Ahh . . . A Rose By Any Other Name
I’m looking at side dishes for Easter. Possibly a potato casserole because of the ease, flavor, and comfort they bring. When I came upon this creamy, cheesy potato dish for Dauphinoise potatoes, it was calling my name. But I had a hard time calling its name, since my high school French teacher spent more time conjugating irregular verbs than she did on gourmet cooking. I later found the potato dish is pronounced “daa-fuhn-waaz.”
Too often the hoity-toity, French-sounding recipe scares people away. If the dish frightens Uncle Ned or the children, just label it scalloped potatoes, as Americans are accustomed to doing. You can also give it an Anglo-French twist by calling it potatoes au gratin.
Still, it might be good to know, (should there be inquiring minds about your Easter table), that the dish originated in the Dauphine region of southeast France. Actually, the ramped up French recipe is more decadent and delicious than our slimmed-down version. The original brightens any holiday celebrations, but you might not want to eat it too often.
I found a simple, few-ingredient recipe at delish.com. If you want to perk up your Easter table, this short video by Robert Siexus is excellent and easy to follow. No matter what else you’re serving, this casserole might easily steal the show. One chef called it “life changing.”
Tips for a True Culinary Masterpiece
- Use a mandolin slicer to make sure potato slices are all the same sizes—no more that a quarter of an inch.
- Be sure to use Russet potatoes, they hold up better and have great flavor.
- Don’t skimp on the ingredients. Use the amount of whole milk and cream indicated. Gruyere is the traditional cheese.
- Keep an eye on the casserole in the oven to make sure the top get crusty, but not burnt.
- Test the potatoes for doneness using a cake tester before removing casserole from oven.
- Sprinkle the casserole top with fresh chopped parsley or fresh thyme for an added touch of color.
- 2 Tbs. butter, softened
- 2 lbs. Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter a 2- to 3-quart baking dish.
- In a large pot over medium heat, combine potatoes, milk, cream, garlic, nutmeg, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are just slightly tender, 8 to 12 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer half the potatoes to the baking dish. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Top with remaining potatoes and pour just enough of the cream mixture overtop until the liquid comes just to the bottom of the top layer of potatoes. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly overtop.
- Bake until top is golden brown potatoes have absorbed most of milk and cream mixture, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then garnish with thyme leaves and serve.