Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Potato Gratin Dauphinois

This is a traditional French recipe from the Dauphine region of France and is kind of the ultimate potato dish for me. It is so rich that it's really the perfect side dish for your special occasions and always goes great with a rich serving of meat as the main dish, especially with beef tenderloin roast.

I can already tell that most people would agree with me: One of the many times I served this dish for a dinner party, one of our guests took her first bite from the potatoes and, with her mouth full, she said: "This is the best potato dish I've eaten in my life"...

Last summer, my sister and my brother-in-law were talking about their trip to Paris in past spring and all the French food they enjoyed during that time; they specifically mentioned the gratin dauphinois they ate at a restaurant, and it seemed like this was really one of the highlights of their food experience in France.

Well, you definitely do not need to go to France to enjoy it. Below recipe is from celebrity chef Bobby Flay with a few adjustments of mine, and it doesn't disappoint...

Ingredients: (Serves 6-8)

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 russet/baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8" slices
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated


  • Preheat oven to 375 F
  • In a large pot, bring heavy cream to a simmer.
  • Add potatoes, salt, pepper and garlic powder to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes get slightly soft. Do not cook for too long, that will cause the potatoes to fall apart.
  • Put the potatoes and cream into a 13 x 9 x 2 (or similar size)-casserole or baking dish, smooth out the top, and top with Gruyere cheese.
  • Put the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake in the oven about 40-45 minutes until potatoes are fork-tender and cheese is golden brown (Start testing after 30 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the potatoes, the toothpick should go in without resistance, once you have achieved that, take it out of the oven, we want the potatoes to be soft, but still keep their shape.)
  • Remove from oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. (You can also bake this dish slightly ahead of time and warm it at a 200-250 F oven before serving.)

Additional points:

  • Gruyere is sort of a "stinky" type of Swiss cheese, but do not be put off by the smell when you first open the package, it is really the perfect cheese for this dish and will not have that strong smell once it is cooked. If you do not want to use it or can't find it, you can definitely substitute with another one of your favorite cheeses; just make sure it is the kind of cheese that melts nicely and easily; aged cheeses, e.g. parmesan, usually do not work for this dish, because instead of melting into the gratin, they just built a hard-to-break crust on top.
  • I believe the traditional way of using garlic in this recipe is to cut the garlic clove in half and rub the inside of the baking dish with it (before putting the potato-cream mixture in) to give the dish a hint of garlic flavor. I prefer to use garlic powder, but you can choose to rub the garlic; or mince the garlic clove and add it to potato-cream mixture.
  • It may be a little hard to slice the potatoes into 1/8" slices by hand, but it is important for this dish that the slices are really thin and equal in thickness, so try to do your best by hand; it is also very rewarding to invest in a kitchen mandoline to make your life easier; there are different varieties and prices on the market, but you do not need to spend a fortune, I had bought mine for about $20 and it works great.
  • Do not rinse the potatoes after slicing; we need their starch for this dish; just be quick to handle them, otherwise they will turn dark being in contact with air.

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