producing maybe the best chook you’ve ever had. Another favorite is her potato dauphinoise, the simplest version of a potato gratin and possibly the most satisfying. The only ingredients? Potatoes, onions and cream. I know.
Of course, my version of her version would probably have some cheese and possibly a bit of thyme or nutmeg. But those are all totally unnecessary and, as Francesco might say, avoidable. There’s no use messing with a good thing.
And here? We’ve got a very good thing going on.
NICOLETTE’S POTATO DAUPHINOISE
This takes a long time to bake but is almost totally effortless to prepare. There are no exact measurements or cooking times. Just stick it in the oven and 3 or so hours later, voilá, potatoes fit for a king…echem, or a prince. Makes enough for 4 side dishes.
2 large waxy potatoes, chopped into 1/4″ thick circles
1 large or 2 small yellow onions, chopped into thin circles
2 cups heavy cream
salt & pepper
OPTIONAL: 4 oz. gruyere cheese, grated / fresh or dried thyme / freshly ground nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 325°F/170°C. Butter the sides and bottom of a loaf tin or ovenproof pie plate. Line the bottom with a layer of potatoes, then a layer of onion, then a layer of potatoes, then onions, repeating until you’ve reached the top of the dish. You can smoosh the veggies around, you won’t be able to tell if you don’t make it pretty. Sprinkle some salt and pepper as you go. (If you want to add an herb or nutmeg, add it as you go.) Now pour as much cream over the vegetables as you can, fill it right up to the top. Add cheese on top (and in the layers) if desired.
Cover the dish with tin foil and bake in the preheated oven for 2 – 4 hours, or until the potatoes are totally cooked through. You may want to place the cooking dish on a tray just in case the cream boils over the sides. Take off the tinfoil for the last 20 – 40 minutes to give it that gorgeous dark golden crust.
Serve hot as an accompaniment to meat, chicken or anything else really. I wouldn’t mind making a meal out of it with some salad and bread.