icon Potatoes gratin dauphinois

This is one of the wonderfully simple yet heart-warming dishes that come from French cuisine.

Its history goes back to 1788 when it was first served at a dinner given by the duke of Clermont-Tonnerre and Lieutenant-general of the Dauphiné, in the département of Hautes-Alpes. In its original form, the gratin dauphinois is made with thinly sliced raw potatoes and cream, cooked in a buttered dish rubbed with garlic. For each pound of potatoes 1 cup of cream, a tablespoon of butter, and half a clove of garlic are needed. In later recipes, i.e. the one published by Auguste Escoffier, chef, restaurateur and culinary writer, cheese was added to the dish. We like using gruyère for its great melting characteristics, and because it happens to come from the same general part of the world. As the final touch, we add a touch of nutmeg.

The dish can be made with crème fraîche, or as we present it here, with heavy cream and milk. Crème fraîche comes from Northern France and is made of cream and bacterial culture. The result is a cream slightly less sour and thicker than American-style sour cream, and containing up to 45% fat.


  • 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1-2 cups gruyère cheese, roughly grated or cut in small pieces
  • salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 320 F. Rub the butter all over the surface of a gratin dish. Slice the potatoes to a thickness of 1⁄8 in. Lay the slices on a clean paper towel and pat dry. Keep them covered the rest of the ingredients are being prepared.
  2. Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan. Add the garlic, thyme and shallot. Slowly heat the milk to the point it is about to start boiling (bubbles appearing around the edge of the pan), remove it from the heat. Add the nutmeg and keep warm.
  3. Layer half the potato slices in the dish, slightly overlapping the slices and sprinkling each layer with a little salt, the pepper and some of the cheese.
  4. Pour half the hot milk mixture over the potatoes. Layer the rest of the potatoes, arranging them neatly in the top layer. Pour in the rest of the milk mixture. Cover the top with the rest of the cheeses.
  5. Bake for about one hour, until golden and tender. Leave the dish to stand for about 5 minutes, then serve sprinkled with a few fresh thyme leaves.
  6. YIELD: Serves 4


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Last updated: June 6, 2016