Fine Cooking (November 2015)
This year's Fakesgiving was haunted.
No, it wasn't because it took place a week before Halloween.
And no it wasn't the famed arctic explorer who lived (and died!) in our house. (True story.)
Rater, Fakesgiving was haunted by a dish, a memory, a fantasia of pleasure from last year's meal.
It was haunted by none other than that wily seductress The Barefoot Contessa, and her Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes that we served at last year's Fakesgiving.
At this year's meal, it was only minutes after our friends began arriving before one of them said it: "Do you think this Mashed Potato Gratin will be anywhere as good as those Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes?" It was one of more than a dozen conversations about those potatoes, a full year later.
So is this Mashed Potato Gratin as good?
That, Bittens, is the question of the hour.
Let's rip the band-aid off and get this out of the way:
This Mashed Potato Gratin with Manchego & Horseradish does not stack up to the famed Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes. But really, with that amount of goat cheese, what dish could?
This is not to say that this Mashed Potato Gratin is a bad dish. In fact, it's very good. The manchego crust on top of these potatoes is delightful (it's really the highlight of the dish). The potatoes themselves are good, although we felt the horseradish got a little lost. Making this again, we'd amp up the horseradish, maybe even doubling it to 4 tablespoons.
If you served these potatoes, and you hadn't tasted the true heaven that is the Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes, you'd think you'd have chosen a solid mashed potato dish.
And you wouldn't be wrong.
But trust us: This is simply a case of make that, not this.
Serves 8 to 10
4 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 oz. manchego cheese, finely grated (about 13/4 cups)
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 Tbs. prepared horseradish
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. chopped fresh dill
Bring a 6-quart pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Reserve 2 cups of the potato cooking water, drain, and return the potatoes to the pot. Add the cheese and coarsely mash the potatoes with a potato masher.
In an 8-inch skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until deep golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the butter, crème fraîche, horseradish, 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the potatoes, and mash until smooth, adding more of the reserved potato cooking water to reach your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 2-quart, 9x13-inch, or similar broiler-safe serving dish.
Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Broil until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Garnish with the dill and serve.
Make Ahead Tips
You can prepare the potatoes to be broiled up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate and return to room temperature before broiling.