by John Idstrom on May 18, 2013

madmenus3When Don Draper screws the pooch, he doesn’t scribble around the margins — he dives straight into the deep end. So it goes with my efforts at nutritional correctness. Try as I might to adhere to Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before Six diet, when that sixth bell rings, I have been known to undo all my efforts in a decidedly Draper-esque fashion. CANNONBAAAALLL!

One of my favorite foods is the humble, albeit nutritionally bereft, potato: the pomme de terre, the tuber, the ‘tater, the Noble Spud. I believe that I’ve enjoyed potatoes in every incarnation I have eaten. Simply mashed, hash-browned, baked, boiled, home-fried, roasted, or tater-totted . . . it makes little difference to me. Put them in a salad with some yolked mayo, radishes, and celery if you wish — or even better, German style with vinegar and mustard.


Lately I have rediscovered a potato dish from my ’60s upbringing: the scalloped potato. In our family, this was a dish reserved mostly for holidays, and was often infused with chunks of ham. Today’s recipe is actually a post-dated version of the scalloped potato, which was made by mixing potato slices with milk, cheddar cheese, and onions, then baking. As an alternative to that tasty delight, I offer the Portobello Potato Gratin, a layered dish of pure culinary decadence and precious little nutritional value (despite the presence of the tasty portobellos). This dish relies on Yukon Gold potatoes, heavy cream, and Gruyère cheese, so partake at your peril. This is not exactly Longevity Kitchen cooking; rather, it is a heart attack on a platter. Regardless, life is short and often brutish. This will take the edge off.

Portobello Potato Gratin

5-6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
Heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Sliced portobello mushrooms

Splash olive oil in the bottom of a six-by-six-inch ovenproof dish. Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of potato slices, slightly overlapping them. Drizzle with cream, then cover with ¼ cup of the shredded cheese and some of the garlic slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat until all the potatoes are used, making at least four or five layers. Bake covered in a 350-degree oven for one hour. After 40 minutes, remove from the oven; spread portobellos on top and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for ten minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

While most would classify this as a side dish, it is the center of the meal for me. For a perfectly Draper-esque act of culinary recklessness, serve it with a bloody-rare steak and a Caesar salad.

When pitiful, colossal fuck-ups like Don Draper become more self-possessed, they do things like writing this kind of song:

Eat well and enjoy every sandwich . . . and the show.

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John Idstrom thinks and writes about food at

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