It can be quite confusing. What I grew up with as scalloped potatoes or even sometimes (for those higher-end-posh pot luck suppers) potatoes au gratin are basically variations on the same theme. My personal favorite is a simple Gratin Dauphinois. The kind Grandma would have made (except she wasn’t French).
So, I don’t want breadcrumbs or cheddar cheese or bacon or fennel or wild mushrooms or bay leaves or heavy cream or reduced-fat anything. Those are wonderful in their place and time just not here and now.
I want simple. I want affordable. I want easy. And I want delicious. Is that too much to ask?
You know, a side dish that says you’re the kitchen cat’s pajamas when you show up bearing gifts at Friendsgiving.
Once again, I turn to Julia.
Begin with the milk. Not heavy cream. And not ultra-pasteurized organic milk! Don’t misunderstand, I love the organic part but not the ultra-pasteurized. Not for this. Already cooked too much and it just doesn’t work so well. We need a good creamy full-fat whole milk the less cooked the better. Indeed, the closer to the farm the better.
And we only need a cup of it. We’re using good milk and a little butter instead of heavy cream (which I may or may not have in the refrigerator anyway).
I turned to a local dairy that still sells milk in glass bottles. At the grocery store, that is.
(You got me, I only used less than half of that beautiful block of cheese.)
And what kind of potatoes do I want?
While I’m sure you could find a thousand and one recipes on the internet or in your cookbooks for every conceivable variety of potato known, I just use the softer yellow ones. Russets or Yukons. I’m unlikely to find Maris Piper (most popular in the U.K.) or Belle de Fontenay or Desiree at the local grocery. The local farmers produce some interesting varieties but that season’s sadly fading. You do you.
About two pounds of potatoes. By weight. I get nervous with recipes that say use five or six or somesuch. Potatoes vary greatly in size. More than eggs! So, if you can, grab your kitchen scale. If you don’t have one, use your best guess on half of that five-pound bag.
Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.
Peel the potatoes then slice them nice and thin. An eighth-of-an-inch is perfect. Today I used my trusty mandoline. I have an older one very similar to this one.
We’ll move a bit quick here so the potatoes don’t turn brown on us. You do NOT want to soak them in water, they’ll lose some of the starch we’re counting on to help thicken everything up.
Bring the milk, butter, salt, pepper, and finely-minced garlic to a boil over medium-high heat.
I also like some grated nutmeg. It’s traditional but not part of Julia’s recipe. Up to you.
Add the potatoes and cook for a few minutes stirring frequently. The mixture should start to slightly thicken.
Transfer to your buttered baking dish or, if you’re like me, put your flame-proof and oven-safe dish straight into the oven. I’d rather it stuck a bit to the sides than have to wash another pan but that’s just me.
Let it bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle a cup of Gruyère cheese (my favorite is real-deal and affordable from Switzerland via Costco — it’s usually too expensive in the grocery store) over top. Then some chopped fresh chives if you have them.
Back in the oven for 10-15 minutes to let everything melt and brown up.
Once it’s done, let it cool for at least 10 minutes so it has a chance to firm up a bit.
That’s it! It’s that easy! Taste it…see, what’d I tell you?
Gratin Dauphinois (Scalloped Potatoes au Gratin)
Gratin Dauphinois (Scalloped Potatoes au Gratin) is the side dish that says you’re the kitchen cat’s pajamas when you show up bearing gifts at Friendsgiving. Easy, affordable, and old-fashioned delicious. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 1 cup whole milk not ultra-pasteurized
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely-minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
- 1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
- chives, chopped (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.
Peel and slice the potatoes very thin, about 1/8 inch thick ideally.
Bring the milk, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and finely-minced garlic to a boil.
Add the potatoes and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the sauce begins to thicken.
Transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. A small knife inserted in the middle should meet little resistance when done.
Sprinkle with the cheese and chives, if desired of course, and return to the oven for 10 minutes more to melt and brown evenly.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes.