As I brace myself for the holidays, I start prepping and cooking some of the family’s favorite meals on demand. The best thing I love about holidays is the all around happiness, the aroma filled house with freshly baked cookies and wonderful food, smiles on everyone’s faces as we enjoy family games, digging into deliciousness and over-filling our bellies! One such dish I am geared up to make is French scalloped potatoes.
POTATOES AU GRATIN VS. GRATIN DAUPHINOISE VS. FRENCH SCALLOPED POTATOES
The inspiration for French scalloped potatoes comes from Julia Child’s Dauphinoise Potatoes. This adapted version is a little different as it has more cheese and uses béchamel sauce instead of cream to layer the potatoes with. It is a perfect side dish to serve during holiday dinners.
The word Gratin is a culinary technique in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg or butter. It is best to use a shallow dish to bake Gratin in. The word Dauphinoise refers to the Dauphiné region in south-eastern France, where this dish hails from.
Let’s understand what’s the delicious difference between Potatoes Au Gratin and Dauphinoise. To make Potatoes au gratin slices of boiled potatoes are cooked in cream and topped with cheese to make the gratin. Gratin Dauphinoise, on the other hand, is a cream-based dish made with thinly sliced potatoes that are not pre-cooked.
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My recipe of French scalloped potatoes is completely different as it uses no cream, has a white creamy sauce for flavor & is made using ramekins to be served individually. No need to actually dig out the potatoes, just serve the warm ramekins for your guests to enjoy!
French Scalloped Potatoes
- 3 Tbsps. Unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsps. All purpose flour
- ½ Tsp Salt
- ¼ Tsp Ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ Cups Cold milk
- ¼ Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
For 1 Ramekin
- ¼ Cup Béchamel sauce
- 2 Oz. Russet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced to 1/8"thickness
- ⅛ Cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1 Tbsps. Parmesan cheese, shredded
FOR BECHAMEL SAUCE:
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Then whisk in flour. Continue whisking and cooking for 2-3 minutes. The flour mixture will be thick.
- Slowly whisk in milk, about ½ cup at a time. For the first cup, let the flour mixture absorb the milk before adding in more milk. It will first look like a paste, and then slowly thin out.
- Continue to cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens. This will take about 5-8 minutes.
- Once thick, whisk in the salt, nutmeg and ½ cup parmesan. Continue whisking until the cheese melts.
- Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
FOR THE POTATOES
- Peel and slice the potatoes using a sharp knife or mandolin. The potatoes should be 1/8" thick.
ASSEMBLY FOR 1 RAMEKIN:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and butter 1 ramekin.
- If using fresh bechamel sauce, let it cool down slightly until nice and thick. It should be of gravy consistency.
- Coat ramekins with melted butter. Layer the ramekin with slices of potatoes. Spoon béchamel sauce on the layer. reserving 1 spoonful of béchamel for the top.
- Place another layer of potatoes over it. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on it.
- Add another layer of potatoes on it. Sprinkle the top with gruyere.
- Add next potato layer over it followed by parmesan.
- Add some more potato layer and top with béchamel sauce. Add some gruyere cheese to it too.
- Place the ramekin in a baking tray and put it in the pre-heated oven for 35- 40 minutes. Baking time may vary depending on how thick the potatoes are.
- Pull from the oven & check with knife if the potatoes are soft and tender. If not, leave the scalloped potatoes in the oven for another 8-10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for about 10 – 15 minutes to set. You may see some oil on the top of the potatoes – that’s just from the cheese and will settle. Alternatively, you could mop it up with a paper towel after it’s cooled slightly.
- Serve and enjoy!
HERE ARE FEW SIMPLE INGREDIENTS THAT TRANSFORM INTO AMAZING FLAVORED SCALLOPED POTATOES:
- Potatoes: For people living in Australia: Use Sebago (“dirt” potatoes that are sold everywhere); in the US: Russet; in UK: King Edward or Maris Piper.
- OR any other starchy potatoes such as Dutch creams, King Edwards or red delight. Great all rounders like golden delight, coliban and red rascal are perfect too.
- Cheese – The best cheese is Gruyere, which has a strong flavor and browns wonderfully on top. Gruyere is a cheese that Julia Childs uses. I have also used parmesan cheese in this recipe. Because authentic Gruyere cheese is somewhat pricey, mozzarella can be a great substitute for everyday use; however, if you do use mozzarella, add an extra pinch of salt on each layer.
- Any other melted cheese like Monterey Jack, cheddar will also do.
- It’s always a good idea to grate your own cheese, grating helps it melt better. Store-bought pre-shredded cheese contains an anti-caking chemical that stops the cheese from melting & browning properly.
- Béchamel Sauce instead of Cream – This complicated sounding sauce is quite simple and fairly easy to make & with just six ingredients. The creamy white sauce only needs:
- Butter – makes the sauce ultra-creamy.
- Flour – A mix of flour & butter called “roux” is made, which thickens the sauce.
- Salt – as a seasoning brings out the flavors of rest of the other ingredients.
- Nutmeg – adds a nice, nutty sweetness. This is often the secret ingredient to a white sauce.
- Cold Milk – for the base of the sauce.
- Parmesan Cheese – It’s salty, sharp flavor helps with offsetting the creaminess of the sauce.
- Fresh herbs: I love adding fresh thyme to the potatoes while baking as well as just before serving.
- Butter – Melted butter to coat the ramekins with & of course to cook the béchamel sauce in!
- Make ahead: Near perfect for make ahead!
- The best way to go about it is to make the béchamel sauce a day ahead. Refrigerate & warm over stove top or in the microwave when ready to use. It is good to use for at least 3 days when stored in an air-tight container.
- Slice the potatoes and assemble on the day off, as the potatoes immediately turn black due to oxidation. And dark colored scalloped potatoes are a complete turn off, although they will taste the same. Just get some helping hands or ask your kids to assemble the potatoes. Some other recipes suggest slicing the potatoes, soaking them in a water bath & then pat drying them with a kitchen towel. As someone who stays super busy, I try to reduce the load when it’s really not needed!
- So while you are preheating the oven to bake this dish, get all prepped up!! Warm the pre-made béchamel sauce, slice the potatoes, set out the cheese and start assembling. Your cute little ramekins will be ready in no time and all set to bake.
- Baking Dish Size – I used a 8 x 8″ casserole that wasn’t full to the brim. You would need a larger one to make this for a gathering.
- You can choose from a 1.5L / 1.5 Quart / 6 cup, 18 x 26 x 5 cm / 7 x 11 x 2″ oval shape.
- A 26 cm/ 11″ skillet also works great.
- A 20 cm/ 8″ square pan is a little small but fit for a family of 2-4.
- Source: This recipe is an adaptation of Julia Child’s Dauphinoise Potatoes recipe. Her recipe is more elaborate & time consuming, as it involves scattering finely diced garlic on each layer. I simply added the garlic to the béchamel sauce and spread it over the potatoes multiple times. I have used a combination of gruyere & parmesan cheeses in generous amounts while hers uses less cheese. My recipe has steadily grown from her initial recipe, to what it is now!
Is there anything more satisfying than digging into a stack of cheesy potatoes, especially during cold holiday season. Perfectly seasoned with warmth of thyme, the taste of melted butter and the deep flavors of béchamel sauce; these individual serving French scalloped potatoes are as much a treat for the eyes as the palate. Ready to dig in?!!
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