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Potato Gratin a la Mexicana


In the 1980s, if you were of a certain age and interested in food, the arrival of Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking opened up new worlds and was an incredibly important book. It was for me. And all my friends as well. The recipes were simple and clever and it redefined French cooking as something anyone could do without taking a patronizing tone. It's still a great book.

While most everyone was trying the vinegar chicken or experimenting with terrines, I was floored by the oddly good Gratin Grand-Mere (page 103). It was a simple thing with layers of potato, red bell pepper, thyme, olive oil and zucchini, layered. It sounded fine but result was so much better than my imagination. It taught me not to be so cocky about being able to imagine a finished dish just be reading the recipe.


I was thinking of this dish the other day and decided to experiment. I took some of the very good chorizo from Mi Favorita market here in Napa and cooked it, reserving the rendered fat. I thin sliced some potatoes and zucchini. I roughly chopped a poblano pepper that had previously been roasted and skinned. I layered all the ingredients, including the cooked chorizo, salting and drizzling the reserved sausage fat as I went. I covered my clay pot with a plate and baked it for just over an hour at 350F.


The result was great. The potatoes weren't as juicy as they were for Wells but she has you cover the dish in foil. I also think it would be smarter to have whatever pot I used to be filled up to the brim. But the flavors were great. I think you could skip the chorizo but keep the rendered fat and be perfectly happy.

This isn't there yet but I think there are lots of possibilities.

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