When it comes to food, Jon and I are so similar yet so different. We both favor home cooked meals above all, we both can’t get enough of desserts and veggies, and we both love watching all TV shows about cooking — from Top Chef and MasterChef to even the most random documentaries about culinary events and products. But then there’s steak, which Jon could eat every day while I can’t even swallow a single bite. And then there’s cheese, which I can’t live without while Jon can’t stand most of the varieties. Finding out that I was lactose intolerant in October literally shattered my world, making me change my whole diet that mainly consisted of dairy products and fresh produce. Luckily pills exist to help my body digest lactose, as well as so many lactose-free products that allow me to continue enjoying my favorite foods. Nevertheless, I’ve challenged myself to recreate many of my favorite dishes in dairy-free versions, from lemon meringue pie all the way to this creamy, crispy, and just-unbelievably-perfect potato gratin.
Known as well as gratin dauphinois, potato gratin is created out of layers of uncooked thinly sliced potatoes that are cooked with cream in the oven until crispy. Some top the dish with Parmesan or Cheddar cheese and others add vegetables between the layers, but I decided to stick to the original French version and substituted the cream for a dairy-free homemade béchamel sauce. Béchamel sauce is typically made by cooking butter and flour to make a roux and then whisked together with milk until thick and creamy. I chose to use margarine instead of butter and soy milk instead of regular milk, following the same steps to make this white sauce. The result was mind-boggling — it tasted identical to the real deal and made my potato gratin such a success.
My potato gratin consists of three different layers — sauce béchamel, potatoes and onion — which are stacked on top of each other until you’ve exhausted all of your potatoes. Making this recipe is much easier if you own a food processor, as thinly chopping the potatoes and onion is a must to create a crispy gratin. Slicing them up in the food processor takes less than 3 minutes, but if you don’t own one I still urge you to give this one a go. It will take some time but it’s well worth the effort.
Recipes like this don’t make me sad about cutting out dairy from my diet — on the contrary, they make me happy since they’ve pushed me out of my comfort zone and given me the power to be even more creative in the kitchen. With all the wonderful products out on the market today, all one needs is a bit of creativity to work with substitutes to recreate favorite dairy-free dishes. Jon was happier than ever since I didn’t include any cheese in the recipe, and as we both love potatoes, we were so happy to share this dish together!
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 big onion
- 700g potatoes, peeled
- 4 tablespoons margarine
- 4 tablespoons potato starch
- 2 cups soy milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pinch of paprika
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Heat vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
- In a food processor, thinly slice the onion. Fry the onion in the saucepan until soft, about 3 minutes. Set aside with the remaining oil.
- Slice the potatoes in the food processor. Set aside.
- Melt the margarine in the saucepan on low heat. Gradually add in the potato starch and stir to combine until it ressembles a thick paste. Add the soy milk, increase heat to medium-high, and cook stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Spread 3 tablespoons of the white sauce over the bottom of a Pyrex. Add two layers of potato slices and top with a layer of onion slices. Cover with 3 more tablespoons of white sauce. Continue layering until you have no more potatoes, finishing with a layer of potatoes topped with white sauce. Sprinkle the top with paprika and a bit of black pepper.
- Cook for 45 minutes until the top appears golden. Serve warm.
How did your spanish potato tortilla come out? Share photos of your recipe on Instagram by tagging #savormania