As I write this blog, the sun is shining, my husband is out in the garden trimming some trees and hydrangea bushes and my head is already filled with thoughts of spring. Which is wrong. Very wrong. I think it has something to do with the crazy 'winter' we've been having. Hardly any frost or sub-zero temperatures. In fact, it's not even the middle of January and there are quite some trees blossoming in colors of yellow and pink. I even saw daffodils yesterday! Bizzare- especially when I think back to all the speculations about the 'horror winter' that were going around in October.
On the one hand, it worries me. Will there be anything to look forward to in April? What will happen to those poor plants? Not to mention to the insect world! On the other hand though, I must admit to really enjoying the more southern-like climate. This morning I took a long walk in the sunshine with the dog while listening to Aznavour on my headphones and dreaming of summer in the south of France. Winter has its charms, but deep blue skies, lush vineyards and the scent of lavender are much more appealing to me.
The strange weather is very confusing when it comes to cooking. I know that this is still the season for root vegetables and stews, but all I long for is lamb, asparagus and even cherries! The colors and tastes of the warmer months tempt me without mercy! I suppose that's why I picked up Patricia Well's Ma Cuisine en Provence the other day. I didn't really intend on cooking anything from the book. I was more in search of a little visual gratification. But between all those sunny recipes, there was also a recipe for gratin dauphinois. Ah! this was something 'wintery'! I decided to give it a try and it was utterly delicious, very comforting and exactly what I needed to bring me back to the moment. It's still winter so I might as well enjoy it!
The recipe that follows is based on Patricia's recipe. You can serve this as a meal on its own if you add in a little ham or bacon and perhaps a side of wilted, garlicky spinach. Of course, it's also a marvelous side dish.
1 clove of garlic
800g waxy potatoes (Charlotte, Belle de Fontenay)
400ml full-fat milk
2 handfuls freshly grated Gruyère
4 tbsps crème fraîche
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 190C. Cut your garlic clove in half and rub one half all over the surface of your baking dish. Thinly slice the rest of the garlic. Slice your potatoes thinly and place them in a large bowl. Add the milk, cheese, crème fraîche and salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently and transfer the mixture to your baking dish. Finish off with a little more grated cheese. Allow to cook for about an hour and 15 minutes. Serve hot!