Boulanger is French for “baker.”  This classic, peasant casserole of potatoes and onions is so named because it was traditionally cooked overnight in the residual heat of a baker’s oven, after the day’s bread was finished.  Unlike other scalloped potato dishes that are soaked in cream and smothered with cheese, boulangere potatoes are relatively light.  Cooked in stock with just a touch of butter, they are earthy and sweet, simple yet immensely satisfying.  You can add a sprinkling of finely chopped, fresh thyme or an ounce or two of diced pancetta to the onions, if you like, but I prefer them plain.

Boulangere potatoes

Yield:  Serves 6

2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for the baking dish

2 yellow onions, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced, lengthwise

Salt and freshly ground, black pepper

2 lbs. potatoes (I like Yukon gold), peeled and very thinly sliced

1 c. very hot chicken or vegetable stock

2 tbsp. butter (or use dairy-free Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or Spread), cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Warm a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Drizzle in oil, then add onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to brown, about 8 minutes.  Season lightly with salt, reduce heat to low, cover pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and tender, about 20 minutes more.

While onions cook, peel and slice potatoes.  Generously oil a 2 qt. gratin or casserole dish.  Arrange a portion of the potato slices in the bottom of the dish, overlapping slightly in an inward spiral until the entire bottom is covered.  Season liberally with salt and pepper, then scatter some of the caramelized onions on top.  Continue layering potatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper, and scattering with onions.  Finish with a layer of potatoes.  Pour the stock over the top — it should be level with the top layer of potatoes — and dot with butter.

Cover dish with foil and bake 40 minutes.  Uncover dish and bake until potatoes are tender and top is browned, at least 40 minutes more.  Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

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