ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Gratin Dauphinois” from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child et. al.*
TIMING: 1 hour, at most
DIFFICULTY: Easy, but requires rule-following and an ability to adjust
TOOLS: Just a proper baking pan
COOK TYPE: Oven
HEALTH: We all know veggies are tops, and I am a firm believer in the integrity of the potato. However, these potatoes are simply swimming in butter and cream and cheese, so you aren’t going to get away with eating these every day, or even once a week. But the French get around all this by using premium ingredients, limiting portions, staying active, and making an event of main meals, among other things. (See French Women Don’t Get Fat.)
EXPERIENCE: .This is one of those foods which I have been attempting to conquer for a long time. Every scratch-made potato gratin or scalloped potatoes I have tried to make have turned out under-cooked and watery, and sometimes curdled. But who doesn’t love a good gratineed potato? So when I came across this version by Julia Child, I thought, This has to work. And then I paired it with the willingness to let that sucker cook as long as it needed to.
NOTES: In the end, I probably cooked this twice as long as Julia recommended. You’re just going to have to keep an eye on it. You want the top to be brown and bubbly, you want all of the liquid to be absorbed, and you want the potatoes to be tender. Anything less will be terrible.
It is very important that you slice the potatoes pretty thin, and even more important that your slices are even.
Traditionally, the inside of the baking dish would be rubbed with a cut garlic clove before the butter, but I find this less subtle and more pointless. Go ahead and try it if you want.
Also traditionally, this recipe uses Swiss cheese. I prefer cheddar, because I’m American. I can’t help it. But there are plenty of cheeses which would be great here. You want an assertive flavor and meltability.
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Peel 2 pound golden potatoes and slice 1/8 inch thick. As you cut, slip them into a bowl of cold water.
- Rub a 10 inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon softened butter. Drain the potatoes and lay out on a clean towel. Cover with another clean towel and dry as best you can.
- Spread half the potatoes in the baking dish. Cover with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch pepper, 2 tablespoons butter in pieces, and 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese. Spread the other half of the potatoes and cover with another 1/2 teaspoon salt, pinch pepper, 2 tablespoons butter pieces, and 1/2 cup grated Swiss.
- Pour 1 cup hot milk over the top.
- Bake for 45 minutes, until the top is brown and all the liquid is absorbed.
Serve with almost any dinner, especially in the dead of winter. This would pair well with all sorts of European or American meat-and-potatoes meals, like steak, roast chicken, and whatnot.
*Recipe changed from the original.