As you probably know, one of the Chef’s who inspired my love for cooking was Julia Child. Her approach to cooking is what I think I liked best. A Cordon Bleu certified Chef who brought French Cooking to the North American home cook. Whenever I get a chance, I try one of her recipes and they never disappoint.

I quite often reference her style in my classes at the Loblaw PC Cooking Schools as well as Longo’s The Loft –and just about any other venue I’m at. Never apologize, don’t take it seriously – how could you not love this approach to food. I love this recipe and have made it three times in the last month. It is very Provencal in ingredients and taste. If you have been to France, like any other country, you know that each region has its own unique cuisine – ingredients, methodology etc. Tastes can be distinctive and yes variations are as common as there are towns in the country. This is a wonderful variation that brings back many fond memories of my visits to France. If you haven’t been to France – go at least once and taste the different regional cuisines (easily done in Paris!).

Anchovies, not liked by all I admit, are critical to this dish. I used the bottled chili peppered anchovies in oil (oh come on now, what did you expect!). But you can also use just regular anchovies. That unmistakable taste when combined with garlic, fresh herbs and – not or, herbes de Provence is what takes me back. The paste is so delicious; you could just eat it spread on a baguette. The treatment of tomatoes is also unique. My friend Maria, from the “Italy meets India” series of classes at Loblaw’s gave me a bounty of red and yellow tomatoes and this was the perfect use for some of them. Sauté and cook the onions but don’t let them caramelize (although the next time I make this dish again, I might just do that) then when the onions are softened, add the cut seeded tomatoes.

Give this dish a try, with Thanksgiving coming up, it is significantly tastier than scalloped and just a nice addition to your repertoire of dishes. Make it your own – but as always, first try the original from the American Grand Dame of French Cuisine – Julia Child. This is her recipe – no variations to the ingredient list or methodology. As always – enjoy!

2 to 3 onions, thinly sliced (2 heaping cups)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes, seeded and cut into strips about 3/8-inch wide
1 2-ounce can/jar anchovies packed in olive oil, drained (reserve anchovies and oil separately)
2 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, such as thyme, oregano or savory, or 1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
About 2 pounds thin-skinned, waxy potatoes like Yukon Gold, sliced 1/8-inch thick (6 to 7 cups)
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyère

Heat oven to 400f and place a rack at the middle level
In a large saucepan, combine onions and 2 tablespoons olive oil and stir to coat over low heat
Sprinkle lightly with salt – at a gentle simmer, cook uncovered until onions are softened and lightly golden, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often. Do not brown; lower the heat if necessary
When done, fold in tomatoes just until heated through – set aside
In a small food processor or a mortar, add the anchovies — anywhere from 6 to 12 fillets, depending on their size and your taste – I used 7 peppered anchovies in oil
Add garlic, herbs (I used thyme and herbes de Provence) and a dozen grinds of pepper
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil – or use the oil from the anchovy jar, if you like
Crush or pulse together into a chunky paste, thinning with oil as needed to make a loose, fluid mixture
In a medium-size baking dish, spread a quarter of the onion-tomato mixture
On top, arrange half the potato slices, then half the anchovy mixture
Add half the remaining onion-tomato mixture
Build one more layer with remaining potato slices, anchovy mixture and onion-tomato mixture.
Sprinkle cheese on top and drizzle with olive oil – note, I did cheese at the end when the potatoes were cooked
If the dish is very full, place on a baking sheet to catch any drippings
Transfer to oven and bake, uncovered, until potatoes are tender and have absorbed all of the juices in the bottom of the dish, 40 to 50 minutes – mine took 1 hour and 15 minutes to be tender – test by tasting a bit of potato; it should be soft all the way through, with no raw taste
If the top is browning too fast, cover very loosely with a sheet of foil; if the top is not brown enough when the potatoes are cooked, broil briefly until deliciously glazed
Serve gratin hot or warm – can be cooled and reheated later the same day, but do not refrigerate


Onions sauteed to golden color, seeded and sliced red and yellow tomatoes – off the heat but warming through.


Raw potatoes on a bed of onion and tomato, slathered with the anchovy paste.


The final layer of onions and tomatoes. All that’s left is the cheese.


The baked gratin, a beautiful crust of cheese with every bite!


A scoop full of the gratin with additional olive oil – because you can, that’s why!