Great Gratins

We’ve all had something called potatoes au gratin. It comes from that Betty Crocker box and I’ve never really been sure of the difference between it and the similarly boxed scalloped potatoes. But, a real gratin is something of an unctuous marvel. All cream and melty cheese with a little bit of a crust on top, it’s marvelous. If I didn’t have to share, I could eat a whole one by myself.

Here’s the thing – gratin is kind of a method, not just a dish. You can make gratins out of most any vegetable. Here in the states, we seem to call most of these casseroles, but there are a fair number of gratins that we lump into this list.

From what I can tell, any dish of a vegetable baked in milk and/or cream, and topped with cheese is pretty much a gratin, so I’ve been eating them all my life and just didn’t realize it until I started paying attention.

Tonight, I made a wonderfully simple potato gratin, but I also make them with leeks, brocolli and cauliflower, and sweet potatoes. I just change the amount of liquid and the kinds of cheese.

Potato Gratin
1.5 pounds of potatoes (you can use any kind you want, I used Yukon golds)
2 cups of cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
4-5 oz of shredded Gruyere
4-5 oz of grated Parmesian

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

The key to the great potato gratin is to have thin, even slices of potato. I use a mandolin and slice them to about 3/16″. I wouldn’t make them any thicker than 1/2″.

Arrange the potato slices in layers in a 13×9″ baking dish. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the layered potatoes. Pour the cream over the potatoes. You want the cream to come about 2/3rds of the way up the potatoes in the pan, which can be kind of hard to tell. I used about 2 cups in mine. Sprinkle the nutmeg and pepper over the top. The even scatter the cheeses over the top. Assembly is easy here.

Put in the oven for about an hour – you want the cheese to be melted and starting to brown, and you want the potatoes cooked through.

You can play with the cheeses. Use cheddar or comte or other strongly flavored hard cheese.

This is an marvelous side and I really encourage you to try it from scratch, instead of out of the box.

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