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Potato–Celeriac Gratin with Tomato Sauce

A Gratin of Potatoes and Celeriac with Tomato Sauce

I’m learning to appreciate the winter season in France. It’s easy to love spring and summer. I love waking up to birds chirping and the bedroom soaked in sunshine. Fall and winter are harder for me to get used to. I miss the sun so much! So, I try to think of all the fun activities, to while the winter blues away.

In the winter, I love curling up with a book by the fireplace in the mountains and drinking mug after mug of hot chocolate. I also love eating “heavier” meals like gratins or a tartiflette. These are dishes that one can only eat in the winter time and not feel guilty about. We need the extra layer of insulation and everything is hidden under thick woolly sweaters anyways, so, eat away!

A gratin is a dish, usually made with potatoes topped with cheese and baked in the oven. One of the French favourites is “tartiflette” (tart-t-flat) is a type of gratin, made with bacon, potatoes and Reblochon cheese from the French Alps, invented in the early 1980s to increase the consumption of the reblochon cheese. A tartiflette brings to mind images of snow falling on window sills, somewhere in the high mountains, after a long day of ski or strenuous exercising. Well, because after you’ve had a tartiflette, you haul yourself to bed with difficulty. It’s a heavy winter dish!

I also associate gratins to winter time because it’s a heavy dish that is eaten hot, right out of the oven and with friends. The best thing about gratins is in the sharing. As soon as the gratin is out of the oven and placed in the middle of the table, everyone digs in and the cheese strings out in all directions. Somehow the gratins get finished with a smile… we were all in it together.

This gratin is made with potatoes and celery rave (celeriac in English). When I first saw celery rave, it reminded me of an ohmu∗ (minus the blue/ red eyes of course) from the most recent Miyazaki movie, Nausica&amul;. It has knobbly bits on its skin and little roots that stick out. Come on, you have to admit. It does look like …

Try to get over its appearance. Cooked celery rave tastes really good. This is quite an unusual gratin as it’s made with a tomato sauce.

Potato-Celeriac Gratin

Ingredients:

  • 750g baking potatoes like Charlotte
  • half a celery rave (celeriac)
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced paper thin
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 cups of grated cheese like comté or emmental
  • 20cl crème fraïche
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Heat the oven to 200 deg C.
    Put the potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water and boil for 15 minutes until soft. You can poke a knife through the center easily.
    When the potatoes are cooked, take them out and rinse under cold water. Let cool.
    Cut into slices of 1 cm each.

    While the potatoes are cooking, peel the celeriac. Cut into slices of 1 cm each.
    Put the celeriac in a separate pot of salted boiling water and boil for 3 minutes, until slightly translucent.
    Keep the celery liquid.

    In a small pot, heat the tablespoon of oil olive.
    Fry the thin garlic slices for 10 seconds or so, until they are fragrant. Do not brown.
    Add the tomatoes. Lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
    The tomatoes should be quite paste-y looking.
    Add half a cup of celeriac juice or cooking water. Add the crème fraïche.

    Butter a medium sized gratin dish.
    Put a layer of sliced potatoes. Then a layer of celeriac slices. Add a layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
    Repeat the layering.
    For the top layer, sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.
    Serve piping hot!

    This recipe is an adaptation taken from Patricia Well's Bistro Cooking Cookbook.

    ∗Ohmu means Insect King.

    Comments

    Ginny, you never fail to amaze me with all the food that you whip up. What is more amazing is that you are doing all this with a full time job at *you-know-where*.
    Will be arriving in winter late dec early jan. Bake me some of those winter food if you can. Better still, teach me so I can cook for my wifey ;-)

    Have a great week ahead!

    Hi Haikang: you're welcome at our table any time! (And your wife too.) The dishes are easy to make, so your wife will be expecting frequent meals from you. :-)

    Just discovered your blog!
    Terrific, you have some great recipes, fantastic local info!
    I look forward to reading more!
    Melissa

    Hello Melissa: Glad you are enjoying the blog and glad you found me... cos now, I've discovered yours. :-)
    Hope to have coffee or tea with you someday.

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