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early start

Recipe: potatoes au gratin

I’ve been thinking about our Thanksgiving menu a lot and not doing much about it, until today. So after watching weather reports and reading up on some climate modeler’s predictions, I made the decision to have an early Thanksgiving dinner à la turkey. I’m still playing around with various components, but one thing is for sure – we are having potatoes.

organic yukon golds

But we aren’t having mashies. While we both like mashed potatoes, we both love potatoes au gratin. It happens to be one of those dishes that benefits from an extra day of sitting around. The flavors mature with time.

slice them up uniformly

parcook in milk

So I started on the potatoes today as we will nominally have the bird and the works tomorrow. Honestly, when I think of the number of sides that are served at a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner, it makes me feel a wee bit sick in the tum. Is it me or is that an obscene amount of food?

adding hot cream and spices to the potatoes

The recipe comes from Fine Cooking, but I’m not sure which issue as it has appeared a number of times over the past several years. In the November 2008 issue of Fine Cooking, you can find a nice variety of gratins, but this one is fairly straightforward and delicious… and decadent.

layer cheese over the potatoes

The potato slices are parcooked in milk (I like them a little more than parcooked) and then hot cream is added along with some pepper, salt, and nutmeg. I personally love the combination of yukon golds with nutmeg and Gruyère cheese.

pour the remaining cream over the dish

I typically bake the potatoes until most of the cream becomes gooey and thick, the potatoes are soft, and the top is golden brown. The cream will continue to thicken as it cools. A nice way to serve it up is to take a biscuit cutter and slice out columns of potatoes au gratin (it should be cooled to warm so that it doesn’t fall apart). This is a definite crowd pleaser when entertaining.

this little serving packs a lot of flavor

Potatoes au Gratin
[print recipe]
adapted from Fine Cooking

2.5 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 pint milk
1 pint heavy cream, hot
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch nutmeg, ground
8 oz. Gruyère cheese, shredded
4 oz. Parmesan, grated
3 oz. bread crumbs (optional)
3 oz. butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Add the potatoes and milk to a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer the potatoes until they are parcooked. Add hot cream and season the potatoes to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Layer a fifth of the potatoes in a buttered baking dish. Layer a fifth of the Gruyère over the potatoes. Layer a fifth of the Parmesan. Repeat the process and finish with cheese on top. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake the gratin for 45 minutes or until cream thickens, potatoes are soft, and the top is golden. Let cool to warm before serving. (Jen’s Note: Flavor improves if left to sit for a day).

38 nibbles at “early start”

  1. Rosa says:

    A great ideaü That Potato Gratin looks delicious and really pleasing!



  2. Mrs Ergül says:

    This is bound to be a crowd pleaser!

  3. sharon says:

    Using a biscuit cutter is a fantastic idea! So cute.

  4. Kitt says:

    I like the cookie cutter presentation! Leeks and/or ham would be tasty in it, too.

    Happy early turkey day!

  5. Christine says:

    That’s one yummy looking gratin… love the presentation idea! (Though knowing my butter fingers, they will come out square) Have a great thanksgiving and do post your whole menu! (pity we don’t celebrate it here in Oz, but hey, I’m sure I’ll find an excuse to put out a spread anyways!)

  6. Happy Cook says:

    I love these and this looks so creamy delicious. When i makethem i add a garlic clove too

  7. peabody says:

    MMM, one of the best ways to eat potatoes. All that cream and cheese.

  8. Debbie Green says:

    Looks absolutely delicious…Great recipe! Thanks!

  9. Joanne at frutto della passione says:

    That looks great, I think I’ll add it to my Christmas day menu!

  10. Amy says:

    I wish we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year – I would make this in a heartbeat! Maybe for our Christmas dinner in December. I really need to pick up Fine Cooking; I’m just loving all the recipes you’ve posted about from it!

  11. Margie says:

    Comfort food, for sure. Thanks for the idea on presenting. I would never have thought of it and I’m sure it does pretty up the dish. These sound so yummy; I’ll be making them soon.

  12. Fiona says:

    That’s perfect. And Charles hates mashed potatoes, so maybe I’ll make these instead and save the day.

  13. Tartelette says:

    That sends me right back to my mom’s kitchen!! Love potatoes in all forms but I especially love them layered with cream and cheese!! Hope you get to sky on Thanksgiving, now that would just be the icing on the cake!

  14. Kathy says:

    This is one of my favorite dishes – comfort food which can be elegant when it needs to!
    Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  15. diana banana says:

    funny, last night i was thinking about making this and searched your blog for potato au gratin and come up with NOTHING! i put off making the potatoes…but now i have no excuse! thanks for the perfect timing! (though i’m planning on using up my block of cheddar instead of gruyere)

  16. Christina says:

    I would love to make this instead of mashed potatoes, but my family would balk if I ever suggested that. Definitely it’ll be something I make after Thanksgiving.

  17. Shari says:

    I think this is a perfect substitution for mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving!

  18. cindy says:

    my potatoes au gratin never turn out this lovely. great job and happy thanksgiving!

  19. Manggy says:

    OOOOH!! I just had an epiphany– the reason why the bottom layers of potatoes in the past never come out quite right is because I’ve never parcooked the potatoes before! Me so dumb. Now I’ve the confidence to take my gratin-love to the next level! Mwahaha! Thank you so much for the recipe, Jen, and happy (early) Thanksgiving! :)

  20. cindy says:

    I love the idea of cutting out little rounds. This would be great for my buffet Easter brunch (you know, where we celebrate baby chicks and bunnies and spring skiing). I am forced into making mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving–Sophie would cry if I did not. And she’s got a point that the gravy does need somewhere to go.

  21. marion says:

    it looks like the french “gratin dauphinois” which is a delight :)
    thanks for those great photos :)

  22. chris says:

    Looks tasty!

  23. Mollie says:

    Oh my god… you got those uniform slices with a KNIFE not a mandolin? You got MAD knife skillz girl! I’d be all about the mandolin… :) This looks so yummy and I love the biscut cutter idea – perfect for dinner parties. Or even a buffet – they can take a piece with less mess. nummmm

  24. jenyu says:

    Rosa – thanks. It’s quite rich, but soooo good :)

    Mrs. E – and a crowd fattener! hee hee

    Sharon – yeah, it finally dawned on me that there is a way to serve this dish without having it appear like vomit.

    Kitt – thanks, hon!

    Christine – If you let it cool enough (cooler than warm), cut it, then slip a spatula under the cutter and lift it all out then set it on the serving plate, it will work just fine (I think!)

    Happy Cook – I think garlic sounds great! You just can’t go wrong with potatoes, cheese, and cream ;)

    Peabody – yup, and then a death mark to work it all off – ha ha ha!

    Debbie – thanks!

    Joanne – yummm! I’m sure it will be a hit!

    Amy – it works great any time of year (but especially when it’s cold out!) I guarantee that you’ll love FC.

    Margie – yup! As I said above, if I don’t cookie cutter it, it winds up looking like a mass of puke ;)

    Fiona – ?? I can’t see hating mashed potatoes, but I do hope he goes for this dish.

    Tartelette – mmm mmmm mmm! Yes, I don’t know if we’ll have enough decent snow to ski, but I am starting to get a little desperate.

    Kathy – Happy t-giving right back to ya!

    Diana – wow, that *is* perfect timing :)

    Christina – that’s one of the reasons I like not having a traditional meal… because I get to experiment :) Hope you do make it eventually, I think you’ll like it!

    Shari – me too!

    Cindy – thanks!

    Mark – yar, I have had so many disappointing potato dishes (like a potato galette) because they are undercooked. Parcooking helps so much (but it took a recipe to get it through my head).

    Cindy – it’s definitely a good brunchy thing! I have to say that mashies do have a special place in my heart, but I like them with beef rather than bird. And the gravy goes all over the bird and stuffing :)

    Marion – hrm, I think that is what it is! :)

    Chris – thanks!

    Mollie – I don’t own a mandolin ;) I am also a little scared of them. Having a good knife (or knives) makes slicing and dicing so much more rewarding. But if you bring your mandolin, we will make plenty of gratins :)

  25. Kevin says:

    Baked cheese and potatoes; what a great combo!

  26. jenyu says:

    Kevin – it certainly is!

  27. Mary says:

    I made these over the holidays and they were a disaster (albeit a tasty one). Hopefully you can help me figure out where I went wrong. First, I had a hell of a time parcooking the potatoes. I kept the milk on a low simmer, but a layer of potato slices fused themselves evenly over the bottom of the pan and started to burn. I stirred them occasionally to try to prevent this, but I didn’t want to break up my pretty potato slices too much. Did this happen to you? Should I use the double boiler? Stir like mad? Turn down the heat? The next problem was that I baked the dish until it had a beautiful golden bubbly top to it and let it sit for a while, but when we cut into it at dinner it was very, very liquidy. And I hadn’t even added all the liquid because it didn’t fit in the baking dish. Was I really supposed to add 2 cups of milk + 2 cups of cream to the potatoes?

    Thanks for your help! I really enjoy reading and cooking from your blog (and don’t usually have trouble with the recipes).

  28. jenyu says:

    Mary – my potatoes tend to stick a little at the bottom, and yes, I do scrape them off and stir them around. I don’t worry too much about breaking up the slices since they all get layered and smothered in cheese and cream. I just use a regular pot to boil them. Perhaps turn down the heat and cover the pot (to help steam them). How long did you bake the potatoes for? I find I have to bake a minimum of 45 minutes to get the sauce down to a good creaminess – sometimes longer. Also, are you using full fat milk and heavy cream? How large was your baking dish? Just trying to trouble shoot if possible. I’m sorry you had such trouble with the recipe. How were the leftovers the following day? I find they thicken much better after a day (but are still good the day of – albeit a little runny).

  29. Mary says:

    Okay, I’ll stir more next time and also like the covered pot idea. The leftovers were still runny, though closer to right. I used a heavy round baking dish that was about 12″ in diameter. What size do you use? I also used skim milk, which may have been part of the problem. I baked it for 45 mins and didn’t bother checking whether the liquid had thickened because it looked so perfect on top. Obviously I’ll be careful to check this next time. Thanks for your help in debugging.

  30. jenyu says:

    Mary – I use an 11×14 dish, but I also add more potatoes than called for (maybe an extra 1/2 pound). Yeah, try using whole milk and see how that works. Good luck.

  31. Liz says:

    how many does this serve?

  32. Liz says:

    Can I prepare it the day before? If so, should I cook it the day before also & then re-heat it before serving?

  33. jenyu says:

    Liz – probably serves 8 easily as a side dish. You can prep the day before and cook it then reheat it the day you serve (the flavors are actually better the next day).

  34. Liz says:

    would it be less runny that way? I need to make enough for 18 people so I thought I would do 2 large pans – double your recipe & add some “extra” potatoes (it seemed very runny when I followed the directions & made a single batch earlier this week.
    Thanks – Liz

  35. jenyu says:

    Liz – as I stated in the post, it becomes less runny as it cools.

  36. tuesday nights | searching for my muchness says:

    […] menu featured glazed pork chops, au gratin potatoes, crescent rolls and the friend made crème brûlée. *drool* and then there was the champagne. mmm, […]

  37. Ann says:

    You say better cooked the day before. How to reheat? Thanks.

  38. jenyu says:

    Ann – you can reheat in the oven at 350°F until bubbly.

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