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Creamy Feta Potatoes

2 ounces butter
1 large onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces imported Greek feta cheese, crumbled
6 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and covered with water to prevent discoloration
Fresh cracked black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup bread crumbs

Melt butter in sauté pan. Add the onion, and cook until soft but not browned. Add the minced garlic, and cook 1 minute longer. Remove the cooked onions and garlic to a bowl, and set aside to cool. When the mixture has reached room temperature, add the crumbled feta and mix well. This mixture can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.

To make the gratin, set the oven at 350 degrees. To avoid discoloration, slice the potatoes one at a time as you need them to create each layer. Remove a potato from the water and slice it on the mandoline (machine) or by hand (we did it in the food processor) in 1/8-inch-thick slices and line them on the bottom of an 8-by-6-by-2-inch baking dish or any similar available dish. Season the layer with pepper.

Cover with a layer of onion/feta mix. Pour over heavy cream just barely to the level of potato. Press down each layer as you create them - the potatoes should be just sitting in the cream and not completely covered by it.

Repeat the process two more times - potatoes, seasoning, feta, cream - and then top with a double layer of potato resulting in 5 layers of potato and 3 layers of onion/feta mix. When done, press down and make sure the potatoes are just barely sitting in the cream.

The potatoes will give off water as they cook, so it is important not to add too much liquid. Cover with foil, and cook until cream is bubbling and, more important, until the potatoes in the center of the dish are fork-tender, at least 1 hour. (Our potato slices were thicker than 1/8 inch, and took nearly 2 hours to bake.) It is better to slightly overcook than undercook potatoes.

Remove from oven, top with a thin coating of bread crumbs. Return to the oven uncovered, and cook until the crumbs are golden. Remove from the oven, re-cover with the foil, and set aside in a warm place for the cream to set and thicken for at least 30 minutes. If cut into immediately the cream would be too runny.

Serves 6-8.

Ris Lacoste, 1789 Restaurant

Sunday, May 09, 1999

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