Matt Blondin, a brilliant young chef, has agreed to cook on my new television show, Market to Table.
Matt Blondin is chef at Omaw, an American South-flavoured resto on the fashionable Ossington strip in Toronto, and is one of the key partners in The Food Dudes, a growing catering concern. As well as getting Omaw (think Oh-Mother!) up and running, he’s deeply involved in launching the second store in their Pantry chain, on Yonge Street on the edge of Rosedale, just down the road from a row of very expensive shops locally known as the Five Thieves. Yes, that expensive. If the Pantry prices are half decent the Rosedale crowd will flock.
We meet in the bar at Omaw, before opening time, when Chef Matt has a few moments to chat about the show. He quickly agrees to our pitch and we leave him to serve his early customers. A few days later he sends me his menu ideas and I love them. We’re going to make roasted saddle of lamb with aligot. I have to look up the latter as it is quite new to me. It’s a fondue-like dish made from cheese blended into mashed potatoes from the Auvergne region of southern France. Traditionally made with Tomme, aligot is a French country speciality made from potatoes mashed really well and blended with butter, cream, crushed garlic, and the melted cheese. The dish is ready when it develops a smooth, elastic texture. Tomme de savoie is a variety of Tomme from the French Alps, mild, semi-firm and made from cow’s milk. I’m drooling already.
However, by the time we tape the show Matt has decided a version of scalloped potatoes will go better with the lamb. I start researching this dish, which curiously, is not in my own cookbook. There are two schools of thought. To cook the potatoes first, or not.
Matt and I have great fun on the show, and the proof of his success as a chef comes when the crew wolf down the dish when we finish taping, barely leaving a morsel for their starving TV host to share. I get my revenge by filming the feeding frenzy and using the out-takes during the credits. That’s all in the future as far as this story is concerned. He tells me the dish will be a cross between scalloped potatoes and potatoes gratin, where gratin does not necessarily refer to cheese as an ingredient but the culinary technique in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust. Gratin originated in French cuisine and is usually prepared in a shallow dish of some kind. A gratin is baked or cooked under an overhead grill or broiler to form a golden crust on top and is traditionally served in its baking dish.
I’ve enjoyed gratin dauphinois, a traditional regional dish based on potatoes, cheese and crème fraîche, from the historic Dauphiné region in south-east France and goes very well with roast turkey or chicken, veal or pork. Gratin savoyard is a similar dish found in the neighbouring Savoie region. It consists of alternating layers of sliced potatoes, Beaufort cheese, and pieces of butter, with bouillon as the liquid. This one goes better with roast beef or lamb, since it is cooked in stock rather than dairy.
Potatoes gratiné is one of the most common of gratins and is known by various names including “gratin potatoes.” Slices of boiled potato are put in a buttered fireproof dish, sprinkled with cheese and browned in the oven or under the grill. In North America, the dish is referred to variously as scalloped potatoes, potatoes au gratin, or gratin potatoes. In Quebec, they call it patates gratinées although pommes de terre gratinées au fromage is more correct. I must ask Matt, who originally hails from Quebec, which he prefers.
Cleverly, he makes the dish for the show in a small cast iron pan, which can go directly in the oven and thence to table.
Matt’s going to let me have his own secret recipe to share, as well as his recipe for saddle of lamb, but in the meantime my take on scalloped potatoes will have to suffice.
Market to Table launches on Bell Fibe TV1 on May 16, 2016, and the shows will remain in the video-on-demand store for up to three years. Approximately one new episode a week will be available. Once all the shows have been broadcast, we’ll make them available as links through this website and on YouTube.
by Nigel Napier-Andrews
- 2 lb/1000 g medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp white flour
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup 35% cream
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 oz/150 g Tomme de savoie cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat oven to 180°C/355°F.
- Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices (using a mandolin if you have one, and take care of your finger tips) and set aside.
- Make a BECHAMEL SAUCE (see note below).
- Slice the cheese thinly.
- Arrange a couple of layers of potato slices in a lightly greased deep quart baking dish. Add a dollop of sauce and spread it over the potatoes. Add two or three slices of cheese, then repeat until you reach the top of the dish. NOTE: Don’t add too much cheese or the dish will turn too greasy.
- Bake for 1 hour, or until sauce is bubbly and potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving in the dish.
NOTE: I’m repeating this recipe for Bechamel sauce from my SOUFFLÉ entry, in case you missed it.
Make a roux by melting 2 tbsp butter over a medium heat. When the butter is just beginning to foam, add 2 tbsp white flour and stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 min until the mixture is crumbly. Then slowly add 1 1/2 cups liquid consisting 50 per cent whole milk and 50 per cent cream, that has been heated to just before boiling, whisking continuously until very smooth. Season with about 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg and salt to taste.
NEWS UPDATE: My fully illustrated e-book, Market to Table: The Cookbook started as a project for novice cooks, but after I was picked to host a cooking show featuring food bought at farmers’ markets, developed into a more complete collection of the recipes from the series, including some from guest chefs on the show, as well as those from my well-read foodie blog. It is easy to read, divided into chapters that cover the main mealtimes of the day, and into recipes that are concise and guaranteed to work. Most recipes are accompanied by an entertaining story. Brilliant young Chef Dan Frenette, who now hosts the TV series, has written the Foreword and contributes to the book.
Categories: Market to Table