Gratin dauphinois is one of the gourmet potato dishes featured in my first cookbook Haute Potato. It consists of just potatoes, cream, cheese, butter and a little salt, with fresh-cut herbs on occasion.
This potato gratin is delicious and easy to make. Today, I prepared a version using zucchini. This is a great way to conceal a nice portion of vegetables, especially if you're trying to feed children who don't like to eat their veggies. You can easily replace it with other greens such as broccoli. It's that easy! "Le tour est joué" (That's all there is to it! in English).
Servings: 4 servings
4 tablespoons salted butter, or less
2 to 3 whole Yukon potatoes, depending on size
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon oregano
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
¼ cup whole milk
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1½ teaspoons salt, freshly ground
¼ teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
2 ounces Comté cheese, shredded
Preheat oven at 375°F.
Brush and wash the potatoes. Peel and place them in a large pot. Fill it with cold water until the potatoes are barely covered. It's important to start with cold water so the potatoes cook evenly. Bring to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt and reduce the heat to medium-high (if you cook the potatoes at a full boil, they might fall apart). As soon as the water reaches a boil, cook for about 20 minutes. Test, using a fork; the potatoes should be slightly tender but still firm. Remove from the pot. Drain the potatoes thoroughly and let them cool a little (do not rinse and let the liquid evaporate). Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, pat them dry. Use a French mandoline (for even, regular slices or you could use a chef's knife) and slice them very thinly.
Slice the zucchini too, using the mandoline.
Note: Shave them crosswise using a mandoline slicer on the thinnest setting.
In a bowl, mix the cream, crème fraîche, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, salt and pepper.
In a small pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté one clove of garlic until light golden. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Add thyme and oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
Grease a (10 x 16") casserole dish with butter. Rub a halved garlic clove on the bottom and sides of the dish. Pour a bit of the cream mixture to prevent from the vegetables to stick to the dish. Place the sliced zucchini first, then layer the potatoes with the cream mixture using a tablespoon. Season with salt and pepper. Make sure it's tightly and evenly packed. Pour in rest of the cream. Finish with the rest of the Comté cheese. Top with bits of butter. Bake for about 30 minutes. Check for tenderness of the potatoes with a knife.
Parboiling means briefly boiling the potatoes. Think "par-tial" boiling = parboiling. You could skip this step but you'll have to bake the potatoes in the oven for a longer time.
Once the potatoes are peeled, place them immediately in water or they'll darken. If you don't plan to parboil the potatoes right away, simply cover them with water and a drizzle of freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent oxidation.
Comté cheese has a nutmeg, saltier taste than Gruyère cheese. You could also use Munster, Cantal or even blue cheese.