Potatoes: Gratin, Scalloped, Dauphinoise
Whatever the name, these dishes are cooked in a similar way – sliced potatoes cooked in the oven in a creamy sauce, and they are all likely to be delicious, with a hint of cheese.
The classic French method does not include cheese itself, with a cheesy flavour developing from the combination of potato starch and the cream and/or milk. There are probably a number of recipes that can be defined as the classic method, some include onions or leeks, others don’t.
It is a dish that can be done ahead of time and reheated or just left waiting on low in the oven. It is so versatile as well, being suitable for meals ranging from barbecues to special dinner parties.
At one extreme you can quickly throw the dish together: rub the baking dish with butter or spray with oil, add the sliced potatoes, some garlic, some sliced onion or leek if you wish, some seasonings, then pour over some cream and bake for an hour or so. You can turn the cream through the potatoes or turn once or twice while in the oven. If you like you can add some grated tasty cheese. That can be done at the beginning and stirred through, or sprinkle some over the top of the dish towards the end of cooking and finish off in the oven, or melt it under the griller.
At the other extreme, you can take a lot of care to come up with a very refined result. See the end of this blog post for one of the classic recipes.
First, here is a method that is certainly not classical but one that is reasonably quick and gives great results.
Lorraine’s Scalloped Potatoes
Set the oven to 1800C. Grease a baking dish with butter.
Allow a kilogram of potatoes (sliced), two medium sized onions (sliced), and one or two cups of grated cheese.
First, using two or three tablespoons of plain flour and 1/2 cup of butter, make a roux. To do this, over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring in well and cooking for several minutes for the the flour to slightly colour, stirring all the time. Gradually add up to 500 ml milk, stirring constantly as the sauce thickens. Add enough milk to get a medium runny consistency. Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg if desired.
Layer the dish with alternate amounts of potato, onion and cheese, finishing with potatoes. (Add some chopped garlic if desired.)
Pour the sauce over the top. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until the potatoes are tender and nicely browned.
(Alternatively, as we have done in this photo, stir the sauce through the potatoes and onions.)
Equipment: Baking dish.
Difficulty: Not difficult (2/5), 15 minutes preparation, 60 to 75 minutes cooking.
Serve: Serve hot but also delicious or cold.
Gratin Dauphinois – Michel Guérard
Michel Guérard’s recipe for Gratin Dauphinois is considered to be a classic. Here we repeat the recipe in full from his book, Cuisine Gourmande, of the early 1980s. In terms of difficulty, rate it as Moderately Difficult (3/5).
If you have any examples of where the choice is between a classic dish, an adaptations thereof or a quick version, we are happy to hear about them, including the ingredients and methods, (good quality photos if you want to submit them) and some of your thoughts.