Scalloped potatoes or au gratin potatoes! Who doesn’t like those dishes! Rich and indulgent, both of these potato casseroles are prepared with layers of sliced potatoes baked with cream and/or milk. (They differ only in that the au gratin variety typically has an addition of cheese.) It’s hard to improve on either of these favorites, but recently I spotted a recipe for a French version with a new twist. Lamb chops were set atop a pan of layered potatoes during their last few minutes in the oven. The meat cooked to a rosy hue as the potatoes baked to a golden tenderness.
In that French creation the potatoes were baked with stock and herbs, but with no milk, cream, or cheese. In my mind, I saw the pommes de terre cooked more traditionally with the irresistible trio of dairy ingredients. It took several tries to balance the amount of milk and cream for the potatoes and to figure out the timing for the chops, but finally my long-time assistants and I were thrilled with the results for this all-in-one spring dish.
I quickly pan seared the chops, then arranged them over the potatoes, and cooked them 10 minutes more in the oven. Grated lemon zest sprinkled over the lamb along with parsley or chives offers a hint of color for the garnish.
I love the idea of a “lamb and potatoes” ensemble, but this creamy potato gratin can easily stand on its own without meat, making it a fine choice for both vegetarians and those who require gluten free dishes. Or, use the potato gratin solo as a side dish to your favorite grilled steaks, chicken, or salmon. It’s delicious either way!
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Creamy Potato Gratin Topped with Lamb Chops
1 to 2 tsp butter for greasing the baking pan
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
3 to 3 1/4 pds baking potatoes such as Russets
Freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cup (4 1/2 to 5 oz.) grated Gruyère cheese
8 rib lamb chops, about 3 oz each, (See cooking tip)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp chopped parsley or chives
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 3-1/2- to 4-quart oven-to-table baking dish generously. (A 9x13-inch dish works well.)
2. Combine milk and cream in a large skillet and place skillet over medium heat until mixture comes to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Peel potatoes. Then, using a sharp knife (or a mandoline or the slicing blade on a food processor) cut potatoes into 1/8-inch thick rounds. As you slice them, add them to the skillet and coat with the milk mixture.
4. Arrange one-third of the potato slices in the bottom of the prepared pan, overlapping them slightly. Season generously with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the Gruyère. Ladle 1/2 cup of milk mixture in the skillet over the potatoes. Repeat to make 2 more layers. Ladle any extra milk mixture over the potatoes and sprinkle with any remaining cheese.
5. Bake 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F, and bake for 15 minutes more. While potatoes are baking, salt and pepper the lamb chops generously on both sides. Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large, heavy skillet lightly and place pan over medium high heat. When hot, add chops and sear 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. (If necessary sauté the chops in batches.) Remove chops and using tongs and pot holders for the pan, arrange on top of the potatoes.
6. Bake chops atop potatoes 10 minutes more. Remove from heat and sprinkle each chop with 1/4 teaspoon of the lemon zest and some parsley or chives. Serves 4.
Cooking tip: I usually buy a rack of lamb ( 1 1/2 pounds) that has been trimmed and Frenched (that is the meat between the rib bones has been removed). A rack typically has 8 ribs so all you have to do is slice it into chops.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom May 2, 2019