Au gratin potatoes may sound fancy and difficult, but these delicious potatoes are really quite easy to make.
“Au gratin” is a French term and simply means something that has a topping of bread crumbs or cheese.
These elegant potatoes are one of our easy recipes for entertaining. It’s a simple mixture of potatoes, cream and cheese. But simple certainly doesn’t mean ordinary. Not in this case.
A potato gratin is made with sliced potatoes layered with cream, with a cheese and/or cheese and bread crumb topping. The potatoes come out with a nice browned crust on top of creamy soft sliced potatoes. It’s simple, but simply delicious.
I use Gruyere cheese for this creamy potato recipe because it’s the traditional cheese used for au gratin potatoes. Gruyere cheese is perfect because it’s a tasty cheese that melts really well, creating a cheesy, gooey sauce.
It would be just as delicious if you use Swiss cheese instead of the Gruyere. Some people choose to use an older cheddar cheese, which has a bit of a different flavor, but is still great tasting. All of these cheeses melt really well and that is important in this recipe.
I also add a bit of Parmesan cheese to the mixture. Parmesan is a great addition to recipes like this (or to mac and cheese) because it adds a bit of salt and a nice strong cheese taste to the sauce.
Should you use Milk or Cream for This Au Gratin Potato Recipe?
Traditionally this au gratin potato recipe is made with cream. Cream really does make these potatoes heavenly. You can use whatever kind of cream you want, but 18% cream works nicely.
You can also choose to make the potatoes using milk. The only possible issue with milk is that it is much thinner than cream. If you use milk, your sauce may not thicken as much while the recipe cooks and you could end up with a runny sauce.
So, for those of you who would prefer to cook the au gratin potatoes in milk rather than cream, I have provided you with optional instructions to thicken the sauce with cornstarch and water.
I slightly prefer the taste and texture of this potato dish made with the cream, but they are nice made using milk as well. Plus, we’re not all on a cream budget. Or you may just want to cook with what you already have on hand. Not a problem either way.
Don’t Let the Cream Boil
Whether you use cream or milk, it is important to remember to watch the potato mixture carefully when you are precooking them in the milk/cream. You shouldn’t really let the cream come to a rolling boil. Turn down the heat just as the cream is about to boil.
Letting cream or milk come to what is often called a hard boil or a full boil can make it separate and curdle.
What I do is watch the cream/milk and potato mixture carefully as it heats up. As soon as you see bubbles starting to form as it begins to boil, turn the heat down.
If you love potatoes, especially potatoes in a creamy, cheesy sauce, you will love this recipe for au gratin potatoes. They are pretty easy to make but are perfect potatoes to serve at a family dinner or when you are entertaining.
This potato gratin can be served with so many things. Because it’s nice and creamy you can serve it with plainer meats like baked chicken or roasted beef or pork. It think it even tastes wonderful with baked salmon or whitefish.
Sometimes simple really is best.
Au Gratin Potatoes Recipe
- 3/4 pound potatoes, peeled & sliced
- 1 1/2 cups cream, or milk
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch, (see notes above)
- 2 teaspoons water, (see notes above)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- In a saucepan, combine the sliced potatoes, cream or milk, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat this mixture until it is just coming to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Do not let the cream come to a hard boil. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost tender but not fully cooked.
- If you are using the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce: In a small jar, blend the cornstarch with water. Stir this mixture into the potatoes and simmer until it is thickened, which will be about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the Gruyere cheese plus the Parmesan cheese.
- Transfer the potato and cheese mixture to lightly greased 8"x8" (20.5 x 20.5 cm) baking dish. Make sure they are evenly layered.
- Sprinkle the remaining grated Gruyere cheese over the potatoes. Bake in a preheated 350ºF (180ºC) oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
To switch it up a little there are a few optional additions you can make to this elegant potato recipe.
- Add 1 cup of sauteed mushrooms. Mix them into the potato mixture just as you are about to place the potatoes into the baking dish.
- 1/4 teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary. Add it to the potatoes as you are cooking them. You can add a bit more rosemary but it is a strong herb, so start out with a small amount and add more if you want it.
- You can mix 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs (ideally fresh bread crumbs) with the cheese to add to the top of the potato mixture. It may not be quite as traditional, but adds a nice bit of crunch.
Scalloped potatoes are similar to our au gratin potatoes. Find our no fail recipe here. It’s one of our most popular recipes.
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