Kate Lawson is on medical leave and will return after the holidays. Meanwhile, please enjoy one of her favorite recipes from over the years:

My best holiday gift to myself was discovering a recipe for how to make the perfect potato gratin in half the time.

For so long, I nixed the idea of making this creamy and delightful dish after disappointing experiences when I discovered that not all the potatoes had cooked through. I often had to hold off on the rest of the dinner while sending this dish back to the oven — again and again. In the end, I decided it just wasn’t worth the effort for a meh meal.

Our Christmas dinner this year was a lovely boneless rib-eye roast that I had dry-aged for five days in the fridge (it turned out great, by the way). And I so wanted a special potato dish to complement it. Then on one of my web trolls I found this recipe on from Saveur executive food editor Todd Coleman.

The idea that I could take control of when the potatoes would be cooked appealed and the effusive comments about the deliciousness reeled me in (“you want to close your eyes while eating it” was the one). The trick is cooking the potatoes in butter and half-and-half beforehand then piling them into a buttered baking dish and adding grated Gruyere to the top. You can do this ahead and refrigerate or hold, and then pop into the oven for only 20 minutes while the roast rests (which is exactly what I did). The result was perfectly cooked, creamy potatoes like I’ve never had before.

You will recoil, no doubt, from the calorie/fat count, but really, you’re not going to make this every day, (although you may want to after tasting it) and it’s the perfect special occasion dish (here comes Valentine’s Day). My advice is not to try to lighten it up using milk rather than the half-and-half; milk makes the dish very liquidy and you won’t get that silken texture. Go big or don’t go.

The dry-aged roast was spectacular, but when I went to bed that night I didn’t dream of that or sugar plums — it was the potatoes.

Todd Coleman’s Quick Potato Gratin

Recipe adapted from Food 52 and Saveur magazine.

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 to 2 garlic cloves


6 large waxy potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), such as red bliss, peeled and sliced about 1/8-inch thick

2 cups half-and-half

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh nutmeg

1 cup grated Gruyère

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub the inside of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Smash the garlic with the side of a knife and sprinkle generously with salt. Chop and scrape the garlic into a mushy paste.

Combine garlic paste, potatoes, half-and-half, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces) in a pot; stir. Season with salt and pepper and grate in a hint of nutmeg. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon. After 8 to 10 minutes the potatoes will be a little tender, and their starch will have thickened the liquid considerably. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish; smooth the top as much as possible. At this point you can hold the dish until you’re ready to bake, even overnight in the refrigerator. Cover the gratin with Gruyère and bake until deeply golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes (longer if chilled overnight). Let the gratin cool and set a little before serving. Serves 6.

Per serving: 422 calories; 26 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 55 percent calories from fat); 38 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 77 mg cholesterol; 297 mg sodium; 11 g protein; 3 g fiber.

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