Remember going to the video rental store? Sometimes Blockbuster could come up trumps. I love the convenience of Netflix but sometimes I miss just browsing. Thanks to browsing, I discovered Cold Comfort Farm in the "New Releases" section back in 1996 and rented it because I recognized Kate Beckinsale from Much Ado About Nothing and I already had a penchant for period pieces.
Cold Comfort Farm is a really good example of when a film adaptation works. I actually think I might like the movie better than the book! The most obvious reason why is the cast, which includes Joanna Lumley, Eileen Atkins, Rufus Sewell, Stephen Fry, and Ian McKellen. Cold Comfort Farm is wonderful fun (Joanna Lumley's character Mrs Smiley would tell me to say it's "amusing" instead of "fun") and still makes me laugh after at least a dozen viewings. I never get tired of watching Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale) attempt to tidy up her appalling country relatives and evade the advances of Mr. Meyerburg (Stephen Fry), the libidinous Lawrentian.
From Cold Comfort to deliciously warm comfort...
This is the old and oversized, warm and extremely cuddly sweater of supper dishes. Isn't there just something supremely satisfying and enveloping about anything au gratin? I like that this recipe has lovely fresh green herbs, which lend a nice freshness.
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ¼ cups (½ Imperial pint) heavy cream
1 ½ lbs waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into matchsticks
4 oz. hard cheese, grated (I use a mixture of Gruyère and Cheddar.)
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1 tablespoon chives, minced
2 tablespoons thyme leaves, minced
nutmeg, salt, and pepper
Place a baking sheet in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375º Fahrenheit. Butter a large oval gratin dish and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally and being careful to turn down the heat if the onions threaten to brown. Stir in the minced garlic and cook just until garlic is fragrant and remove pan from the heat.
Beat together the eggs and cream in a very large mixing bowl. Stir in the potatoes, half the cheese, all the herbs, and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Add the onions and garlic and stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared gratin dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Place gratin on top of the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes, or until nicely browned.
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from “Creamy Potato Gratin with Herbs” in Hilaire Walden, ed., Traditional British Cooking (London: Hermes House, 1997), 166.
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Cold Comfort Farm photo source
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