Inspired in part by the infamous lobster dish and a prototypal potato dauphinoise, my potato thermidor combines elements of both in a decadently creamy bake that needn’t be saved for special occasions.
Classically kitsch, crayfish thermidor is the yet unequalled example of slightly questionable ’70s cooking. I’m of the opinion that there is only one way to consume crayfish – with lots of garlicky melted butter – and that eating it in any other way is nothing short of sacrilege. As of 2017, the West Coast’s Red Gold has been placed on SASSI’s red list and thus the costly crustacean is officially off the menu. But since good flavour never goes out of fashion, the same ingredients used in crayfish thermidor have been repurposed into a layered bake not dissimilar to the French staple potato dauphinoise.
Grown prolifically in the sandy soil of Elands Bay, the humble potato is one renewable resource that holds myriad possibilities when it comes to recipes. The flavours of mustard, cream, Parmesan or Gruyère and onion from the original thermidor pair perfectly with the waxy softness of potato, whilst scalloping the spuds on a mandolin means that the dish stays delicate.
Prep time: 25 mins | Cook time: 1.5 hours | Serves: 4 to 6
4 to 6 large waxy potatoes, washed and peeled
2 large Spanish or brown onions, peeled
6 to 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme, washed
50ml yellow mustard seeds
250ml fresh cream
300g grated Parmesan cheese
Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
Butter, for greasing
Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice the potatoes and onions very thinly. Place the potato slices into a bowl of cold water to remove extra starch. Remove the leaves from the rosemary or thyme, discarding the woody stalks. Roughly chop and set aside.
Grease a large ovenproof dish with butter and add in enough slices of potato and onion to cover the base. Pour over about a tablespoon of the cream, followed by a scattering each of garlic slices, mustard seeds, rosemary or thyme, salt and pepper and finally Parmesan. Cover with a second layer of potato and onion slices and repeat with the cream, garlic, herbs, seasoning and cheese. Layer and repeat until the dish is full.
To finish it off, pour over a last bit of cream, scatter with herbs, mustard seeds and salt and pepper. Sprinkle over a generous amount of Parmesan and bake in a preheated 180°C oven for 1 hour before turning up the heat to 220°C for the final 30 minutes. The dish is ready when the top layer is golden brown, crisp and bubbling.
Serve the potato thermidor alongside a rare steak, a lemony roast chicken, tender lamb or grilled fish.