Potatoes make some of the best and most comforting side dishes, especially when they're roasted or baked. A gratin of potatoes combines the best of both techniques, a soft creamy interior and a crunchy browned top. Much like scalloped potatoes but without the cheesy top layer, gratin Dauphinois, from the former French province of Dauphiné, is as simple as a homey country dish can get. The texture and the flavors of the potatoes do all the work to make an out-of-this-world potato dish.
Traditional gratin Dauphinois has no bells and whistles. It's simply thinly sliced potatoes and luscious cream baked in a dish rubbed with garlic and butter. The thick cream and starchy potatoes create the perfect texture, consistency, and crust. Therefore no cheese is even necessary. Some like to dust the potato layers with gratings of nutmeg. But I prefer the earthy flavors of fresh thyme. It's a lovely complement to the garlic as well as a favorite herb to use with potatoes. The gratin goes excellently with any roast meat, but in my opinion juicy roast chicken is the best. It's a simple yet special meal to enjoy this fall and for the upcoming holidays.
1 pound red or Yukon gold potatoes
1 pound russet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Peel potatoes and rinse in water. Cut into 1/8-inch thick slices using a sharp knife or mandoline. Do not rinse slices.
Rub a round 2-quart baking dish with a cut piece of garlic. Then rub with butter. Mince garlic.
Pour a little cream into baking dish. Line with potato slices, overlapping a bit. Pour in a bit of cream. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme. Start another layer and keep building until all the potato slices are used. Do not put garlic on top layer as it can burn. Dot the top with remaining butter. Bake potatoes until knife tender and top layer is crisp and brown, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly before serving. Yield: 6 servings.