The most luscious & lovely of all the side dishes
Growing up, the Potatoes Au Gratin, or scalloped potatoes, we had at the dinner table did not look like the version I make today! It came from a box and I think if we had eaten it in the dark, they would have glowed orange! And although they may have been glowing orange and made of powdered cheese and dehydrated potatoes, I still loved them.
I see those boxed potatoes in the market to this day and I am always tempted to buy them, but I stopped eating those boxed potatoes a long time ago. I just can’t bring myself to do it. (I feel like Ina would be too disappointed in me.)
A good while back, I decided it was time to make the real, grown up version of Potatoes Au Gratin. I read many recipes , watched several videos, tested countless recipes and had many, many failed attempts. There were versions that were watery, versions of undercooked potatoes, potatoes cooked perfectly but lacking flavor, and the worst of all, the version that resulted in a dish of mushy potatoes sitting in broken cream. And lets face it, if they aren’t done right, they aren’t worth the calories! Yet, as frustrated as I was, I persevered on my quest for perfect Potatoes Au Gratin because I knew it could be done perfectly.
Success is finally found!
I finally found success in perfecting a savory, satisfying and rather elegant Potatoes Au Gratin recipe. It was worth all the effort, trials and tribulations to demystify the challenges of this finicky dish. It is the perfect side dish to serve with a bistro steak, rack of lamb or roasted chicken, and I. Just. Love. It! It’s become one of my favorite recipes, especially for special occasions.
Why this recipe works
The potato. The type of potato matters very much in this dish. You must choose fresh, russet potatoes. Every other style potatoes turned to mushy.
Technique. After much testing, the perfect thickness of potatoes is exactly 1/8″. This is the perfect job for a mandolin.
Seasoning. Many recipes call for simply cream & potatoes, but it’s not enough to excite the palate. This dish responds really well to a touch of thyme so I infuse the cream with thyme before introducing it to the potatoes.
Ingredients. Cheese. Traditionalists may say cheese does not belong here. Well, they are wrong. Au Gratin potatoes call for cheese while scalloped potatoes do not. The two are often confused. You need a touch of cheese to introduce a sharpness and a flavor in this dish that you can’t get with cream alone. You don’t need much, but you need it.
Cooking. Covering the dish for part of the cooking time allows the potatoes to braise in the cream without drying out the top layer or burning it.
Resting. This is a very important step. This is a dish that needs a solid rest time of 10-15 minutes to let the dish set and cool, so you can enjoy it at its height of texture & flavor.