In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making it’s way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so. As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.
(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)
Number one on the list is the incredible Julia Child. Whether you’re a foodie or not, everyone knows the name Julia Child.
After graduating from Smith College, Julia found herself working for the predecessor to the CIA before getting married and moving to Paris. There, she studied at Le Cordon Bleu and wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which was published in 1961. A lot can be said about Julia Child and the feminist movement. In 1963, the same year Julia’s show began airing, the second wave of feminism was sparked with the publishing of Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique. And if you’re interested in reading about how those two collided, I would check out this article and this blog post. In a time where women were stepping out of their homes to have careers, and homemade dinners were replaced with frozen TV dinners from Swanson or Banquet, you had a bold, dynamic, charismatic woman teaching you how to make amazing food from scratch, but that does not make her anti-feminist. She didn’t do it because she felt a woman’s place was in the kitchen. She did it because she enjoyed it, and wanted to share her passion for food with others.
I bookmarked about 5-6 recipes of hers to consider for this project, but I finally decided on her Potatoes Gratin Dauphinois. I’ve already learned something about food, and it’s only week one. There are different ways that you can make potatoes gratin, and the name of the dish indicates the region of France the dish is from. The Dauphinois style comes from the historic Dauphine region in south-east France, and includes only thinly sliced potatoes, butter, cream or milk, and a garlic rubbed baking dish. Your other option is gratin Savoyard, which is made with beef broth instead of milk or cream.
I haven’t had potatoes gratin since I was a little girl. And then it was the boxed kind made by Betty Crocker. You know the ones I’m talking about… dried slices of potato and a pouch of a cheese flavored powder you mix with milk… Not going to lie, I loved that as a kid. But as an adult who cares about the quality of food I put in my body, that cheese flavored powder full of chemicals just isn’t going to work for me.
Don’t let the French name scare you away from making this. It was really simple to make and didn’t require very many ingredients. I don’t have a mandolin (I used to, and nearly cut my fingers off…), so thinly slicing two pounds of potatoes was a little time-consuming, but definitely not hard. And it was delicious. Really, really delicious (but it’s cheese, butter, whole milk and potatoes… how could it not be?). I used a little more garlic then the recipe called for, as well as a little more cheese, and a little parsley (for some extra color) and was so pleased with how this turned out. I know the holidays are over, but this would make an excellent holiday side dish, instead of the same old boring mashed or roasted potatoes. But it’s also pretty delicious as lunch on a Monday afternoon… or for dinner on a random Wednesday… whatever =). Just do yourselves a favor, and don’t look up the calories on this one!
Julia Child’s Gratin Dauphinois
(Found in her masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and all over the internet.)
- 2 lbs. of potatoes (I used Yukon gold)
- 4 T. of butter; divided
- 1 clove of peeled garlic
- 1 cup of boiling whole milk
- 1.5 cups of grated Swiss cheese (I used Gruyère)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/8 teaspoon of pepper
- Parsley as a garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees and move a rack to the upper third of the oven.
- Rub your baking dish with the garlic and then coat with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Set aside.
- Thinly slice your potatoes to 1/8″ thick and put sliced potatoes in a bowl of water. When the potatoes are ready to be cooked, drain them and lay them out on a clean dish towel to dry.
- Spread half of the potatoes in the bottom of the dish, and cover with half of the remaining butter, and half of the salt, pepper & grated cheese. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, butter, salt, pepper & cheese. Pour the boiling milk over the top.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until the milk has absorbed, the potatoes are tender, and the top is a golden brown.