The first time I ate something called Pommes Dauphinois was on my honeymoon (a self-guided tour of Ireland) at a place called Nimmo’s in Galway. My husband reserved a window table on their upper level with a view of the water. Romantic, of course, but our reservation and meal intentionally coincided with when the tide would come in. This was no ordinary tide either. That particular year (2006) in September, the tide was about five metres – the highest tide in 20 years. This meant sidewalks by the water were flooded and swans swam there instead of people walking. It also gave us a very unique view. So, there we were enjoying being together and married and gazing into each other’s eyes and then the big chalkboard menu was carried over and we were delighted with the selection. Yes, I even have a photo of the menu that night!
Dauphinoise is definitely more continental than American. In the States, it would just be au gratin potatoes unless you were in a Thomas Keller restaurant perhaps. Since then, thinly-sliced potato in a creamy cheese savory awesomeness (excuse the expert culinary lingo here) has been a favorite. Then at Easter this year, my sister-in-law made her version and it reminded me it was about time I mastered this as well. This is her version.
Thankfully, slicer gadgets were on sale at the store soon after I made that resolution. Using a mandoline or slicer makes the potato layers more consistent and saves time.So, with advice from my sister-in-law (she pretty much said “it’s the nutmeg”), I gave it a try and it actually turned out nicely. Not as good as my sister-in-law’s, but maybe it’s because I had to do the kitchen clean-up after? So here it is…
Potatoes Gratin Dauphinois
3 cloves roasted garlic
4-5 pounds potatoes
2 cups heavy cream (seriously, anything else is an insult to the dish)
Dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Mash the butter with the roasted garlic cloves then spread it on the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ or 10″x10″ oven-safe baking dish.
2. Peel all the potatoes then slice into consistent and thin rounds, 1/6″ to 1/8″ thick.
3. Place the potato slices carefully in the buttered dish, leaving a little space between each and layering them evenly. You want to allow enough room for the cream mixture to get between all the slices.
4. In a pitcher or mixing bowl, pour the cream then stir in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Then carefully pour this mixture over the layered potato slices.
5. Bake the potatoes in the oven for 1 hour (if your oven runs hot, check frequently to make sure top has not browned or use foil on top for this part of the baking), then carefully remove to add the cheese. Sprinkle the Gruyere over the top evenly then return the dish to the oven to bake for another 30 minutes. Serve!
Note: Baking time is less if making them in individual ramekins like shown above. The easiest way to do this is actually to bake the potatoes together then when you take the dish out to add the cheese, spoon out the hot potatoes and cream into individual dishes. Add the cheese to the tops of these and bake until the top has browned (provided the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork). Warn your guests the ramekins are hot when you serve them!