Even during a food-centric holiday like Thanksgiving where huge platters of food are squeezed onto an already crowded table and everyone eats family-style, I think it’s nice to create one savory dish that’s individually portioned. Gratins are the perfect candidates. Baking them in single-serve ramekins or mini-pie pans ensures that each recipient gets a balance of that velvety smooth interior and cheesy, crusty exterior that defines any good gratin. If you’re stressed over washing extra dishes, you can always opt for those disposable aluminum foil cups or pans. Gratins can also be assembled a day or two in advanced, which makes them an inviting side dish for any occasion. They are also fun to play around with. I know the week leading up to Thanksgiving is not the best time to experiment, but just keep the idea in the back of your mind. Take this sun dried tomato pesto riff. I like it because it packs a lot of punch with little effort. I’ve also made potato gratins with wild mushrooms and duck fat in place of butter and even others with root vegetables instead of potatoes. The possibilities are endless and the results never disappoint.
Potato and Sun Dried Tomato Gratin
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stick butter, divided
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons sun dried tomato pesto
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using 3-4 tablespoons butter, generously grease 8 6-ounce ramekins or 5-inch mini-pie pans. Place ramekins on a large, rimmed baking sheet and set aside. Place potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, sun dried tomato pesto, garlic and nutmeg. Bring to a strong simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When potatoes are done, drain and return to pot. Gently toss with remaining butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide potatoes evenly among ramekins. Top with cream sauce and cheese. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.