This recipe comes from a cluster of villages in the hills of the Diois region in the south of France. The potatoes are first sauteed with onions in fat (the locals use chicken fat), then moistened with pan juices and wine. Fresh thyme is scattered on top, which gives the gratin and earthy flavor. It is not an elegant dish, but it is very tasty.
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2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/8 inch thick
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chicken fat, duck fat or olive oil (see Note)
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup leftover pan juices or veal, beef or chicken demiglace (see Note)
1 large thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup water
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 3-quart shallow baking dish. In a large bowl, toss the sliced potatoes with the onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the fat in each of 2 large skillets. Divide the potatoes between the skillets and cook over moderate heat, turning the potatoes with a spatula, until browned in spots, about 10 minutes. Scrape the potatoes from 1 skillet into the other, add the wine and pan juices to the potatoes and bring to a boil.
Transfer the potatoes and liquid to the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface. Top with the thyme and bay leaf and bake for 30 minutes. Moisten the potatoes with the water and bake for about 25 minutes longer, or until the potatoes are tender and lightly browned. Serve the potato gratin hot.
The potatoes can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and reheat in a 325° oven.
When Lydie Marshall doesn't have any fat or pan juices in her refrigerator, she brings a jar to her butcher, who roasts chickens on a spit, and he fills it with fat and juices. If you're not a regular customer, you might have to buy a chicken, too, the first time.
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