Gratin Dauphinoise is dish of thinly sliced potatoes baked in cream. It originates from the Dauphiné region of France. The old Dauphiné Viennois, so called for the dolphin on the local count’s coat of arms, now includes the Hautes-Alpes, which contains the Savoie, and le Savoie is famous for cheese. And that simple fact is where all the confusion over the recipe for gratin Dauphinoise comes from – does it contain cheese?
In her blog, French for Foodies, Paris-domiciled Aussie Rachel Bajada explains her first encounter with gratin Dauphinoise, and goes onto explain that cheese was a hot commodity in 17th Century Savoie. As such, it was not generally used for cooking, and other by products of cheese manufacture would be used to enrich the local tartifle potatoes – including cream. Bajada asserts that there is no cheese in a gratin Dauphinoise. This notion is backed up by American authors of The Spruce Eats, who add eggs to the list of banned components.
However, the canonical resources for French cuisine disagree. Auguste Escoffier, writing in 1903, smears garlic over the inside of a dish, and builds up his potatoes with boiled milk, Gruyere cheese and eggs. Larousse differentiates pomme de terre Dauphinoise from gratin Dauphinoise by describing the former as a simple dish of potatoes and cream, and the latter as the baked dish of potatoes, garlic and eggs with cheese sprinkled over. Larousse goes on to add a sub-recipe called gratin Savoyade that omits the eggs and layers the cheese in with the potatoes.
Once all this kerfuffle is absorbed, gratin Dauphinoise starts to look very like a traditional dish with fiercely defended ingredients that actually has no fixed recipe. Another plat de la mère.
The recipe that we use is lightly adapted from Scottish chef Nick Nairn. His recipe is superb as it leaves out the dubious eggs, adds the garlic to the potatoes (so you can make mini gratins very easily), and he mixes cream with milk to give a mixture that has no risk of being runny in the absence of the albumin. We like to add the cheese, but as a sprinkle, per Larousse.
- 10g unsalted butter
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 100ml milk
- 300ml double cream
- 500g Maris Piper potatoes
- 100g Gruyere cheese, grated
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat an oven to 150˚C.
Butter a gratin dish really, really well.
Put the milk, cram and garlic in a pan and gently bring to a light boil. Season and switch the heat off while you prepare the potatoes.
Peel the potatoes and slice them very thinly using a mandoline. You should not soak the potatoes, so work quickly to add them to the milk and cream, coating evenly. The best way is to fan them into the pan in handfuls and then shake the pan a little to coat and prevent sticking. Press the potatoes down and put he heat back on to simmer for 15 minutes until just tender.
Tip the whole mixture out into the gratin dish and sprinkle over with the cheese (some potato slices will have sacrificed themselves to the bottom of the pan – no matter, leave them behind.
Place in an oven and cook for 1 hour. Finish them under the grill for a really good, cheesy crust.
Individual gratins can be assembled in greased mould rings (see photo). You will need to release with a small spatula before drawing the ring off.