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Jan 7, 2020
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WINE WITH…Potato Gratin with Ham and Cheese

A good gratin is a wonderful thing. “Gratin,” a French word related to our own “grater,” describes a dish that is usually covered with grated cheese and/or breadcrumbs, then baked in a relatively small pan until it is browned and bubbly.  Gratins are usually potato based, but almost anything can be prepared au gratin—seafood, eggplant, cauliflower, and much more.  Gratins, which are among the world’s tastiest comfort foods, are generally simple to prepare.  This Potato and Ham variation on the theme is not merely delicious, but also pairs well with a variety of different wines.

Potato Gratin with Ham and Cheese

Serves 4

We used russet potatoes but you could substitute about 3 pounds of Yukon Gold if you prefer.

7 tablespoons butter
1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon each rosemary and thyme
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 russet potatoes
About 1 pound country ham (such as Virginia ham)
About 1 1/3 cups grated Gruyère or cheddar cheese or a combination
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs

Pre-heat the oven to 375˚.
Use 2 tablespoons of the butter to grease the bottom and sides of a baking dish (about 9 x 13 inches).  Set aside.

Sautee the onion in about 1 tablespoon butter.  When the onion is soft, add the garlic and season with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme.  Set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in a large saucepan and whisk in the flour until it forms a smooth paste.  Whisk in the milk all at once and continue whisking over low heat until the sauce is smooth.

Peel, rinse and blot the potatoes dry.  Slice them very thin, about 1/8 inch (a mandolin is the best tool to use to get the potatoes evenly sliced and thin enough).  As they are sliced, stir them into the pan with the sauce.  Add the onions.

Pour the potato mixture into the baking dish.  Tear or slice the ham into large pieces and mix them into the potato mixture.  Top with the grated cheese and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.  Cover the mixture with foil and bake for about 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

*         *         *

We liked white wines slightly more than reds with this dish, especially those with creamy textures that echoed the inherent creaminess of the gratin.  The reds that performed best were light-bodied and savory, providing a contrast to the dish and hence making the dining experience compelling.  Wines of both colors and types made for satisfying pairings, rendering this a one dish supper meal for which wine is easy to choose.

Selection

 

Approx. Price

Comments

 

Allegrini,

Veneto

(Italy)

Veronese

“Palazzo Della Torre”

2015

(Imported by Allegrini Wines USA)

 

 

 

 

$23

 

This blend of Corvina and Rondinella grapes is savory and extremely aromatic.  Its earthy aspects resonate with the ham in the gratin.

 

 

 

 

Carmel Road,

Monterey

(California)

Pinot Noir

2016

 

 

 

 

$25

 

A tad sweet, with jammy cherry fruit, this Pinot feels seductively silky on the palate.  That sensation, even more than any particular flavor, helped it pair well with the creamy potatoes and gooey cheese. 

 

 

 

Kloof Street,

Swartland

(South Africa)

Chenin Blanc

“Old Vine”

2018

(Imported by Skurnik Wines)

 

 

 

 

 

$22

 

Simultaneously crisp and creamy, this beautifully balanced Chenin Blanc tastes of soft, ripe pears with a mineral-tinged finish.  It’s quite simply delicious.

 

 

 

 

Nativ,

Campania

(Italy)

Beneventano Falanghina

2018

(Imported by Montcalm Wine Importers)

 

 

 

 

 

           $23

 

Fairly full-bodied, this Falanghina tastes fresh but at the same time rich and ripe, all without any evidence of oak.

 

 

 

 

Raeburn,

Russian River Valley

(California)

Chardonnay

2017

 

 

 

$20

 

Unlike the previous wine, oak plays a prominent role here.  It may seem too heavy-handed when the wine is tasted on its own, but with this rich dish, it tastes just right.