Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: OXO Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer + Cheesy Potato-Shallot Gratin

To  me, one of the best things about being a food blogger is stepping outside of your kitchen comfort zone...trying new cooking techniques and never-before-used ingredients. Thanks to the kind folks at OXO, I had a chance to try a kitchen tool that I had been fascinated with...and a bit scared of...for years. As part of their blogger outreach program, they sent me a free hand-held mandoline for slicing. When it arrived, I thought about how I wanted to use it. I could slice perfectly uniform veggies for a salad...or make pretty squash ribbons to top pan-seared salmon...or I could make a killer potato gratin. It was a no-brainer: I decided to go for the carbs and cream!

I’ve only made a potato gratin once...because it was really difficult -- and tedious -- to cut all the potato slices a uniform thickness. With my OXO hand-held mandoline, I sliced two large russett potatoes paper-thin in about 3 minutes. The mandoline has a little foot that rests on the side of a bowl, so I was able to slice the potatoes right into my mixing bowl. Easy peasy! This gratin was assembled and into the oven in about 30 minutes. With something this easy, I might have to change my name to the All-Week-Long Gourmet! I found a great Tyler Florence recipe for potato grain on the Food Network website and gave it a few tweaks to reduce the fat and calories a bit...and up the flavor as well.

I subbed whole milk for half of the cream in the sauce...and I sprinkled a bit of 2% colby-jack cheese on top during the final few minutes of baking. I also added rosemary sprigs to the thyme that was steeped in the cream, along with adding some finely diced shallot to give the gratin a more pronounced onion-garlic flavor. This gratin is simple to pull together...but you need to allow about an hour for baking time to ensure the potatoes cook completely. Since that’s hands-off cooking time, that gives you time to pull the rest of the meal together and do other things around the house.

Cheesy Potato-Shallot Gratin
adapted from Tyler Florence via Food Network

Step 1: Preheat oven to 375. Butter an 8x8 square baking pan and set aside. Add the following ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat: 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 2 smashed cloves garlic, 1 sprig rosemary, 2 sprigs thyme, and salt & pepper to taste. Bring the cream to a simmer and let the ingredients steep for about 10 minutes so the flavors infuse into the liquid.

Step 2: Peel 1 lb. russet potatoes (approximately 2). Slice the potatoes very thin using an OXO hand-held mandoline or a very sharp knife. Add the potato slices to a large mixing bowl, along with 1 small finely chopped shallot and 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese. When the cream mixture has steeped for 10 minutes, pour it into the bowl using a strainer or small colander. Stir well to combine.

Step 3: Pour the mixture into the buttered baking dish, using a spatula to evenly arrange the potatoes in the pan. Top with the reserved rosemary and thyme sprigs. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove the foil, discard the rosemary and thyme, and top the gratin with 1 cup of shredded 2% colby-jack cheese. Bake the gratin, uncovered, for 15 minutes...until the cheese is brown and the gratin is bubbly. Remove from oven and let the gratin sit for 5-10 minutes while you pour drinks and plate the rest of the meal. Cut the gratin with a sharp knife and add a square to each plate.

This gratin was a huge hit...creamy and cheesy is always a good combo in my book! This gratin is cheesy, creamy, and full of flavor from the herbs, shallot, and parmesan. This is another great side dish that deserves to be front and center, so keep your main dish and other sides simple and healthy. 

One of my cooking rules is that if one menu item is a bit on the rich side, I pair it with lighter options to round out the rest of the meal. It’s all about balance...and friends! This gratin would be a fantastic addition to your Easter menu this weekend. And the OXO hand-held mandoline? It worked's easy to use and not the least bit intimidating. It’s pretty much my favorite new kitchen tool. By the way, OXO gave me an extra mandoline to give to one of you! More details on that will be coming from my pal the Easter Bunny later this stay tuned to find out how to win!


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