When the weather outside is chilly and you have a lot of people to feed it's nice to have some standby dishes that are easy to make, delicious, and unquestionably comforting. Enter Gratin Dauphinois — a recipe born in the French Alps that combines scalloped potatoes, cream, and garlic all baked to perfection.
Traditionally Gratin Dauphinois does not include cheese, although its creamy consistency often makes people think there must be some in the dish. Nope, it's just the cream, the cook time and the starch from the potatoes.
For the recipe that follows, we used a combination of recipes. We got out the classic recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, The Joy of Cooking, and then popped over to the internet to look at the recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini — and ours lands somewhere in between.
What You'll Need
2 pounds Potatoes (Yukon Gold is our preference)
2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh is best, but use what you have)
1 tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy whipping cream
Casserole dish (about 10 inches in diameter)
Large sauce pan or wok
1. Peel the potatoes and slice to about 1/8" thick rounds. Don't rinse once you've sliced! You lose the starch.
2. Put the potatoes, milk, salt and nutmeg into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, turning, turning so you don't scald the milk like we did.
3. While the potatoes are cooking slice open a garlic clove and rub it all over the bottom and side of the casserole dish to evenly coat the inside with the heavenly smell of garlic. Grease the dish with butter for a little extra flavor.
4. Mince the 2 cloves of garlic.
5. Place half the potatoes into the dish, sprinkle with salt, add half your creme fraiche, and half the garlic.
6. Add the rest of the potatoes and repeat with salt, creme fraiche and garlic (pepper is optional)*. Then pour the thickened milk from the saucepan into the dish filling the gaps with creamy goodness.
7. Bake in an oven at 425 for 30-40 minutes or until the top looks golden and done.
*There shouldn't be more than 2-3 inches of potatoes in the dish so that it bakes correctly. If you want to double the recipe, it's a good idea to use separate baking dishes or one larger one so that it remains on the shallow side.
If you want to add cheese we like Gruyere and we actually made a second batch with it to see the difference. We followed the same recipe but added 1/2 cup of grated gruyere between the layers of potatoes and what we found was although the cheese gave a nice layer of flavor it actually made the dish less creamy and a little bit more dry.
Either way it's a great dish to make ahead of time and reheat (we do 350 for 15-20 minutes), it only gets more oozey and delicious the next day. Serve it alongside a roast or as the main dish with a nice simple salad with vinaigrette.
For more gratins, check out our archives!
(Originally published March 11, 2010)
(Images: Laure Joliet)