Scalloped potatoes with Gruyere cheese

Scalloped potatoes are a popular vegetable dish, especially in winter. This is an interesting version that originated in the French Alps, where wonderful cream and Gruyere cheese are plentiful. The recipe comes from Anne Willan's ''French Regional Cooking,'' (William Morrow).

Anne notes that, ''If cooked too fast or for too long, the milk in gratin dauphinois has a tendency to curdle (potatoes have an unexpectedly high acid content). So, in this splendidly rich recipe, the potatoes are first blanched in milk to remove the acid, then simmered in cream.'' Gratin Dauphinois 1/2 clove garlic 1 1/2 pounds potatoes Salt and pepper Pinch of grated nutmeg 2 cups milk 1 1/4 cups heavy cream 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese 2 tablespoons butter

Rub a 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish with cut side of garlic; then butter the dish. Peel potatoes and cut in thin slices, preferably on a mandoline cutter. Don't soak them in water as this removes some of the starch needed to give the gratin a creamy consistency. Season slices with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Bring milk to a boil in a large saucepan, whisking occasionally to prevent it from burning. Add potatoes to boiling milk and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly tender. Drain potatoes, discarding milk. Set oven at very hot, 425 degrees F.

Return potatoes to saucepan and add cream. Bring to boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Taste for seasoning.

Spoon potatoes and cream into buttered baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot from the dish. Serves 6.

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