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Great Spuds

December 13, 1990|BETTY ROSBOTTOM | Rosbottom is director of La Belle Pomme Cooking School at Lazarus in Columbus, Ohio, and author of "Betty Rosbottom's Cooking School" (Workman: $10.95, paperback). and

"Steak and potatoes" in my house means simple meat: grilled and unadorned. Instead, I put my efforts into creating new potato dishes. A gratin of very thinly sliced potato layers, for instance, sprinkled with shredded Havarti cheese and napped with a light mustard sauce. I bake them until the potatoes are fork-tender and a rich golden crust forms on top. Our entire family asks for seconds and, in some cases, thirds.

During the holidays, the gratin makes a delicious and uncomplicated offering. With their tender texture and zesty mustard seasoning, these potatoes work well with many entrees. For example, honey-baked ham, herb-roasted chicken, a garlic-studded leg of lamb and, of course, all manner of steaks or roast beef.

The dish has other good features. After baking, the potatoes could be kept warm for up to 30 minutes when covered loosely with foil, giving a cook time to put finishing touches on other foods. In addition, it's easy to double or triple the gratin for large gatherings.

MUSTARD-SCENTED GRATIN OF POTATOES

3 1/2 pounds baking potatoes

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

10 ounces Havarti cheese, shredded

1 1/3 cups half and half

1 1/3 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Peel potatoes and cut each into 1/8-inch thick slices. Arrange 1/3 potatoes in overlapping slices in large oven-to-table dish sprayed with vegetable spray. Generously season potatoes with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 1/3 of thyme and 1/3 of cheese. Top with 2 more layers potatoes, seasonings and cheese.

Whisk together half and half, chicken stock and Dijon mustard in bowl and pour mixture over potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees 50 to 60 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced with knife and top is golden and crusty. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

Note: There are several varieties of Havarti available. Plain Havarti, without caraway seeds or herbs, is best for this recipe. Other cheeses such as Vermont Cheddar, Monterey Jack or mild Gouda could be substituted.

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