Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Potatoes au Gratin 101

Mmmm, creamy, melt in your mouth potatoes au gratin.  In France you would be making Gratin Dauphinois, where in the French Alps (the origin of this recipe) you would be cooking the potatoes in earthenware pots on the hearth.  This is our go-to recipe for potatoes au gratin.

It comes from this cookbook that I've had for about 17 years.  It is a collection of recipes by Monique and Patrick Esquerré.  Patrick founded the la Madeleine French Bakery in Dallas in 1983 (no, the Basil Tomato Soup recipe is not in this book).  Monique is his mother and is a cookbook author in France; and these are her, and generations of her family before her, recipes.   This recipe is just one of the many reasons I love this book.  It's not only full of unbelievably fabulous recipes from the Loire Valley of France; it's also an interesting read.

Okay, I'm getting off topic here.

This past weekend Lovey and I went to my brother and sister-in-law's home for a Memorial Day celebration.  It's always fun to fellowship at Jim and Amy's.  There is always good food, good wine, and great family and friends.  The best part is sitting around their big table and eating, laughing, and telling all sorts of stories that I wish I had on tape.

But before I get to the recipe I just have to show you another reason why getting together with a lot of family is just so much fun...Babies.  And right now we have two of the cutest!


And Eva

Okay ~ now I'll get to this recipe.

One of the dishes Lovey and I brought to the celebration were these potatoes.  And let me tell ya folks, if you want people's eyes to roll back in their heads and ask who made the potatoes, just make these...but make a lot!

Here are some reasons this recipe is fun to make....

You get to use really dangerous pieces of kitchen equipment:
Slice the potatoes thin.  See how perfect mine are?  I just have this fabulous skill with knives.  Not really.  I use a mandoline; which is a very handy tool in the kitchen.  But NOT one to teach your toddler how to use.  Sacre bleu, I know adults I wouldn't allow near this piece of equipment!  It is S.H.A.R.P.

You get to slather your gratin dish or baking dish with soft butter then rub it down with sliced garlic:
And just think, these flavors will seep into the potatoes as they bake in the oven.

You get to use the too cute mini grater that's used for grating whole nutmeg and whole nutmeg only:
Christanne gave it to me.  I love it.  It even lives in the spice drawer next to the tin of nutmeg.

You get to actual BOIL milk and simmer cream:
Now, I ask many recipes actually let you to boil and then simmer the milk and cream.  And what's even better, the potatoes are slowly simmering in this heavenly concoction.

I think I've given you enough reasons to make this, just for these cooking pleasures alone.  Wait until you experience the pleasure of eating these!

Here they are on Jim and Amy's table, waiting to be devoured.  As you can see someone has been sampling before the meal got under way...that was me.  And, it was at my house way before we loaded it into the car.  I just couldn't wait.  And since I am the cook, I can do that.

Potatoes au Gratin
From From a French Country Kitchen by Monique Esquerré and Patrick Esquerré
Serves 4

1 bay leaf
1 cup of milk
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided use
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
Grated fresh nutmeg to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound potatoes
1 clove garlic
2/3 cup grated Gruyère cheese

Mise en place:
  • measure out milk into a Dutch oven
  • peel potatoes and slice very thin
  • peel garlic and slice in half, lengthwise
  • measure out cream
  • grate cheese
Boil milk with bay leaf in saucepan, taking care not to let it boil over.  Preheat oven to 325°F

Add 3 Tbsp butter, salt, pepper, grated nutmeg, cream, and potatoes to the pan with the hot milk.  Simmer, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon to separate potatoes.  Cook 20 minutes or until just tender.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Grease an au gratin dish with remaining 1 Tbsp. of butter.  Rub dish with cut piece of garlic.  Pour in potatoe mixture and sprinkle with grated Gruyère cheese.

Bake potatoes for 40-45 minutes.  If surface of potato mixture is not browned sufficiently, place under broiler for about 3 minutes.  Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

 A quote from the book that, I must say, Jim and Amy do very well:
French Maxim -
To invite people into your home is to take charge of their happiness during the time they are under your roof.

Thanks for such a wonderful day Jim and Amy!!


  1. This looks delicious! I'm your newest follower and I have to say, I love your blog! So many recipes that I want to try! Thanks for sharing. I'm telling all my friends about you!

    1. Ali, welcome and thank you for the kind compliment!