Some people are able to have just potatoes for a meal; for me it's more of a side dish (though believe me there was plenty to have made an entire meal on its own). But in order to adhere to the spirit of a hot meal without spending too much time on preparation, I bought a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and also quickly stir fried some broccoli. Not very upscale, maybe, but quite yummy just the same.
As for the star of today's show, the potatoes were great. Maybe not as cheesy as I expect from potatoes au gratin, but the dish makes up for that by being surprisingly sophisticated in flavor. Not very salty, a bit tangy, with surprising heat -- or maybe I added a little too much pepper. Or mustard. Or both.
Dishes like this are why I have a mandoline. Actually, I have two. One full-sized mandoline, which I love, but am loath to drag out and actually use, because it's a chore to clean. Then there's my little OXO hand-held mandoline, which I got only recently, and it is a DREAM. It works incredibly well, and is convenient, small, and easy to wash. It's not good for very wide items, but it worked perfectly in this case.
I should also mention that I didn't have the heavy cream that the recipe called for. I actually deliberately went to Trader Joe's on Labor Day (thank goodness they were open), with the EXPRESS PURPOSE of buying heavy cream, but I somehow got home without any whatsoever, and I didn't realize it until late at night. How a person can go to the store to buy a specific item and walk out with practically everything BUT that item, is still a mystery to me. Sigh. It could have been more of a disaster, I suppose. I substituted 1 1/4 cups of half & half and 1/2 cup of soy milk. The half & half made things decently rich. The sauce came together beautifully, and while I don't know what the dish would have tasted like made with heavy cream, it tasted just fine to me. Plus, it helps that after the dish is done you're adding cheese to it.
Warning, if you're like me and with work and travel time, are gone from the house for longer than 8 hours or so, the potatoes may overcook a tad on the edges. I had to leave mine in (on low, of course) for about 10 hours, and the potatoes on the outside were already starting to darken too much. They weren't burned, but texture wise was extra chewy somehow, not great. I know it kind of defeats the point of a slow cooker to have to watch the dish, but in this case of these potatoes it would probably be a good idea if you were able to check on them once in awhile, or know for sure how long you'll be gone.
I think this would be a great dish to make for a big family dinner, or maybe as a contribution to a pot luck. :D
Slow Cooker Potatoes Au Gratin (adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking)
- 3 large Russet potatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 parsnip, thinly sliced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 4 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp dried mustard
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Place prepared vegetables in the slow cooker. Combine haphazardly.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir to create a roux. Cook the roux for 3-5 minutes, until it turns golden in color. Slowly add the cream. Cook until heated through and the sauce has the texture of a slightly thickened sauce (not thick like gravy). Add thyme, sea salt, dried mustard, and black pepper. Stir until everything is well incorporated into the sauce.
- Pour the sauce on top of the vegetables and turn on the slow cooker. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or on low for 8-9.
- Just before serving, stir in the cheese until melted.