Once upon a time in a far away land, let’s call it: Livonia, Michigan, the hubs and I sat down for dinner at a place called Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. He had something to eat, I had some wine. He had a little more to eat, and I had more wine. I honestly can’t recall what our exact meals were other than the dish of potatoes I got along with my entree, which was an ah-mazing blend of spicy jalapeño, cheese and potatoes. It was so good– the potatoes were incredibly luscious and soft, having absorbed all the fat from the cream and butter, and the jalapeño gave it just the right amount of heat without being bossy, lending a nice warmth that lingered in my throat. It’s kinda funny but we only went that one time despite my deep appreciation for those potatoes and yet even after all these years (6 or 7 give or take), I’ve never stopped thinking about them.
I was in the midst of developing a copycat recipe based on pure recollection but then traipsed across the actual recipe on their website, to which I was overjoyed to find. I kept it pretty much the same except for some slight changes here and there. When it was finally done I slipped my spoon into the creamy molten goodness and immediately knew, without even tasting it that it was going to be delightful, the potatoes so soft and yielding that it took hardly anything to scoop up and eat.
This stuff is damn dangerous, my friends. In a good way.
My music obsession this week? The new Calvin Harris album: 18 Months. The whole thing is awesomepants but one of my favorites is We’ll Be Coming Back. Super catchy and bright. Although I think most of his songs are. Enjoy!
Jalapeño Cheddar Potato Gratin
Adapted very, very slightly from the Fleming’s Potatoes at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse
Serves 6-8 people
2 small jalapeños, one seeded and diced finely, the other diced finely with seeds, about 3 tablespoons altogether
1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks, light green part only
1 1/2 heaping teaspoons sea salt, preferably Maldon
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 pounds russet potatoes, about 4 large ones, scrubbed clean (or peeled) and sliced 1/8″ thin with mandoline
// Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grab a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and spray it with oil. Set aside.
In a medium-sized sauce pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat and toss in the jalapeños, leeks, salt, and pepper. Mix and saute until the leeks have softened, about 4 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream and half and half and let it come up to a simmer. Take it off the heat and add the cheddar and jack cheeses, mixing thoroughly until totally melted.
Take half the sliced potatoes and lay them evenly onto the baking pan. Pour in half of the cheese sauce, spreading it all over the potatoes. Top with the remaining potatoes and finish with the last of the cheese sauce, using a spoon or spatula to spread it around completely so it goes into every nook and cranny.
Cover with aluminum foil and put in the oven to bake for 1 hour. After that, take the foil off and stick under the broiler until golden brown, just a few minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler.
Let cool slightly before digging in to serve.
Make it your own:
*For a healthier spin, use sweet potatoes instead of russet potatoes and substitute the heavy cream/half and half combo with reduced fat milk
*Wish it were spicier? Include all the jalapeño seeds and use shredded pepper jack cheese instead of regular jack
*Divide the potatoes and sauce into smaller, individual gratin dishes for a more personal touch
*Top with crumbled bacon!
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