From the best way to cook ahead of Thanksgiving to the best salt to use, hear from the experts. Chef Jacques Pepin, Milk Street's Chris Kimball and author Karen Page share holiday table tips.
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LOLA'S POTATO GRATIN
Makes 6 servings
There is one thing about potato gratin: It can't be rushed. Set aside some time to make it and savor the creamy results. Aka scalloped potatoes or potatoes au gratin, this golden masterpiece is an essential recipe that every cook should know how to make. Here is our version, which uses earthy fontina cheese and a bit of sharp Parmigiano. We sometimes swap out the cheeses according to the bits and pieces of leftover cheese that need to be used up--they are all different; they are all worth eating!
Softened unsalted butter, for the baking dish, and aluminum foil
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1∕2 teaspoon sea salt
1∕4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds baking potatoes, such as russets,
peeled and cut into 1∕16-inch rounds
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese,
preferably Fontina Val d'Aosta
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 11 by 8 1∕2-inch baking dish.
Bring the milk and cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting.
Mix the salt and pepper together. Spread one-third of the potatoes in the prepared dish and season with one-third of the salt mixture. Top with one-half of the fontina. Repeat and finish with a layer of potatoes. Pour the hot milk mixture evenly over the potatoes. Press on the potatoes to be sure that they are submerged in the liquid. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano.
Place the dish on a baking sheet. Cover the dish with buttered aluminum foil, buttered side down.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a small knife and the gratin is golden brown, about 45 minutes more. Let stand for 5 minutes and serve hot.
Creamy Tomato Soup
from A Grandfather's Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey by Jacques Pépin
In summer, there is nothing like homemade tomato soup. With tomatoes at their peak flavor, best nutritional value, and cheapest price, I make hot, cold, chunky, smooth, and raw versions throughout the entire season.
Shorey's father, Rollie, is a great gardener, and Shorey loves the garden and its bounty. So we made this tomato soup together. For a lighter version, you can omit the flour and cream. The soup can be garnished with herbs from basil to chervil, tarragon, or chives, and it can be served hot, with croutons, if you like, or cold. Emulsifying the soup in a blender makes it smoother than if you use a food processor; for an even creamier result, you can finish the soup with a hand blender. Tomato soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches makes the best possible lunch.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced (1-inch) onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2½ cups water
2½ pounds very ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup heavy cream
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and cook for
2 minutes over high heat. Stir in the garlic and thyme. Sprinkle the flour on top and mix well. Add the water and mix it in, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, sugar, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
Let the soup cool for 15 to 30 minutes, then process it in batches in a stand blender for at least 30 seconds per batch. For an even creamier soup, transfer to a deep bowl and blend for 15 to 20 seconds with a hand blender. Stir in the cream. Serve hot or cold.