The dauphinoise potatoes or cheesy au gratin potatoes do not really need an introduction. A great classic of French cuisine, the potatoes au gratin is a perfect side dish that is relatively easy to prepare, always popular and ideal for a large table.
We’ve made it to accompany our perfect wood fired prime rib roast this Holiday. Lookup the recipe on our blog: Prime rib roast, definitely worth a try! What a feast.
Which potato to use for a potato gratin ?
Ideal gratin potato would be the Yukon Golds with Russet potatoes as a close second. High-starch potatoes, like russets, will absorb more liquid but will not hold their shape as well. Low-starch potatoes, red or white potatoes will hold their shape after cooking and absorb the sauce but can take longer to cook properly into a gratin and have less of a natural thickening effect.
Yukon Golds are a medium-starch potato, the slices tend to keep their shape while absorbing liquid and flavour as they cook.
A secret for a potato gratin always cooked to perfection
Nothing worse than a runny potato gratin or undercooked potatoes. If you have a lot of time, you could cook the gratin slowly and over low heat, at around 330F (160°C) for at least an hour – it typically takes more time. In a wood fired oven, this might require some babysitting.
I’ve found that pre-cooking whether I am making my dauphinoise or potatoes au gratin in a home oven or our Forno Venetzia wood fired oven is more effective and reliable. It also allows you to do the first initial step hours before the final cook.
Cream or milk or both?
It is quite possible to use different combinations of cream and milk and different fat levels. Thus, you could use half milk, half 35% cream or any other proportion of your choice. 10% cream is perfect, for a result that is not too rich but still totally satisfactory. Half & Half would be another great option while end result might be more runny. .
We would not recommend using only regular milk as you risk of ending up with a disappointing result. We don’t make a potato au gratin every week, so you might as well make a real one.
However, if you make a version without cheese, make sure you have a good proportion of very rich cream, otherwise your gratin will not brown very well.
Gratin with or without cheese and… which cheese?
The final debate is cheese. The classic gratin dauphinois does not contain cheese, it is the cream that simply browns the dish.
The version you have here does include cheese. Gruyère cheese or Comté cheese are the classic options but any cheese that melts could be used.
On the other hand, if for some reason you want to avoid cheese, know that it is therefore optional. It will then be essential to salt and pepper your gratin well.
Last tip: give it a rest before serving the gratin
One last important tip: let the potato au gratin rest before serving. It will then have time to set, it will be easier to serve, will be less runny and will hold up better on the plate.
Potatoes au gratin
- 1 large garlic clove - halved
- 1 shallot, cut in half pierce with a toothpick to keep together
- 1 tbsp softened butter
- 2 lbs of potatoes, peeled or cleaned see notes in article for the recommended type
- 2 cups of 10% cream or half & Half
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
- a pinch of ground nutmeg
- 2 cups of grated cheese (gruyère or comté or Maréchat)
- Rub a cast iron pan or gratin dish of about 10 inches with half a clove of garlic. When dry, butter the inside of the dish.
- In a large saucepan, combine: sliced potatoes, half a clove of garlic, the shallot, the combination of milk and cream or 10% cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat a little and simmer for 5-10 minutes, no more.
- Remove the shallot and the garlic clove. Transfer the mixture to your prepared cast iron pan. Here, you have two options: 1- Press well so that the potatoes are covered with the cream.2- For a more rustic look (such as the one you see here) and crunchy bits, layer the slices of potatoes vertically (like Hasselback potatoes) until you've filled up the pan with potatoes. Then transfer the cream mixture.
- Top with cheese and bake. Cook for about 35-50 minutes until the gratin is nicely browned and the potatoes are well cooked.
- Let rest for about 10-15 minutes, while your guests join the table. Bon appétit!