Potatoes au Gratin

Today I am sharing with you what I like to call a miracle recipe.  Why is it a miracle?  Oh.  You’ll see.

First, some elocution guidelines.  Texans usually pronounce this dish, “poh-TAY-tohs aw GRAHT-un.”  As in, “Did you have some of Mildred’s delicious potatoes aw GRAHT-un at the church pot luck?”

It’s fine.  It really is.  But it’s not correct.  I feel it is part of my responsibility today to inform you of the linguistically correct way to pronounce the name of this dish before I show you how to prepare it.

“Poh-tay-tohs ahhhh grah-TAHN.”

Say it with me.


The second syllable rhymes with “yawn.”

The grah-TAHN is ON the LAWN.

I know, it sounds fancy-schmancy, and yes, Mildred will give you an odd look if you pronounce it that way at the church pot luck, but it’s always good to know the correct way to do something, even if you’re the only one.  And if you find yourself in an upscale establishment, and you do pronounce it correctly, the waiter will think you are refined and internationally aware, and will probably assume you went to boarding school in the south of France and speak multiple languages fluently.  All because of a little gratin.

On to the miracle I promised.

potatoes au gratin 1Three ingredients, people.  THREE INGREDIENTS!!!  How many recipes do you ever see me post that have only three ingredients?  That’s why this is a miracle recipe.  Potatoes, heavy cream, and Boursin cheese.  Oh, and salt and pepper, but I don’t include them in the official ingredient count.

And here’s the miracle part.  This isn’t one of those recipes where yeah, it has three ingredients, but it also tastes like it has three ingredients.  No ma’am.  This is the best version of potatoes au gratin I have ever found.  I’ve tried other versions.  I’ve tried versions with twice as many ingredients.  If I owned a five-star restaurant, and potatoes au gratin were on the menu, this would be the version I would serve.

Ready to see a miracle in action?

potatoes au gratin 2First, pour the cream into a small pot, and dump in the Boursin cheese.  Turn the heat to medium and walk away.

potatoes au gratin 3

Next, slice up all those potatoes as thinly as possible.  Here’s a trick.  Lop off a tiny piece from the side of the potato…

potatoes au gratin 4…then turn him over so the lopped off part is against the cutting board.  This will keep the potato steady while you stealthily cut razor-thin slices of potato.  Seriously, though, they need to be paper thin.  And more importantly, they need to be uniformly thin so they all cook to the same degree of doneness.  If you have a tool called a mandoline (not the same thing as the tiny guitar), now is the time to use it.  You can also do this in a food processor using the slicing blade.  I happen to own this handy tool which keeps our knives killer sharp, so I opted to slice my potatoes by hand.  You do whatever feels right to you.

potatoes au gratin 5Once all those potatoes are sliced, go check on that cream and Boursin.  (Want to know a real life secret?  I forgot to wash these potatoes, and I didn’t realize it until half of them were in the pan.  I wondered for a moment if I was going to be on the local news as the woman who introduced the African Potato Flu to North Texas by not washing them first.  But we were all fine.  Turns out four hundred degree ovens are good at killing bacteria.)

Like I was saying, go check the cream.

potatoes au gratin 6


It should be nice and warm, and the Boursin should be melting into the cream.  Use a whisk to stir it all around until the cheese is completely incorporated into the cream.  And then remove it from the heat.

potatoes au gratin 7Layer half of your potato slices into a 9 X 13 dish.

potatoes au gratin 8Pay attention to this step.  I’m about to show you the secret to the universe, as far as potatoes are concerned.  SALT AND PEPPER.  And really, the key is the salt.  You need to generously sprinkle each layer of potatoes with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Potatoes have absolutely no flavor.  Have you ever tasted a plain one?  They taste like paper.  And unless you want to eat paper au gratin, you have to season them in order for them to taste good.  And the sauce, though full of cream and herby delicious cheese, has no seasoning either, so really when you season the potatoes, you’re seasoning the entire dish.

potatoes au gratin 9Pour half of the cream mixture on top of the well-seasoned layer of potatoes.  (Want to know another secret?  I forgot to season my first layer of potatoes.  See how there’s no salt and pepper in this picture?  I staged the previous picture to make it look like I did.  But I didn’t.  And I feel better getting that off my chest.)

potatoes au gratin 10Add the second layer of potato slices, and season them with salt and pepper.

potatoes au gratin 11Pour on the rest of the cream sauce.

potatoes au gratin 12You should have something that looks like this.  Hard cold potato slices.  Unevenly distributed liquid.  Flecks of black and white.  Nothing spectacular, nothing special.

But then, pop this pile of nothing-really-special into a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes, and it will transform into something heavenly.

potatoes au gratin 13

Soft, tender layers of piping hot (well-seasoned!) potatoes, surrounded by a thick, creamy herb-flavored sauce.  It’s bubbly.  It’s decadent.  It will make you want to hollar, “Grah-taahhhhhhhhhn!”

potatoes au gratin 14The golden, crusty top is the best part.

potatoes au gratin 15


Serve this with pork tenderloin and a nice green salad.  Or, serve this beside your favorite grilled steak.  Or, serve this with nothing, and entertain the idea of becoming a vegetarian.  It doesn’t matter how you serve this, it’s always miraculous.

Click below for a printable version of the recipe.

{Potatoes au Gratin}




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2 Responses to Potatoes au Gratin

  1. Pingback: Easter {2013} and a Milestone | katherine sasser

  2. Denise says:

    Now I know what I will be serving my guests with the Easter ham. Thanks, Katherine!

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