Whether you call them cheesy scallop potatoes, scalloped potatoes, potato au gratin or au gratin potatoes, they are just flat out fantastic. Healthy? Not necessarily. But this recipe is at least healthier, with less fat and calories than the traditional French Potato Dauphinoise which is made with all heavy cream. It’s more for that occasional splurge or special dinner. And worth every bite.
Growing Up – The Mystery Box
Growing up I loved scalloped potatoes and still do. Mom made them the accepted 1960′s way – from a box. No fresh potatoes. Dehydrated potato “chips” layered into a casserole dish, then covered with a mixture of milk and a powdered mystery packet. Even though I knew no better back then, it still seemed strange. Today I shudder.
The Real Deal Today – Scalloped Potatoes
Decades later, a dear friend and fellow chef introduced me to the real deal – Potatoes Dauphinoise. A classic French dish of thinly sliced potatoes layered with cheese and cream. I still remember the first time I had it. It was heavenly. Sublime. The kind of dish where you close your eyes and sigh with delight while your tastebuds sing.
Being a potato lover I was hooked, until I thought about how much fat and calories were in every bite.
After that I rarely made this classic dish, until I began to experiment. Using whole milk versus cream or even half and half helps to reduce the fat and calories.
Here is how I make this great classic today. Less fat for sure, but still delicious. Like I said, not healthy, but healthier, so that you can enjoy it once in awhile.
Tools for Accurate Slicing
This casserole depends on slicing potatoes uniformly thin to 1/8″ (3-4 cm). The only way to do that is with a mandolin, hand-slicer or a food processor with the right blade attachment.
Mandolins are a terrific kitchen tool for slicing. Potatoes, apples, pears, beets, carrots and other fruits and vegetable can be sliced uniformly thin. They come in all price ranges from $40 – $400.
Food processors are faster and a tool I could not live without.
For potatoes, I use the Yukon Gold variety. They have moist flesh and wonderful flavor that work perfectly in this dish. Choose smooth, firm potatoes with no cuts, bruised spots or green areas.
Simmer the slices in milk with thyme until tender (just a few minutes), then layer into a casserole with grated gruyere cheese and bake. Heaven awaits.
For more information on Yukon Gold potatoes you can read here
Scalloped Potatoes Gratin
A classic casserole dish, this recipe for scalloped potatoes is sure to please for special occasions or holidays. Choose aged gruyere cheese for its rich, nutty flavor. Although you might want to eat the entire dish, a small piece will satisfy. Use half and half versus whole milk for a richer dish. A sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese is nice for the top before baking for extra crunch and flavor, but it’s optional. It’s delicious either way.
- 2 1/4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- several pinches of freshly ground or grated nutmeg
- 4 ounces aged gruyere cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese optional
- mandolin, hand-held adjustable slicer or food processor
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees (177 C). Peel the potatoes and slice on a mandolin or hand-held slicer adjusted to 1/8″ (3-4 cm) thickness. Place the potatoes and milk in a 4 quart deep sauté pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and turn heat to low. Watch carefully and don’t let the milk boil over. It’s messy to clean up and happens in the blink of an eye. Simmer over low for about 5 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp paring knife. Remove potatoes from the heat and allow to cool a bit.
- Layer half of the potatoes in an 8×8 (20 x 20 cm) square glass or stoneware casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle with the nutmeg. Add 2/3 of the grated cheese. Layer on the rest of the potatoes and top with remaining 1/3 of the cheese (and Parmesan if using).
Bake casserole uncovered for 50-60 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Slice and serve.
Any leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for 3 days. Re-heat covered with foil at 350 degrees (177C) for 15-20 minutes or so until hot. To save time, you can make this dish a day ahead, then heat for your dinner.