Sunday, September 27, 2009

Individual PotatO Gratin – An “O” food for Ovarian Cancer Awareness

Sept. 2009 153-1Since my fall last Saturday, I’ve been trudging around on crutches and a big black boot worthy of a snowboarder. I thought that might exempt me from cooking for a while, but I was able to get a free pass for only a couple of days. My daughter was home the weekend of my accident and made crab cakes for dinner the first night. The next night, we ate pasta using sauce I had stashed in the freezer.

Monday night’s dinner was looming, and my daughter was back at her place in New York.  By midday I wondered if my husband had given dinner any thought.

“What are you planning for dinner tonight?” I asked.

Silence. No response. Just a blank stare into space.

It was clear that planning dinner, much less making it, was as foreign to him as a pissaladiere.

“Umm, pizza?” he queried.

(Hmm, that’s not too far from a pissaladiere, come to think of it.)

Now I like pizza as much as the rest of ‘em, but I knew that if I left the dinner planning up to him, we’d be eating more pizza than even a Neapolitan could tolerate. That’s when I realized I wouldn’t be able to milk the situation for even one more day, darnit.

I should have figured as much. Even though he lived as a bachelor for many years and prided himself on cooking every night rather than frequent restaurants or indulge in take-out, my husband’s interest in cooking seem to have vaporized in the decades since we got married.

To give you an example, here is a photo (taken by him earlier this summer) of what he typically prepares for himself when I’m not at home to cook:

 June 2009 214

Pretty sad, no? Well, at least he’s drinking San Pellegrino, my beverage of choice. What’s that diver’s knife to the left of the plate doing there? And is he using those gardening gloves for a napkin? He does have a lot of other redeeming qualities, though - really.

So I’m back to my regular spot in the kitchen, although I’m not really complaining. My husband is doing all the clean-up, an arrangement I’ll take any day. And some of my close friends have been extremely generous, not only with phone calls, visits, cards and flowers, but with gifts of food as well. So life is good, even with the boot and crutches, which should all be history in six to eight weeks.

I’ve got a stash of food in the freezer I cooked earlier this summer, and it is coming in handy right now. Last night’s dinner was the stuffed zucchini I blogged about a while back, but I made these potato gratins to accompany them.

The recipe is from Melissa D’Arabian, winner of this season’s The Next Food Network Star. If you follow this blog, you may remember I bumped into her at Chelsea Market this summer and she granted me an interview.  I’ve been wanting to try these individual potato gratins for a long time and finally got around to it. They are baked in muffin tins with gruyere cheese and some cream until they become golden, crunchy and fabulicious. I was practically licking the scraps left in the muffin tins. I plan to make them again and again.

The recipe calls for green onions, but I didn’t have any so I used chives instead. The chives delivered the same delicate oniony flavor. I also substituted a New Jersey-made gruyere cheese from Valley Shepherd Creamery for the Swiss cheese called for in the recipe. It was divine.

Warning: I used a non-stick muffin pan but the gratins stuck anyway. I scooped them out using a spoon, but severely scratched the non-stick muffin tins in the process. Not that I mind – they’re as old as the hills and need replacing anyway. I think I’m going to look for larger muffin tins next time so that one gratin would make a sufficient single serving. With my 40-year old muffin tins, we needed three servings per person (make that four for the husband.)

Individual Potato Gratins

Printer-friendly recipe here

Vegetable spray

  • 2 large russet potatoes, roughly peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese (I used gruyere)
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped (I used a lot of chopped chives)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions into each muffin cup. Season with salt and pepper and top each gratin with 1 or 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.

Sept. 2009 162

This potatO post is my contribution to the “O” Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month contest, put together for the second year in a row by Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso

ovarian_cancer_awareness175-144x300There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:
ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato); include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.
PRIZES for recipe posts:
1st: Signed copy of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, inspired this event, and will be choosing her favorite recipe for this prize;
2nd: Signed copy of Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home by Mario Batali (winner chosen by Sara);
3rd: Signed copy of Vino Italiano: The Regional Italian Wines of Italy by Joseph Bastianich (winner chosen by Michelle).
TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url to by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.
Awareness posts PRIZE:
One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.
From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
In spite of this, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
And remember, you can also always donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at our page through FirstGiving!
Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer.Together we can make enough noise to kill this silent killer.


  1. Those potatoes look nice and caramelized and good!

  2. Hi Linda, Cute story - my husband is the same way. It takes a lot for me to get a pass on cooking also. Your gratins look delicious. I love Valley Shepherd Creamery cheeses. Take care and feel better!

  3. I made these too, and they came out great. Will post them another time. I used Gruyere cheese.
    Hey, at least you classed up the photo of the beans and franks with the Pellegrino!

  4. hope you mend quickly. the potato gratins look awesome!

  5. I didn't realize you will be ob crutches for so long... what an inconvenience! Hope you heal fast!

    My husband can cook in an emergency but he needs a lot of guidance when he does (translated: he asks a million questions) and I usually will get frustrated and tell him that I'd rather do it myself

    The potato gratins look amazing. Do you think using a well greased parchment paper liner would help with the sticking problem?

    Glad you were able to spread the word about Ovarian cancer.

  6. good luck on the mending - is he cracking out his 'guy' knife? My man!

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  8. I love the photo of your husbands dinner, hilarius! I've been wanting to try those potatoes, I think I'll put them on the list for dinner this week. Perfect dish for an "O" Food! Heal quick my friend.

  9. Oh Linda, I forgot to say I like your fresh looking new header. I'm working on a facelift on mine too.

  10. These look wonderful I'll be giving them a try too. Linda, Thank you so so much for the kind words and tips on the migraine. I'll be checking in to it and discussing with my doc.
    Thanks again and happy healing!

  11. I'm always looking for new ways to cook potatoes, and this one seems great! Thanks.

  12. I love the conversation with your husband. Sounds eerily similar to those in my home. The gratins are gorgeous - really splendid - must try. And for a great cause! by-the-bye, am baking from your sumptious Nova Scotia cookbook today and will post on my blog later this week. It is such a pretty book. I kep it with me as I limp from room to room - it's comforting! I hope you're mending faster than I am!

  13. Oh my God! I am cracking up over the photo of your husband's dinner! HILARIOUS! I am not afraid to admit, that we have sat down to the same menu. In fact, Friday night was beer (Franziskaner our favorite) and stale corn chips with sour cream! I am in total awe of your cooking expertise! Everything looks incredibly beautiful and YUMMY! I promise to attempt something on your blog!!

    & CO.

  14. Linda, the crust on those spuds is outstanding. Time for me to bake some spuds this weekend.

  15. Perfect O food for such a worthy event Linda.

  16. Hi Linda, So sorry to hear about your accident! I hope you're feeling better. I know your husband must be feeling better now that he doesn't have to plan dinner... I love the photo! franks, beans and Pellegrino!

  17. Yum! Those look so good! Men are so funny about things like that... sometimes I wonder...

  18. I found your blog and love to read it.Your photo's are beautiful and I really need a better camera! Thankx for the potatoe gratins.I will try them tonight..perhaps with Cacciota cheese?

  19. I'm so sorry about your accident. You've got a sweet daughter. And your recipe looks temptingly delicious!