More Butter, Please: Your Basic Anti-Diet Potato Gratin

by Marion Rosenfeld

 Image via  Theresa Thompson/Flickr ; modified by Maximum Middle Age

Image via Theresa Thompson/Flickr; modified by Maximum Middle Age

If a person is neither a vegan nor a vegetarian, and such a person is fond of "comfort food" filled with fat and starch and love and topped with more fat; and such person also likes food that has vaguely French airs but finds something casually referred to as "kielbasa pie" equally enticing, well then you are such a person and you should be making this (weather permitting). 

 Image by Elsa Doorman 1968; Modified by Maximum Middle Age

Image by Elsa Doorman 1968; Modified by Maximum Middle Age

This is an adaptation of Saint Julia Child's gratin recipe (referring to the crusty shelf on top of the finished dish). The ingredients are easily found at a no-big-deal supermarket and the cooking skills required are not bunny hill but also not five-black-diamond level of culinary proficiency.

If you work from home (I do!) this can be made in steps throughout your day. If you do work out of the house — sorry! (ha ha! joking!) — this is best made when you have a few hours to use up.

Kielbasa pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter (or more!)
  • 2-ish pounds potatoes (Yukon Golds or whatever)
  • 1 pound kielbasa (aka polish sausage — that sounds dirty, it's not)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups milk (or half-and-half or broth), warmed
  • 4 – 8 ounces grated cheese, depending on how delicious you want it (Grueyere is traditional, but a combo of cheddar and Parmesan works well)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Nutmeg

Directions: 

1. Sauté chopped onion in about 3 tablespoons melted butter over low-ish heat until translucent. Season with salt and pepper, and set it aside.

 Image: Marion Rosenfeld

2. Boil washed and unpeeled potatoes in highly salted water until just soft, about 25 minutes. Drain potatoes, and once they're cool enough, peel them and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside. 

 Image: Marion Rosenfeld

3. Make a béchamel sauce (sounds fancy, but it's just white sauce folks) by melting 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat, then whisking in 3 tablespoons of flour. Keep stirring until the flour starts to brown. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add pre-warmed milk to the browned flour. Continue to whisk. It will start to thicken. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set it aside. 

 Image: Marion Rosenfeld

4. Cut the kielbasa into 1/4-inch slices and set it aside. (The butter is on the cutting board just to remind you this is a buttery dish.)

 Image: Marion Rosenfeld

5. Grate the cheese and set it aside. Grab some handfuls if you need a snack.

 Image: Marion Rosenfeld

6. Assemble the fuck out of this by starting with an empty baking dish. Smear softened butter all over the dish. Spread half the cooked onions on the bottom, then alternate layers of sliced potato and sliced sausage decoratively (or however). Top that layer with remaining sautéed onions and build another layer of sausage and potato over the first.

 Image: Marion Rosenfeld

This is what it looks like before you finish the assembly.

 Image: Marion Rosenfeld

7. Pour the béchamel sauce over the potatoes and sausage. Top the whole thing with grated cheese and dot with… BUTTER!

 Image: Marion Rosenfeld

8. Bake this bitch at 375 degrees F for 35-45 minutes, or until you feel smug enough about how good it looks and are ready to eat. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes before eating because this dish is lava-like in its ability to retain heat.

 Image: Marion Rosenfeld

Marion Rosenfeld, a lifelong New Yorker, walks the fine line between polymath and dilettante. She has spent her entire career in media, topically focussing on pop culture and food. Married to a Marine-turned-Pastry Chef in 2000, she recognizes that her now-teenage daughter is not the narcissistic extension of her self.