You can’t go wrong with the cheesy goodness of Gratin Dauphinois (otherwise known as 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 Gratin Dauphinois definitely fit the bill. The duke did not survive the Revolution, but fortunately for us, the recipe lives on.
Making the sauce
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.
Traditional and Optional Ingredients
Now the traditional French recipe for Au Gratin Potatoes just calls for cheese, heavy cream, and potatoes but you can easily add other optional ingredients. The typical cheeses used are gruyère and emmental, but any hard cheese will do.
The Savoyard classic tartiflette builds on the classic au gratin potato recipe by adding bacon and onions, and there is no reason that you cannot as well.
If I’m planning it as a whole meal and not as a side, I usually add bacon lardons and fresh spinach, as well as finely chopped onions. Chopped up broccoli or fresh tuna also does really well in this dish.
The main problem with Gratin Dauphinois 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.
☞ READ MORE: Classic French Recipes remade in the Instant Pot
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). Some people try to arrange the potatoes in proper slices, but I confess I just toss them in. It hasn’t affected the taste just yet!
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.
Frequently asked questions
What to serve with it?
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.
What drinks to serve with it?
Since this is a heavier cheesy dish, it is usually not served in the summer months. Because of that, it is usually served with a dry red like Vin de Savoie.
If you prefer white, go for a dry white like a bottle of chilled dry white wine such as the aforementioned white Savoie or Alsace Pinot Gris. A Coteaux d’Aix en Provence also is quite lovely.
Can you freeze it?
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, emmental, 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
- 1 cup of rinsed fresh spinach
- 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
Note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for informational purposes only.
☞ READ MORE: ABC of French Cuisine (the Food Dictionary)
If you enjoyed that, check out our other easy French recipes that are classic and easy to prepare. Bon appétit and à bientôt !
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