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Potatoes Au Gratin

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They may be classic for Thanksgiving but they're too delicious not to make year-round. Don't be intimidated by the name. Potatoes au gratin is actually really easy to master. Gratin quite literally means to cover with cheese or breadcrumbs and brown. You've got this.  

 What's the difference between potatoes au gratin and scalloped potatoes?

Great question! Gratins have cheese; scalloped potatoes do not...unless they're Loaded Scalloped Potatoes with cheddar and bacon. 😈.  Au gratin potatoes, also known as gratin dauphinoise, can be traced back all the way to late 18th century France, where the dish maintains its popularity today. 

Do I need a mandolin?

No, but it will make your life so much easier. If you don't have one, just be ready to practice your knife skills, and make sure to use a veryyy sharp chef's knife.

Milk or cream?

We like to use a combination of both. Heavy cream adds an unbeatable richness. Plus it makes the sauce kinda velvety. But an all-cream sauce would be intense. So to balance it out, we add milk. (Whole milk, not skim, is preferred!) If at all possible, resist the urge to skip the heavy cream; it's crucial for thickening the sauce. 

What kind of cheese should I use?

That's entirely up to you. Gruyère melts well and has a fantastic nutty flavor. And a nice peppery Parmesan is classic. We like to use both! But there aren't really rules. Fontina, mozzarella, or even a sharp cheddar would all work, too.

What kind of potatoes should I use?

Starchy potatoes, like russets, are best for potatoes au gratin. The starch is released during cooking to help thicken the sauce and achieve a luscious creaminess. The extra starch also helps keep the dairy from curdling while it cooks at a high temperature. Avoid waxy potatoes as they tend to stay slippery instead of melting into the cheesy sauce.

Do I absolutely have to peel them?

Yes and no. It depends on the type of potato you find! For thick skinner russets, it's best to peel the potatoes in order to maintain their uniform texture. If you have a butter potato or other similarly starchy thin-skinned potato, you can skip the peeling. 

Why do I need to cover with foil?

The foil helps cook the potatoes (they kinda steam and boil in the sauce) while the whole gratin is in the oven. We take the foil off during the last stretch of baking to get the top cheese layer golden and crispy.

What if my top isn't browning?

Since the heat in the oven is relatively moderate, your top layer may be stubborn and not want to brown. When this happens, we turn to the broiler. Once your potatoes are super tender and the sauce is bubbling, crank the oven heat and broil it for a couple of minutes until the gratin is golden on top.

How do I prevent watery potatoes?

Baked potatoes will release a lot of moisture, causing your final dish to be a little soupy. To help prevent that you can lay your sliced potatoes out on paper towels to help soak up some excess water. The last 15 or 20 minutes of baking you should also bake the dish uncovered. This will help some moisture escape and make your cheese nice and golden!

Let your dish rest for a few minutes after baking. This will allow your potatoes to absorb more of that cream sauce!

What should I eat with them?

You hardly need a special occasion to eat cheesy potatoes but it doesn't hurt. These are perfect for any celebratory occasion and make a great side to add to any holiday table. Or, you could pair them with perfectly crisp and juicy Roast Chicken and Grilled Asparagus to make the perfect Sunday dinner.  

How can I make this ahead?

If you want to make this ahead, assemble and bake the gratin and let cool completely while still wrapped in foil. Wrap the entire pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat at 375° for about 20 minutes.


Any leftovers will keep in a resealable storage container for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Have you made this yet? Let us know how it went in the comments below!

Editor's Note: The introduction to this recipe was updated on April 6, 2022 to include more information about the dish.

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Cal/Serv: 414
Yields: 8 servings
Prep Time: 0 hours 15 mins
Total Time: 1 hour 30 mins

russet potatoes, cleaned and peeled

2 tbsp.

butter, plus more for pan


cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 c.

heavy cream

1/4 c.


1 tbsp.

freshly chopped thyme

Pinch of nutmeg

Kosher salt

red pepper flakes

1 1/2 c.

shredded Gruyère

1/2 c.

freshly grated Parmesan

  1. Preheat oven to 375° and butter a large 3 qt baking dish. Slice potatoes 1/4" thick and place in water to keep from browning.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cream, milk, thyme, nutmeg, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Let simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Layer a third of potatoes, slightly overlapping, in prepared dish then pour a third of cream mixture over potatoes. Repeat with remaining potatoes and cream to make two more layers. Sprinkle Gruyère over top.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with Parmesan and continue baking until potatoes are tender and top is golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. 

Nutrition (per serving): 414 calories, 12 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 28 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 410 mg sodium

Ethan Calabrese
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