Gratin Dauphinois (Potato Gratin) Recipe

As promised when we talked about potato gnocchi earlier this month, here is my recipe for gratin dauphinois, the king of potato side dishes, named after the former French province whence it originates.

Before we begin, it is my duty to draw your attention to the fact that a proper gratin dauphinois does not involve cheese. No. It is a gloriously simple dish of sliced potatoes baked in milk and/or cream — we’ll get to that in a second — that develops a browned crusty top simply from its starch content, and without the crutch of cheese. If you decide to make it with cheese, no hobgoblin will come and get you, but thou shalt forfeit the right to call it a gratin dauphinois.

Before we begin, it is my duty to draw your attention to the fact that a proper gratin dauphinois does not involve cheese.

And really, gratin dauphinois is all about the flavor of the potatoes, and the creaminess that binds the slices together. Some recipes call for cooking the potatoes in 100% cream, but the result is a bit over the top (oh, really?) and I find one gets excellent results using mostly milk, and just a little cream. The trick is to start by pre-cooking the potatoes on the stove, just until the milk thickens enough to coat them well, and then finish cooking and browning the gratin in the oven: this shortens the overall cooking time, and it ensures that the potatoes are cooked thoroughly, from top to bottom.

A murmur of nutmeg is traditional, and with good reason. I don’t add black pepper to the dish, because I prefer to grind it fresh at the table, but if I have chives (ciboulette) on hand, I’ll snip and sprinkle some amid the potatoes.

Depending on the weather situation where you live, this may or may feel seasonal, but we’ve had sunny days followed by chilly nights in Paris lately, and we are absolutely in the mood for gratin dauphinois. The one that’s pictured here was made for friends who came to dinner last week. I served it as a side dish to duck filets that I’d rubbed with spices and roasted, but it could also occupy the center of the stage, served with mixed salad greens and optional slices of ham.

Gratin Dauphinois (Potato Gratin) Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serves 6 as a side dish.

Gratin Dauphinois (Potato Gratin) Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 kg (2.2 pounds) potatoes, a mix of waxy and baking potatoes (if you prefer to use only one type, pick waxy potatoes, not too firm)
  • 500 ml (2 cups) milk (whole or part-skim, not skim; I don't recommend using non-dairy milk as the dish turns out watery)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives (optional)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) heavy cream (use whipping cream in the UK and crème fraîche liquide in France)

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes, rinse them briefly, and slice them thinly (about 3mm or 1/10th of an inch) and evenly. (A food processor or a mandoline come in handy at this point.) Do not rinse after slicing, or you will lose all that precious starch.
  2. Combine the sliced potatoes, milk, salt and a good grating of nutmeg in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, and keep simmering for 8 minutes, stirring the potatoes and scraping the bottom of the pan regularly to prevent sticking/scorching. The milk will gradually thicken to a creamy consistency.
  3. While the potatoes are simmering, preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F) and rub the bottom and sides of a medium earthenware or glass baking dish (I use an oval dish that's 26 cm/10 inches at its widest, and 2 liters/2 quarts in capacity) with the cut sides of the garlic clove.
  4. Transfer half of the potatoes into the baking dish, sprinkle with the chives if using, and drizzle with half of the cream. Add the rest of the potatoes, pour the cooking milk over them, and drizzle with the remaining cream.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until bubbly on the edges and nicely browned at the top. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • You can also bake the gratin a few hours ahead, let cool, and reheat for 15 minutes in a 220°C (430°F) oven before serving.
  • The leftovers are fantastic the next day, cold or reheated.

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  • http://sweetcilantro.canalblog.com jo_L

    Ahhh the real gratin dauphinois. That would be such a treat right now, Boston is rainy and cold and I miss good french dishes. My mother used to do it with a gigot d’agneau and garlic green beans… Oh good memories!

  • Wouter

    Whoopy, my wishes come true :-)
    thanks! One of those really french tastes you can create anywhere. For the rest – in a few weeks I get to restock my french supplies…

  • http://www.estouest.blog.lemonde.fr est

    yum yum yum thanks Clotilde for this classic recipe. any particular type of waxy potatoes you would recommend?

  • http://smallkitchenbigideas.wordpress.com Sara

    This looks lovely…

    My mother used to serve Betty Crocker’s potato au gratin which I would refuse to eat as a child. I might make this for a family event and get her to transition to this instead.

  • Aspiring Vegan

    Definition of willpower: having leftover gratin dauphinois…

  • http://graduallygreener.wordpress.com/ Amelia of Gradually Greener

    Mmm, looks delicious! Do you think fingerling potatoes would work for this kind of gratin? I’m growing a French variety (appropriately enough) and can’t wait to cook with them!

  • http://nom-nomnom.blogspot.com Reuben Morningchilde

    Ah well, I fear I have to bow to your authority on this one – no cheese in a dauphinois.

    But my mother ALWAYS made it with cheese… You’re not saying my mother lied to me, are you?^^

    Anyway, thanks so much for this classic take on one of my (few) favourite potato dishes, I’ll try it and see if I like it better than my version with cheese.

  • Adele

    We love gratineed potatoes. Now I feel like I should smack my forehead and say “Duh!”, though — I never thought about simmering the potatoes in milk. Just genius, can’t wait to try it this way. In terms of cheese, though, I confess to being guilty as charged. A light sprinkle of freshly grated parmigiano is lovely on top.

  • http://www.camillemaurice.com Shani

    Yum. I’m filing this one away for our first chilly nights here… though I’m not sure that I’ll be able to wait that long!

  • http://chaosqueenskitchen.twoday.net Chaosqueen

    For me Gratin Dauphinois is the best way to serve potatoes! We love gratins and I will try your recipe.

  • Hsin

    I’ve been making this for two decades after eating it in France, and thanks to you I now remember what to call it.
    I never added cheese, just cream and no milk. I always get compliments on this dish, and it’s really easy because I have a paddle mandoline with a built-in ceramic blade that cuts my potatoes just right.
    I used to cut every slice by hand but that took me much longer because I was fussy about making all the slices the same thickness.
    Anyway, your post makes me want to make a gratin … as soon as the temperature drops. Hate to use the oven when the thermometer is hitting 95 degrees F. As always, I enjoy reading your blog.

  • Christine

    I realize this is blasphemy, but I wonder if this would work with soymilk? We have many friends who keep kosher and I am always struggling to come up with new side dishes to go with meat meals. I will definitely be making the original version for just myself and hubby!

  • http://cathylwood.wordpress.com Cathy

    Thank you for the potato lesson and delicious recipe. Can’t wait to give this one a try.

  • http://niallniallorangepeel.blogspot.com/ Niall

    For those looking for gratin variations, a layer of thinly sliced fennel between the potatoes is rather fabulous
    Niall

  • Aspiring Vegan

    Christine,
    It works just fine with soya milk. Though the taste is different, obviously, it’s still a lovely dish. The starch from the potatoes binds the sauce.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Amelia – I don’t think it’s very traditional to use fingerling potatoes for this — less “precious” potatoes would be used here — but they would absolutely work.

    Christine – Aspiring Vegan beat me to it, but yes, I’m pretty sure you could make this with any sort of non-dairy milk (I myself would probably use oat milk here).

  • http://www.unconfidentialcook.com unconfidentialcook

    I haven’t had this in so long…mainly because everyone expects ooey-gooey cheese. But I am having a party Sunday and think I’ll put this on the menu. THanks.

  • http://www.cakespy.com CakeSpy

    Don’t tell my mom, but this looks a lot better than the gratin potatoes she served us growing up. I wish I could be digging right into one of those crusty top bits right now!

  • http://theendivechronicles.com/ Erin

    I love this dish. I love eating it. I love saying it. I think I’ll wait for the weather to cool down before I turn up the oven for this though, 90 degrees and all.

  • Liz – aka Nutty Gnome

    This is one of my all time favourite dishes! I wish I’d been at your dinner party – gratin Dauphinois AND duck ….heaven on a plate!!!

    leftovers? What leftovers?!

  • Soozzie

    A couple of years ago we were visiting wonderful friends in France for a few weeks. When they discovered it was my husband’s birthday, they put on a party for about 20 people. Gratin dauphinois was the main course (with green salad, a cheese course, and dueling chocolate cakes). When I asked the recipe, a 20 minute debate transpired about whether it should have all milk or milk and cream. Who knew? The cakes by the way, were made with the exact same ingredients, same measurements, but with different pans in different ovens. One was fudgy and moist, the other a light and frothy layer cake. Another debate!

  • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

    Yay!

  • http://www.areweinparisyet.blogspot.com Shelli

    Oh how I would have liked to be at the table for that dinner, Clotilde…[hint, hint]

    Love both duck and gratin dauphinois; what was dessert?

  • Susan

    I love potatoes prepared in this method. You actually get to taste the potato!

    This method is something that we should be able to use when preparing baked Mac and cheese. Isn’t there is enough starch in the pasta that we really shouldn’t need a bechemel sauce as a pre-thickener? The oven reduces the water in the milk with it’s dry heat as well. Same principle, right?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Shelli – Well, who knows, perhaps gratin dauphinois will come up on the menu again in the fall? :)

    Dessert was lemon balm sorbet.

    Susan – I agree that the process should work with pasta as well, a bit like the absorption pasta method. A very good suggestion, I’ll have to try it!

  • http://kimhartmanfoodstylist.com Kim Hartman

    Thank you for sharing your recipe.
    If it were not 95 degrees F/39 c in the Chicago area, we would be enjoying this dish with dinner tonite!

  • http://easydoesitrecipes.blogspot.com/ Chris

    I’m glad you reminded ppl about the cheese issue, it’s quite important for the authenticity of the dish.
    Because it is very heavy with the cream, my mum has always substituted the cream with a mix of egg and milk, salt, pepper to make a much lighter dish. Agreed, this was not the authentic dish, the texture was quite different, but it was also a very tasty dish in its own right….

  • Dawn in CA

    As for the soymilk question… I tried a potato gratin with soy milk a year or so ago, and it took for.ev.er. to thicken. So long, in fact, that the potatoes turned to mush. Perhaps this method of boiling them on the stovetop first would improve the thickening process? All I know is that it was a giant disappointment. :( If you try it, I would suggest doing a test run before making it for company.

  • http://www.palatetopen.com Jen

    As rain has been bullying the sun into hiding for weeks in our area, gratin dauphinois is just the dish I need to make the most of the unseasonable chill. Many thanks!

  • msue

    I’m in agony. After committing to a low-fat diet for the next several months, this dish makes my taste buds perk up in a most tempting way. I adore potatoes in any form, and the addition of heavy cream … oh my. I’ll tuck this recipe away for the cool weather when eating a little slice of heaven won’t be so guilt-inducing.

    It looks splendidly LOVELY!!

  • Madonna

    I’m moving to a new house next week and can’t wait to try this recipe (the duck, too).

    I have a question on another topic. I visited Paris for the first time last year. I found my way to the Libraire Gourmande. My ancestry is French, and I decided a good way to begin learning the language would be through cooking, since so many culinary terms are of French origin. The owner of the shop tried to steer my upstairs to the section with books in English, but I wanted a French cookbook in French. I settled on one called La Cuisine Francaise. The authors are Chef Jean-Christophe Lebascle and Solveio Darripo. I hope I chose wisely. The recipes I’ve tried so far have turned out well.

    Love your site and your books.

  • http://www.abigailblake.com/sugarapple SugarApple

    Very interesting – you learn something new every day. I often add a sprinkling of gruyere on top but luckily always just call it potato gratin. Glad to know I haven’t been committing a gratin faux pas. Anyway…with cheese, milk or cream…it’s a favorite. They make a good gratin at the Chicken Family on rue des Abbesses, which you’ve written about before.

  • http://shinycooking.com Amy

    Okay, I have to confess.

    Some part of me thought “gratin” meant “cheese.” I’m glad to have learned otherwise. This will make an awesome cool-weather dish, as it’s a bit too hot and muggy for me to want comfort food atm!

  • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com Cath the Canberra Cook

    Ooh, many thanks from a southern hemisphere reader. I often have to save your ideas for a different season, but this is perfect for Canberra in June. Though probably it will be July before I get my kitchen back from the renovators.

  • http://www.abigailblake.com/sugarapple SugarApple

    Just curious – what do you call a potato gratin with cheese?

  • http://bigflavors.blogspot.com Ashley

    This looks so great – it has great color on top! Yum!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    SugarApple – A potato gratin with cheese can simply be called potato gratin (gratin de pommes de terre). I’ve read that some also call it gratin savoyard, alluding to Savoie, a province close to the Dauphiné, where mountain cheese (such as Gruyère) is produced.

  • http://www.aoisart.com Kia

    I love anything gratin and potato, hehe!

  • http://www.mixingbowlkids.ca Mixing Bowl Mama

    This is one of my very favourite foods and I love your explanation of how to make it. So simple and exact.

  • http://www.gggiraffe.blogspot.com Johanna

    I have had such trouble finding a good version of this dish – yours makes such sense that now I think I will have to try again (last one I made I only ate half but put the rest into a pasta bake with mushrooms, lentils and spinach and cheese – it was wonderful that way)

  • Jim

    I made this with Yukon Gold potatoes and soy milk. Instead of cream I used a combination of soy milk, dry whole milk (Nido), and palm based shortening. It was simply amazing, and I did not miss the cheese one bit, the resulting flavors going far beyond what cheese could have achieved. Thank you for the recipe and background!

  • http://myhbar.wordpress.com the h bar

    I love this recipe! There is also a similar Spanish dish called “patatas con leche y chorizo”. It is basically the same minus the nutmeg adding pieces of chorizo to the mix. Also delicious :).

  • http://www.pinkofperfection.com Sarah

    Thank you for explaining what a proper daupinois is — I never knew that it really meant no cheese! But really, who can skip all that lovely gruyere?

  • Joyra

    This is practically the same recipe made by my mother and other American midwestern women where it was always called “scalloped potatoes”. There was no garlic and all the cooking was done in the oven after scalding the milk cream mixture – usually a concoction sold in American and known as “Half and Half”. The potatoes were not precooked; the dish was cooked in a slow oven for a long time. No garlic was used but spring onions were occasionally snipped in and towards the end butter was melted on top. Cheese was never used. Didn’t care for it as a child but really appreciate it as an adult.

  • http://www.passportfoodie.com Taylor Young

    One of my favorite dishes of all time. Done well, almost nothing beats it.

    I recommend trying it with a good dose of Truffle Salt. Superb!

  • http://thefashionablegirl.blogspot.com J

    I just tried this recipe today – it’s lovely, thank you!

  • june2

    Ok, now this is incredible that no one else has ever used coconut milk? It is SUCH a great dairy free alternative that is so good that it has nothing to do with being dairy free – it’s just great for being itself!

    I use a can of organic coconut cream/milk to one pound of mandoline’d potato slices with every few layers given a light sprinkle of sea salt and I top it with a heavy sprinkle of an Indian prepared spice powder meant to flavor dal, but it works with the starchiness of potatoes too. Totally delicious. Nutmeg and chives of Clothilde’s recipe would be awesome too.

  • http://suziethefoodie.blogspot.com/ Suzie the Foodie

    Beautiful! This dish was fantastic and I wrote about it on my blog. Thank you so much for sharing this technique with us. It was exciting to make and totally worth all the calories.

  • http://suziethefoodie.blogspot.com/ Suzie the Foodie

    Not sure you saw my comment on my blog so I came here to let you know I have this dish with some breaded haddock and apricot-glazed carrots. Lovely! Thanks again for the fantastic recipe.

  • Oliver

    I lived with a retired lyonnaise chef and housewife in the département de l’Isère just outside of Grenoble for a few trimestres, and gratin dauphinois was always prepared just like this, only sometimes without the stove-top step, and always with more garlic. The locals always preferred her recipe, because she didn’t use 100% cream. Ironically, from the U.S. perspective, this was considered a radical move–less cream? madness!
    And thanks for reminding us that gratin dauphinois does not have cheese, never, ever!

  • Ben

    A word of caution… don’t cover the potatoes when you bake them. I did this without thinking and well… milk and cream all over the oven.

  • http://eatingforonecookingfortwo.blogspot.com Jen

    Thanks for this recipe! Completely agree re: cheese.

    Made this recipe on Sunday evening to match a lovely joint of rare roast beef. I think skim milk’s fine to use, though, as is single cream – the results were fab, visually and edibly. Had it cold last night with some more slices of beef and salad (and a healthy dollop of hot horseradish). Fantastic.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdelphine cdelphine

    I made this tonight for Christmas dinner and it was so tasty. I used skim milk and then, when the milk didn’t reach up to the top of the potatoes, finished it off with cream. Definitely looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow.

  • Nancy

    Heavenly!! My husband could not stop eating this wonderful dish. He generally does not prefer potatoes in any form so this was a victory for both of us! Thank you for this great and easy recipe.

  • Mike (South Africa)

    Well, I’ve tried it and it’s in the oven. Looks a bit bland – Let’s see!

  • Margo (Greece)

    Lovely recipe. Was a nice, rich, delicious potato dish, without very rich ingredients. Super easy recipe which I will definitely make again. Made it with Cypriot potatoes and chives from my garden (and 1/4tsp nutmeg was perfect). Served at a dinner party for some friends who are leaving Greece :(, complimented by a lively discussion about Greek politics and the uncertain economic future of this beautiful country.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m glad you liked it, Margo, and I’m sorry to hear your friends have to leave…

  • kerry

    Just thought I’d add that I cook this dish every now and then and come here to double check my measurements (having first looked up the recipe from your site a couple years ago.) I’m always complimented on my dauphinois by the french belle famille, so thanks for making this amerloque shine in french eyes ;)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      So glad I could help you shine, Kerry, though I’m sure you don’t need too much assistance in that regard. :)

  • http://robmarais.tumblr.com Rob Marais

    I’m late to this party but due to your mention in http://bzfd.it/1dv1FXd I thought I would give you a shout. My Dad worked his way through college as a cook, and his version of this to his children used condensed milk instead of regular milk. His pomme de terre dauphinois (though he would never have called it that, he was always a “country boy” from the American South) has haunted my culinary memory since childhood. Making this receipt his way is an instant connection with my Dad.

  • Quentin

    I’ve got a little tip for you in provenance of France. In order to increase the flavour, you can scrub your pan with a garlic (as you would do with butter for a cake pan ;) ).
    Also nutmeg is not a ingredient of the original recipe.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Merci Quentin! Actually, the garlic-rubbing was already mentioned in the recipe :). “Rub the bottom and sides of a medium earthenware or glass baking dish [...] with the cut sides of the garlic clove.”

      As for the nutmeg, from my research it has long been included in traditional recipes for this gratin, and I like that it really lifts the flavors. Can you tell us which source you had in mind when you referred to “the original recipe”?

  • Hannah

    Hi there Clotilde, I also want to add that I have been cooking this dish according to your recipe for the last 3-4 years and always come back to it to recheck measurements and cooking times. Love it, thank you for posting it!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I’m so pleased to hear it, Hannah, thank you!

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