I watched the most recent season of The Next Food Network Star mostly out of boredom, and because it was in season, as it were. I had no special interest in any of the candidates until the very last episode, when Melissa d’Arabian demonstrated an easy 4-step chicken dish with a side of individual potato gratins baked in a muffin tin. The chicken looked like a good repertoire dish, very adaptable and easily made with pantry staples, but the mini-gratin idea was genius. I, along with—let’s face it—practically every other person on the planet, love a good potato gratin. The problem is making them without mishap in a reasonable amount of time. Until now, every gratin I’ve tried has come out undercooked and soupy in the middle, usually requiring extra baking time that overbrowns the top of the gratin and throws off the timing of the rest of my food. But these individual gratins take just half an hour to bake and come out perfectly crisp on top and done underneath, not to mention scaling seamlessly to any number, so long as you have the muffin tin to contain them.
I have used both Yukon gold and red potatoes for versions of these gratins, though I’ve stuck with the onion and Gruyere cheese; I’ve no doubt you could tuck other veggies in between the potato slices as well, or use whatever cheese you prefer. The reds are the perfect size circumference for my muffin tin; you might have to trim down a russet. This is a great assembly-line recipe if you have helpers, or you could probably prepare it in advance and store in the fridge for a bit if you use low-starch potatoes like reds. I sliced my potatoes with a mandoline rather than dirty my food processor, but you could slice them by hand also if your knife skills are good. I also usually forget to put on the foil, and they still come out just fine in my oven.
I realize I’ve been blathering on and on about the potatoes, but the chicken was actually also very tasty. I’ve done two different variations so far, first making a lemon-onion sauce with peas, and then a dijon-thyme sauce.
5-Minute Muffin-Cup Potato Gratins
2 large russet potatoes, roughly peeled and thinly sliced (or Yukon Gold, red, etc.)
1/2 C grated Swiss cheese (or Gruyere, cheddar, etc.)
2 green onions, finely chopped (or sweet onion, etc.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 C heavy cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions into each muffin cup, finishing with a layer of potato topped with cheese. Season with salt and pepper and top each gratin with 1 or 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.
Source: Food Network
Update 11/30/09: I finally tried making these with russet potatoes. It worked fine, but I do think I prefer the texture of the red and Yukon potatoes better for this, as they hold up without getting mealy or mushy.