I Tried This Old School Recipe for Gratin of Potatoes and It’s Now on My List of Go-To Weeknight Side Dishes
Growing up, I spent many days eating potato gratin made right out of the box. Though I never had many complaints about it then, now as an adult, I’ve grown to enjoy it in ways that transform it into the delicacy that my younger self never knew existed. Adding in a cheesy béchamel equipped with loads of mix-ins such as chives, thinly sliced onions, bacon, and sour cream, I have grown to have a completely different appreciation for potato gratin and I’m not mad about it.
So when I stumbled across a group forum on Reddit raving about the Gratin of Potatoes recipe from 1981’s New James Beard cookbook, I just knew I had to try it. Even better, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the recipe only called for six essential ingredients and took under 10 minutes to prepare — which isn’t usually what you get from a world-renowned title. This recipe is much simpler, only requiring a knife as your prepping sidekick, and it comes together in a fraction of the time than most recipes for potato gratin require — including my own.
How to Make Gratin of Potatoes
This quick recipe starts with preheating the oven to 350°F. Next, you’ll grab a cutting board and knife to prep all of the ingredients that will soon come together in a casserole dish. Slice the potatoes into 1/4-inch slices and the cheese into small cubes.
After the potatoes and cheese are prepped, butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish with softened butter. Begin to create alternating layers of sliced potatoes and cheese pieces. When making this recipe, I ended up with two thin layers of both potatoes and cheese. If you’re using a smaller dish, however, you may end up with more layers of each.
Next, combine whole milk, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Once the mixture is thoroughly combined and there are no longer any streaks of egg, pour it over the potatoes and cheese. Now, it’s time for the easy part: placing the casserole dish into the oven and baking for 1 hour and 30 minutes — or until the potatoes are fork-tender and the top is golden brown.
Once it’s thoroughly cooked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for 15 minutes before serving. I made the mistake of digging in immediately after baking, and the roof of my mouth hasn’t been the happiest with me since.
My Honest Review of Gratin of Potatoes
One of the things that caught my attention from the start was that all you needed to prep this recipe was a knife. I’m a big fan of recipes that are accessible for home cooks and require minimum prep tools to pull off. One of my initial thoughts, though, was that the potatoes could definitely be sliced using a mandoline if you wanted to make a larger batch in half the amount of time. I also found it interesting that the cheese was supposed to be chopped into small cubes and not shredded. When making casseroles (or frankly, anything with baked cheese), I prefer to use shredded cheese so that there’s an even distribution of cheese throughout the entire dish.
Ultimately, I found the finished gratin somewhat delicious, though I struggled with the texture of the cheese and the lack of cheese-to-potato ratio in most parts of the dish. Keeping in mind that this is an easy adjustment for the next go-around, I will note that this recipe is an excellent foundation for an easy weeknight side dish. It has lots of room for flexibility, so if you’re looking to add different or more cheeses, thinly sliced leeks or onions, or even a hint of spice or smokiness, go for it!
2 Tips for Making Gratin of Potatoes
- Shred your cheese instead of cubing. To avoid not having an even distribution of cheese, I recommend shredding the cheese before layering it with the potatoes.
- Cover the gratin with foil the first half of the baking process. Covering the gratin with foil for the first half of baking then remove it during the latter half will help your potatoes tremendously. By not covering the gratin, I had to increase my baking time by 15 minutes because the potatoes were too firm. Allowing the potatoes to steam before browning will help them to even cook throughout the 90 minutes of baking time.