French potato gratin Savoyard - a classic family recipe without cream using stock, thinly sliced potatoes, onions and cheese. Either use a fruity Emmental cheese, or for something more robust use Beaufort, another famous cheese from the Savoy (Savoie) region in the Alps.
Cheesy Gratin Scrapings
According to my Larousse Gastronomique (French culinary dictionary), a gratin is a family dish, brought to the table directly from the oven. While it's still bubbling hot and set down ready to serve, all eyes in our household are on the top crusty layer of cheese.
It never fails to surprise me just how much Antoine and the girls fight over who gets to scrape the last pieces of crunchy remnants that stick to the dish.
Cheesy Gratin with No Cream - Just Stock
Over the years, I have been making this family favourite gratin, inspired by my now tattered and loved-to-bits French table recipe book by the Scotto sisters (edited by Gilles Pudlowski): France The Beautiful Cookbook.
It's simply layers of extra thinly-sliced potato, interspersed lightly with grated Emmental cheese. Before whacking it in the oven, chicken (or vegetable) stock is quickly poured over it so that while baking, the gratin cooks itself in the juices without having any problems of curdling cream or, indeed, worrying about our arteries!
Is Potato Dauphinois the Same as Potato Gratin?
Not to be confused by the rich, double-creamed Gratin Dauphinois, this gratin has no cream or milk in it. If you prefer the double creamy version, then here is my version of a French classic, Gratin Dauphinois.
What Kind of Potatoes are Best for Making a Gratin?
To make gratin potatoes from scratch, you'll first need good quality potatoes.
Ideally for this gratin, I like waxy potatoes, as they keep their shape. Use waxy and robust potato varieties such as Charlotte, Belle de Fontenay, Anya, Desiree, and Russet. Jersey Royals are good but they're smaller, so not so easy to slice.
Having said that - if you've no potato gendarmes around - basically any potato I’ve tried works well. Even floury potatoes like Maris Piper, although waxy is best as they thicken the stock making it into a sauce.
See more about potatoes on the market pages.
Tips for Making the Best Potato Gratin from Scratch
Now that you've got your potatoes, the secret is to slice them as thinly as you possibly can. Anytime I hand-sliced potatoes that were not so thin, the result wasn't as even and took far longer to cook. The thinnest potatoes slices will ensure even cooking and all the flavours mingling in the oven.
To make the thinnest potato slices, ideally use a food processor. This makes the whole process much quicker and uniform.
However, if you have a mandoline slicer, PLEASE use the safety attachment, as it's pretty dangerous for slicing large quantities of potatoes (I speak from experience when slicing off the tip of a finger trying to make a pineapple carpaccio years ago!).
Cheeses Used to Make a Potato Gratin Savoyard
This is lighter than the French classic, Gratin Dauphinois. Before serving scatter with freshly chopped flat parsley or other fresh herbs of your choice.
A note on cheese: we use French Emmental cheese, which is light and fruity and ideal for making this gratin dish. However, you may prefer something much more robust in flavour, depending on what you're serving with it. So use another French Savoie cheese, Beaufort, or a mix of the two. The result is quite powerful, with a fruity and nutty taste.
French Potato Gratin Savoyard
- 600 g (1.25lb) Waxy potatoes peeled, washed & sliced very thinly
- 1 large onion sliced thinly
- 150 g (5.5oz) Grated cheese good quality Emmenthal, Gruyère or Beaufort
- 300 ml (10floz) Chicken stock (or vegetable)
- good pinch each nutmeg, salt, pepper
- 50 g (2oz) butter unsalted
- 1 tablespoon fresh flat parsley finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/Gas 5.Peel the potatoes, wash and pat them dry. Slice them as thinly as you can, preferably using a slicer attachment of a food processor (if using a mandoline please use safety attachment and watch your fingers!) Place them aside and slice the onion(s) in the same bowl of the food processor.
- Boil the chicken (or vegetable) stock, adding the nutmeg, pepper and salt.
- Grease a baking dish (26x18cm/10x7 in) with some of the butter. Spread a uniformed layer of potatoes covering completely the bottom of the dish, then some onion, and sprinkle with a fine layer of cheese. Continue layering like this until there's enough potato for the last layer. Pour over the hot stock, top with a final layer of cheese and dot with the remaining butter.
- Bake for about 40 minutes until golden and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
Tip: cut the potatoes into the thinnest slices possible by using a food processor – and use good quality chicken stock and good cheese (preferably not from a packet!).
A very belated thank you for posting this recipe! This is going to become a favourite in my family. I feel very privileged to have given rise to a post on your blog!!
Linda, the pleasure is all mine. I loved that you asked me to post this just from seeing it on Instagram stories. Gave me motivation, so thank you!
This sound really wonderful, Jill. And, at my age, while I still love a creamy Dauphinois, lighter food makes for better sleeping! Will definitely try this in my new gratin pan from Dehillerin!
That sounds a posh pan, David. Enjoy the recipe - yes, nothing like a better night's sleep!
I completely understand your dilemma on getting the photo: get the photo or feed the family? Especially when it's dark by 5pm, lighting is a big issue, even here in CA in winter. However, that said, I can still see just how delectable this dish is! I've never made a potato dish like this without milk or cream! Looks like there's yet another recipe on my "to make" list!
Your family is very fortunate, and I hope they realize that! 🙂
You're so kind, thanks Christina on the photos. And great you haven't made this before without cream or milk - really hope you try it as it's one of our family favourites.
Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe. Particularly interested because, as you say, it is kind to the arteries. Love the description of the potatoes in the chicken stock and the fight over the remnants Thank you.
Lovely to hear from you, Liz. Hope you make this, since it's a handy comforting recipe without all of the extra calories (not that I count, though)!
Marie-Christine de Cassagnac
I have a great recipe for gratin dauphinois. A great chef gave me the recipe a long time ago (at least 20 years!) and I only use this one since.
It's cooked in two sessions (in the gratin dish) and it's jus a "tuerie" All my guests ask me how I make it, it never fails.
Good for you, Marie-Christine. Sounds lovely. I do hope you try this version which is very different from the Gratin Dauphinois without all the cream or milk ... 😉