You can’t go wrong with the cheesy goodness of au gratin potatoes. It is an easy recipe to put together that even your pickiest eaters will enjoy. Originating in the Dauphine region of France (in the Alps), the dish was first mentioned in 1788, being served to the Duke of Clermont-Tonnerre.
It was the eve of the French Revolution, and food shortages were common. People were looking for a simple and hearty meal, and au gratin potatoes definitely fit the bill. The duke did not survive the Revolution, but fortunately for us, the recipe lives on.
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Making the sauce for Au Gratin Potatoes
In France, crème fraîche (heavy cream) is a staple, and we tend to use it in a lot of recipes. Some of the English recipes I have seen, however, use milk and flour to thicken the sauce. For me, this doesn’t have the thickness and richness of flavor as crème fraîche does.
If you can’t find heavy cream, the alternative I like best is to use Philadelphia cream cheese and mix that with milk. It gives that added punch that milk and flour by itself don’t have.
Shortcuts for Au Gratin Potatoes
The main problem with au gratin potatoes is that it takes quite a while for the potatoes to cook in the oven. If you are in a hurry, you can lightly boil the potatoes the night before to cut down the cooking time in the oven. I put them in the Instant pot for 8 minutes high pressure with quick release, peel them and then put them overnight in the fridge.
The next day I slice the potatoes, add the sauce and put in the oven for 20 minutes (you may need to precook the bacon if you are adding any). The total time over 2 days is about the same but for a working weeknight dinner, it is easier to put it in the oven for just 30 minutes, than a full hour.
What to serve with Au Gratin Potatoes
The original recipe that served to the Duke was as a side dish to a fowl main dish. Any type of roasted meat will do, but in France it is most often served with oven-roasted pork cooked in its own sauce. An alternative would be lamb or duck, along with a bottle of chilled dry white wine such as a Savoie or Chardonnay.
For a quick dinner, you can however also serve it with just some bread (a baguette) and a salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
Can you freeze au gratin potatoes?
I wouldn’t really recommend it because the cheesy sauce will not survive. I have kept it overnight in the fridge, but that is about the extent of it. Add more heavy cream and cheese if the gratin potatoes look dried out.
- 5-6 Medium-sized potatoes
- 1.5 cups of grated cheese such as gruyére or cheddar
- 1 cup of crème fraîche (heavy cream). Alternative: 1/2 cup of milk with 1/2 cup of philadelphia cream cheese
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 1 clove of garlic
- pinch of finely grated nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- a few leaves of parley (or chives)
- 2 cups or bacon lardons (or 500g of chopped bacon strips)
- 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions
- Wash and peel the potatoes and chop into thin round slices.
- Grease the casserole dish and layer the sliced potatoes across.
- Add any optional ingredients (bacon lardons, onions, etc) in between the potato slices.
- Mix the crème fraîche, butter, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl.
- Add the mixture over the top of the potatoes in the casserole.
- Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
- Add a few leaves of parsley on top for decoration.
- Cook in preheated oven for 45 minutes at 200C° (400F°) until potatoes and cheese are lightly browned.
If in a hurry, you can lightly boil the potatoes the night before to cut down the cooking time in the oven. Put in the Instant pot for 8 minutes high pressure with quick release, peel them and then put them overnight in the fridge.
The next day, slice the potatoes, add the sauce and put in preheated oven for 20 minutes. (Precook the bacon if you are adding it to the recipe.)
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1277Total Fat: 88gSaturated Fat: 43gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 39gCholesterol: 250mgSodium: 2450mgCarbohydrates: 66gFiber: 7gSugar: 7gProtein: 57g
If you enjoyed that, check out our other easy French recipes that are classic (with a twist). A bientôt.
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