November 18, 2021

Decadent Potatoes au Gratin

Whether you call them scalloped potatoes or potatoes au gratin, all you need to know about this recipe is that it is a cheese and potato lover’s dream come true!

MONIQUE SOURINHO - food photographer, stylist, recipe developer, and professional taste tester. Nothing fills my cup more than connecting with like-minded people (especially over a great meal). To learn more click here.

Whether you call them scalloped potatoes or potatoes au gratin, all you need to know about this recipe is that it is a cheese and potato lover’s dream come true!

The only “hard” part about this recipe is the béchamel sauce. Though there is nothing to fear! By simply keeping an eye on it during the cooking process and preventing the cream from burning you will be set on the right path! It is one of few times I do not suggest multitasking while cooking!

All you need to do is bring the cream up to temperature to help cook out the flour-y taste and to also allow the ingredients to combine so it thickens enough to become the perfect vessel for the grated cheeses to melt into. After that you give a stir, allow to blend, give another stir, then simply move right on to layering!

Everything else is less of a process, I promise!

By the way, if by any chance you wondered how this recipe developed, it stemmed from my Luscious White Veggie Lasagna recipe. After making it and thinking it tasted like a hybrid between Mac and cheese and a rich lasagna it dawned on me that the cheesy béchamel sauce probably makes a great scalloped potato recipe.

Naturally, one thing lead to another, and I went down the rabbit hole of researching the difference between scalloped potatoes versus potatoes au gratin (it’s the béchamel sauce that makes it potatoes au gratin, whereas scalloped potatoes are a little simpler. Though I can assure you, the extra steps are SO worth it.)

By definition, gratin (noun): is a dish with a light browned crust of breadcrumbs or melted cheese.

That said, considering how the béchamel sauce is mixed with cheese for flavor but also for that beautifully golden hue, I couldn’t shake the concept off my mind. I made the same sauce as the lasagna recipe but added more cheese and a tablespoon of black pepper (which, by the way, I think is a totally underrated spice). Then, I paired it with pancetta and sautéed onions, seasoned with freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of thyme, and… oof. That’s all I have to say.

I mean, what diet??

Just kidding. On a serious note, I believe in balance. Personally, the more I overthink what I SHOULD eat the more it stresses me out. Nowadays I listen to what I crave and reflect on why I might be craving something. (Am I tired? Perhaps I am dehydrated? Am I emotionally overwhelmed? Etc etc.)

I move along and if I decide to eat heavier dishes like this recipe, I try to even it out by drinking more water, walking a little longer, and eating more nutrient-packed produce.

The way I look at things now is: I don’t really have time to stress myself out.

Another method, which is kind of a given, is to share it with loved ones! Unless you want to eat it all to yourself, I’m not here to judge! You do you!!

Because, let me tell you, when you take your first bite of these decadent potatoes? You might start wondering why you even wanted to share in the first place OR you will be so thrilled that you MUST share hahah!

(Anyways, I’ll leave it up to you.)

Enjoy!


Decadent Potatoes au Gratin

PREP TIME: 30 minutes
COOK TIME: 60-90 minutes
SERVES: 9

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 32 oz (4 cups) room temperature heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Regianno (I like to cube then toss into a food processor for the sake of time)
  • 1 cup freshly grated dubliner cheese (or any fuller-bodied cheese packed with umami.  Mix and match and have fun! Or you can go a little more traditional with a beautiful melting cheese like gouda or gruyere!)

Assembly:

  • 4 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 oz. diced pancetta
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (about 1 Tbs) minced
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Béchamel Sauce
  1. Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4” thickness with a sharp knife or a mandoline (I prefer a mandoline since it is simpler and ensures even slices!) Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the pancetta for 3-5 minutes over medium low, then add the onions and cook until softened (about 10-12 minutes.) Next, add the garlic, thyme and nutmeg. Cook until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of potato slices.  Gently toss to coat. Set aside.
  3. To make the béchamel sauce, using the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat then stir in 1/4 cup of all purpose flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble (about 2 minutes). Avoid letting it burn by pouring in the cream. Continue to stir. The sauce will thicken while it cooks. Allow it to gently boil then add the sea salt and black pepper. Lower the heat, and stir in the grated cheese.  Cook and whisk for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the cheese melts thoroughly. When ready, remove from the heat and return the potato mixture.
  4. To assemble, layer 1/3 of the béchamel sauce on the bottom of a 13″ x 10″ x 2″ casserole dish. Next, layer the potato mixture then finish by topping with the remaining béchamel sauce. Push down any potato pieces so when it bakes it is insulated by the sauce and steam traps within to thoroughly cook the potatoes into heavenly tenderness.
  5. Afterwards, transfer to the oven to bake for 50-60 minutes. Afterwards, increase the heat 425°F and bake for an additional 10-15 or until golden browned and fork-tender. Alternatively you can increase the heat to broil and keep an eye to avoid burning.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing in.
  7. Alas, garnish (optional) with freshly cracked black pepper.
  8. Share and enjoy!

NOTES:

  • If there are small pools of fat at the surface take a paper towel and soak it up before serving. (I prefer to rid of excess, unnecessary fat whenever possible.)
  • My favorite dish to bake this in is my enameled Dansk Kobenstyle Baker Pan. Though, any casserole dish similar in size will do! I simply have a thing for oven to table tools haha!
  • A good mandoline is an investment. I’ve gone through a handful of cheaper ones and finally settled on taking the leap to invest in a SOLID one. Here’s the one that I recommend: Benriner Mandoline Slicer. To pair, I use cut resistant gloves (AKA stainless steel mesh gloves). There’s nothing quite like the sting of slicing yourself by accident. In this case, it’s better to be safe than sorry! That said, here is a link to the ones I use: NoCry Cut Resistant Gloves.
  • For another recipe that utilizes oven-to-table bakeware check out my Luscious White Veggie Lasagna recipe!