There’s something so satisfying about taking a sizzling Gratin Dauphinois out of the oven, isn’t there? This classic French creamy potato bake originates from the Dauphiné region of South-East France and is scrumptious at any time of year – as a side dish or even a main dish.
Creamy Potatoes – Lightening up on the Cream
Normally a Gratin Dauphinois is a pretty hearty potato dish with all that cream and so I like to lighten it up by mixing the cream with whole milk.
If you love a potato bake WITHOUT the cream – yes, believe me, it’s just as delicious – then you’ll love this melt-in-the-mouth Potato Gratin Savoyard recipe, which instead bakes the potatoes slowly in chicken (or vegetable) stock and is smothered in plenty of grated, bubbling cheese.
Gratin Dauphinois: with Cheese or Without Cheese?
According to Larousse Gastronomique, it states that you “can add cheese” to the Gratin Dauphinois, which leads me to mention the true definition it gives of the French verb “Gratiner“:
To cook or finish cooking a preparation in the oven, so that it presents a thin golden brown crusted layer on the surface. It’s quite delicate to obtain such a result by using breadcrumbs to a point where it bakes further than a brown colour. On the other hand, it’s relatively easy to add a superficial browning to the surface by adding grated cheese or breadcrumbs …
Chef Auguste Escoffier based his recipe on adding plenty cheese but, like Larousse Gastronomique, it’s a classic recipe where cheese is optional.
In general, I personally prefer it without the cheese, as it’s easier to pair with the rest of the meal (particularly if serving with salmon, for example). If entertaining with a full-on French meal with all the courses, bells and whistles, it also means that we can still serve a plateau de fromages cheese board.
Best Potatoes for a French Gratin Dauphinois?
First and foremost, choose a waxy potato variety such as Charlotte, Jersey Royal or Belle de Fontenay, as they keep their shape and have just enough starch to thicken up the creamy sauce as it bakes in the oven. For more on potato varieties and cooking them, see my French Market Potato Page.
The process is very easy. Slice the potatoes and coat them in hot milk and cream, nutmeg and seasoning, throw into a greased baking dish and bake. I often make this in advance earlier in the day if making for dinner guests – it takes the stress out of the meal preparation when you can reheat in about 15-20 minutes!
How to Serve Gratin Dauphinois
Normally a Gratin Dauphinois is served as a side-dish; I love to serve it with roasted chicken or pan-fried chicken I’ve rolled in thin slices of smoked bacon (poitrine fumé). It’s also delicious with salmon dishes – try the smoked version below if you want to tease your tastebuds!
However, it’s also great on its own as a light supper and ideal for vegetarians. If you do make this as a main dish, then here are just a few ideas to add to the classic dish to take it to the next level.
Gratin Dauphinois Variations
- Why not add a special touch of truffle salt? It gives a subtle background of earthy festive luxury;
- Add some bacon bits (lardons) – either plain or smoked;
- Add extra herbs (tarragon, thyme, sage, rosemary, extra parsley), depending on what you’re serving the Gratin with;
- And what about a smokiness, perfect with chicken or salmon. Read below.
Smoky Potato Gratin Dauphinois
I experimented with this dish to accompany salmon steaks and added a simple Lapsang Souchong teabag to the milk as it was heating.
The result? This has the most wonderful, subtle smoky hint to the potato bake, which is perfect for an Autumnal or Winter dish – just with using a teabag of smoked tea!
Have you made any of the recipes from le blog, my books, or fancy making this Gratin Dauphinois? Please leave a comment below – or why not take a picture and let me know on social media (links below). Or just share this blog article with friends and family. Thanks for popping in!
- 750 g (1lb 10oz) potatoes waxy varieties (Belle de Fontenay, Charlotte, Jersey Royals)
- 1-2 cloves garlic finely chopped (vein removed)
- 275 ml (10fl oz) full fat milk (half pint)
- 150 ml (5.5fl oz) double cream (or liquid crème fraîche)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg freshly grated or ground (no more than this)
- salt and ground black pepper to taste (I add a few pinches of truffle salt)
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme (optional)
- knob butter to grease the dish
- 100 g (3.5oz) emmental or gruyère cheese finely grated (optional)
- Preheat oven to 190°C/170°C fan/ 375°F/Gas 5.
- Peel the potatoes (although not always necessary - I love them cleaned with skins still on), wash and pat dry on kitchen paper. Slice them as thin as you can (3mm) either by hand (like I've done here) or with a mandoline (watch your fingers!) or the slicer attachment of a food processor.
- Heat the milk, cream and chopped garlic (depending how much you like your garlic!) in a medium saucepan (able to hold all the potatoes) until boiling. Turn down the heat to low, add the nutmeg, salt and pepper (a few turns of the pepper mill) then add the sliced potatoes (no need to wash, as you need the starch to thicken when it bakes).
- Cook for about 5 minutes, turning the slices over with a spoon so that the potatoes are well covered and heated in the cream. (If you prefer to add cheese, add it here).
- Butter a baking dish (26x18cm/10x7inch). Add the potato mixture to the dish, spreading them out evenly with a spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown