If the only potatoes au gratin you have ever had have come from a red box….that is a problem. Making homemade potatoes au gratin (aka potato gratin, gratin Dauphinois, scalloped potatoes, etc.) has a very large payoff-to-effort ratio. In English, that means that it’s pretty simple to make, but the results look and taste very impressive!
Potato Gratin Dauphinois (a fancy name for thinly sliced potatoes baked with garlicky cream)
Serves: 4 to 6; Total Time: ~ 1 hour (20 min active, 40 min baking)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 large or 6 medium potatoes, washed and peeled
- 1.5 cups half and half
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed (not minced)
- Salt and white pepper to taste (if you don’t have white pepper, just use black – the only reason for white is if you want to keep it fancy and free of black pepper specks)
- Fresh grated nutmeg, to taste
- 1 cup grated Swiss cheese (Gruyère would be ideal)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter a baking dish (I used these - one 1.25 quart plus one 16 ounce baker, but you can do this in any size pan - one large gratin in a 9×13 pan or a 9×9 square or individual ramekins! Just adjust the baking time accordingly with the thickness of your resulting gratin). Drizzle a little half and half in each dish to coat the bottom.
Place the remaining half and half, 2 T. of butter, garlic cloves, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a small sauce pan and heat until just beginning to simmer; reduce the heat to very low. Keep it warm (getting all that garlic flavor out of the cloves) until ready to assemble the gratins (once you are ready, remove the garlic).
Meanwhile, slice the potatoes very thinly. I used my food processor with slicing disk attachment, but it would have been just as good (if not better) to do this by hand – aim for about 1/8 or 1/16 of an inch thick. If you have a mandolin, by golly use that. I wish I had one.
Arrange a thin layer of potatoes in the bottom of the dish, followed by a sprinkle of cheese, and some hot cream.
Repeat the layering – with more potatoes, more cheese, and more cream – until you have about 3-4 total layers. Finish with cream (it should come up just to the top layer of the potatoes), sprinkle with a little more Swiss and with Parmigiano, and dot the top with remaining 2 T. butter (this will help the tops turn golden brown).
Bake, uncovered, for 30-50 minutes – depending on the thickness of the potatoes, thickness of the whole gratin and size of the dish. Check doneness with a fork- you want the potatoes tender (no crunch!), but also not mushy.
Drool, eat, repeat.