A classic French Dauphinois is now enjoyed around the world, which is no surprise as it is utterly delicious. The combination of potatoes soaked through with garlic-infused cream then slow cooked to melting perfection is about as good as it gets when it comes to comfort food.
The best potatoes to use for a gratin are floury types, the softness of these potatoes means they will soak up all the lovely, creamy, garlicky creaminess. If for any reason you need to cut down a little then replace the creme fraiche with milk but never use only milk, the dish needs the creaminess to make it taste as good as it does. You can always eat a little less.
- 5 cups whole milk
- 2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups crème fraiche (substitute sour cream)
- 2 garlic cloves, very lightly bruised to release the flavour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/16 teaspoon (pinch) freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese (optional)
In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the potatoes, milk and garlic to a gentle simmer. Continue simmering the potatoes for 15 minutes, until they just start to turn tender; be very careful not to overcook the potatoes as they need to hold their shape for layering in the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Drain the milk from the pan and add the heavy cream, crème fraiche (or replace with the milk already used if you need to cut down and make the dish lighter), salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the hot potatoes. Heat the cream mixture to barely a simmer (a few bubbles are fine but no more) for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender, but again, not falling apart.
Butter a large baking dish and carefully, using a slotted spoon, lift the potatoes into the dish and layer carefully without breaking them up too much. Gently cover with the cream from the pan.
Finally, sprinkle the Gruyere cheese over the potatoes and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are golden brown on top and the cream soaked up.
Serve the potatoes hot alongside roast lamb (a classic combination) or other meats; the gratin can also be eaten on its own.
Alternative Way to Serve a Gratin Dauphnois
Alternately for a restaurant-style serving, you can leave the gratin to cool in the dish until cold then pop it into the refrigerator for at least a few hours, it will also keep well overnight. When ready, use a tart cutter for individual portions. They can be reheated by wrapping in foil and popping into a very hot oven.
Cook's note: This is a great make-ahead side dish. Simply refrigerate it for up to 1 day before the final baking stage.