Recipes in this cheese-dependent society make it easy to forget just how amazing and flavorful food can be without it. Take the humble potato gratin for example. Most recipes are topped with gobs of parmesan or even cheddar, practically masking the flavors beneath. But, if you let the potatoes roast on their own, the top layer browns into a delicious potato chip-like crisp. With a little salt and herbs, this topping is irresistable and offers that characteristic gratin topping without buttery breadcrumbs or cheese! Definitely a few calories saved there.
To amp up the nutrition and flavor, the gratin recipe below uses fresh onion, garlic, and tomatoes. This is a recipe that I’ve been calling upon for the past few Octobers. It is perfect for this time of year, capitalizing on the late summer fall tomato bounty, but hearty and warm for these cooler autumn days. As an added bonus, it meets most special diet needs since it is grain-free and easily made vegan. I find it rich enough to enjoy as the centerpiece of a vegetarian meal, but you can also serve it as a side dish at dinner or even Thanksgiving …
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Onion, halved and thinly sliced
- Sea Salt, to taste (1/2 t is probably enough, but I went overboard with 1 t, and we loved it!)
- Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 1 lb Ripe Tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded & chopped (See note below. I used fresh, but you can substitute 1 14.5-ounce can of drained diced tomatoes in a pinch)
- ½ Teaspoon Honey (can sub agave nectar to keep it vegan)
- 1.5 lbs Baking Potatoes (nice big Russets!)
- 3 Teaspoons Dairy-Free Margarine, divided (I used Earth Balance Soy-Free, but you can substitute more olive oil)
- ¾ Cup Chicken, Beef, or Vegetable Broth
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Flat-leaf Parsley, snipped
- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme
- Preheat your oven to 425°F.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and allow it to cook and thicken for about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
- Meanwhile, prep those potatoes! Give them a good scrub. I leave them unpeeled for that "rustic" effect, but peel them if you must. Thinly slice the potatoes (about ¼-inch worked for me). Set aside about ¼ to ⅓ of the potatoes in a medium-sized bowl to use as the topping.
- In a large bowl, combine the remaining potatoes with the sauce and toss carefully to blend.
- Liberally rub the bottom of a 9" pie dish (or similarly sized oven-safe dish) with 1 teaspoon of the margarine, or oil if using instead.
- Transfer the potato-tomato mixture to the baking dish, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon. Add the broth to cover.
- Add the remaining 2 teaspons of margarine (or oil) and the parsley to the reserved potatoes for the topping. Toss to coat evenly.
- Arrange the "buttered" potato slices one by one atop the potato-tomato mixture in your baking dish (in an overlapping pattern), until the entire dish is covered with an even potato layer. Sprinkle with the thyme.
- Place the dish in the centre of the oven and bake until the potatoes are soft, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the top is golden, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check in after 40 minutes. If those potatoes on top are crisping too fast, turn them over to cook the other sides, and return to the oven. Serve immediately.
Alternate Baking Method: If you run into the potato crisping problem I had, try this … reduce the broth to ½ to ⅔ cup, and bake for just 45 minutes to 1 hour. I think this timing will work well, since the potatoes are definitely done by 1 hour but with ¾ cup broth, it isn't all absorbed.