Recipe from Sober Celebrations
Although New York's famous Delmonico's restaurant served its last meal in 1923, its signature potato dish lived on. After an alcohol raid in 1921 by federal agents, this 100-year-old landmark could no longer compete with the ritzy supper clubs and their well-hidden booze cellars, yet on the menus of many remaining hotel restaurants and clubs of that era, a version of these potatoes could be found. Its exact recipe is debatable, but in essence, it seems to borrow from the best of both French dauphinoise potatoes (cooked in cream) and potatoes au gratin (topped with cheese).
This version is somewhat akin to the familiar scalloped potatoes, though a good dose of cream, in keeping with the cooking style of the 1920s, has been added. Finely grated Parmesan cheese and a toasted, buttery breadcrumb topping will distinguish it, however, from its more commonplace cousin. Be sure to season the cream mixture generously with salt, as it's all the potatoes will be getting. These are at their best straight from the oven, with only a brief wait, so plan to have the dish ready to go into the oven 1 1/2 to 2 hours before you'll be sitting down to eat. The potatoes can be made in one large baking dish, but for this occasion, two smaller ovals or gratin dishes will give a nicer presentation at the dinner table.
• 8 medium-size Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, kept in cold water
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• Freshly ground black or white pepper
• 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 cup plain, dry bread crumbs
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 1 1/2-quart oval baking or gratin dishes.
2. Drain the potatoes and dry them with paper towels.
3. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the cream, milk, salt, nutmeg, and pepper, and over medium heat, stirring often, bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.
4. Layer 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dishes and pour 1/3 of the hot cream mixture over it. Sprinkle 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese on top, and repeat twice more with the layering. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs and melted butter, and distribute over the tops of the baking dishes. (You can prepare the dish a few hours ahead up to this point, cover with foil, and refrigerate.)
5. Bake, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork-tender and the tops are toasty and golden, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.