Its glamorous reputation as the side dish of choice at expensive steak houses is rather ironic, since the ingredients for potato gratin are certainly pretty basic and there’s not a lot of culinary technique and skill needed to make it. As a result, potato gratin is a dish that can suit any occasion – the expensive steakhouse on a Saturday night.. or your rustic kitchen table on a Wednesday evening with the family.
Potato gratin is also known in France as Pommes Dauphinoise, named after the Dauphiné region of France, which is known for gratin dishes of all kinds. We often think of gratin dishes as having a lot of cheese on top, browned under a broiler, but in actuality there is no cheese in classic Pommes Dauphinoise. The potatoes and cream bake in the oven and a light crust is formed simply by the top browning as it cooks. I love the salty flavor of Parmesan cheese and cheat a little from the classic recipe by adding it on top of the gratin in this recipe.
An important feature of a classic potato gratin is the amount of garlic in the dish. Many recipes will tell you to simply rub the inside of the gratin dish with a clove of garlic. In this recipe, I add a smashed clove of garlic to the half-and-haf and simmer them together for 15 minutes to add a little garlic flavor ever-so-delicately. Sometimes I remember to remove that clove of garlic and sometimes I completely forget and tell my guests that it’s a lucky charm for whoever finds it.
The two most important parts of this dish are 1) slicing the potatoes properly and 2) using the right pan for the job. I like to use a Yukon Gold potato when I want a gratin that has distinct slices and Russet potatoes when I want a more uniform texture to my gratin, with the potatoes melting into the cream more completely. Whichever potato you choose, use a mandolin if you have one to slice the potatoes perfectly and evenly. With even slices, the potatoes will cook evenly and that’s the first key to success.
The right pan for the job is one that is not too deep. You want the heat to surround the potato gratin properly, giving the top surface full exposure to the heat. A pan that is too deep will insulate the top of the gratin and prevent it from browning properly. The classic potato gratin dish is an oval pan like this one. It makes a spectacular presentation at the table too, which is important since you can’t transfer the whole gratin to a serving dish. If you don’t have a classic gratin dish, any shallow-sided pan will do the trick and you can portion out the potatoes onto plates before taking the plates to the table.
You see? A versatile side dish – fancy enough to serve at the finest of tables in a classic oval gratin pan… or rustic and friendly enough to serve directly onto plates. Either way, it’s always delicious!
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I made the potato gratin. I had to use a glass dish, and it didn’t look as nice as yours, but it was delicious. I will make that one again. I enjoy your recipes and have several of your books. Please keep including the dog pictures; they are too cute.
These are the best! Made them in Easter and am making them today!!!
Made this recipe this evening and the sauce curdled why
Hi. Excessive heat will cause the milk in the half and half to curdle. You might have baked it a little too long, causing the sauce to break. It is still edible when this happens but not always so appealing. A quick fix is to pour a little heavy cream or half & half over top and sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top.
What if you don’t have half and half? Can you substitute something
Hi Cathy. For classic Potato Gratin, you can use all heavy cream for the recipe or 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream. Add more heavy cream at the end if needed to cover the potatoes in the pan before baking.
This recipe looks delicious. Can it be made ahead of time and what would be a good substitue for parmesan
Hi Patricia. While I think this is best when it’s just made, you can make it ahead of time. You can do some prep ahead of time very easily – reduce the cream and slice the potatoes; hold the potatoes in water; when ready to bake, drain and towel dry the potatoes; reheat the cream and add the potatoes and bake. Gruyere cheese or asiago cheese are good substitutes for the Parmesan. If you do make the whole thing ahead of time, re-heat it in a 350ºF oven for about 20 minutes or until it is heated through. You might need to add a little more cream during the re-heating process.
Please is it possible to include metric measures as an option. Thanks
You’ve got the best recipes Meridith. Thanks for all you share with us. I will try this since I am a big fan of scalloped potatoes. I just bough some from Costco but I am sure yours will be much better.