Gratin Dauphinois

I grew up with what we knew as Scalloped
Potatoes, baked in milk with a sprinkling of grated
nutmeg. It took about an hour to cook and the
aroma from the kitchen was memorably
appetising. In France today Gratin Dauphinois is
still one of the most popular potato dishes served
both at home and in restaurants usually to
accompany grilled or roast meat.
Only when I checked on the recipe in my 1929
copy of Prosper Montagné’s encyclopedia of
French cooking, LE GRAND LIVRE DE LA
CUISINE, did I discover that a century ago, the
celebrated Gratin from the Dauphiné region of
south-east France was cooked with milk plus an
egg, a smattering of cheese and a hint of garlic –
possibly reflecting more closely the traditional
cooking of the region. But cream, now considered
an essential ingredient, does not appear in the
In line with much contemporary cooking, the
Gratin has become simpler and richer and is
usually cooked with cream, sometimes thinned
with milk, though the egg and the cheese have
almost disappeared from the dish.
It is indeed possible to cook the peeled potatoes
entirely in cream – either single or whipping cream

  • if you use floury potatoes such as Maris Piper,
    Osprey, or Roosters, very thinly sliced with a
    mandoline or electric slicer and arranged in layers
    in a buttered oven dish, seasoning as you go. Stir
    into the cream, 2 slim or fat, peeled and crushed
    cloves of garlic with a few gratings of nutmeg
    before pouring it carefully over the potatoes
    setting aside a few tablespoons to finish the
    cooked gratin after 60 minutes in a moderate oven.
    I find the waxy potatoes, Desiree and Charlotte,
    widely used in France, benefit from poaching in
    milk for 5 minutes before layering the slices in an
    oven dish. If you put the potatoes and milk in a
    large tightly-covered bowl the vegetable can be
    softened in a microwave very quickly. Then use
    some of the poaching milk to slightly thin the
    cream before pouring it over the potatoes. Dr
    Edouard de Pomaine blends a teaspoon of flour
    into the cream to thicken it but I prefer to use
    potato flour.
    Cover the oven dish with a sheet of foil and bake
    in the centre of a 180’C oven for 60 minutes or
    until the potatoes are cooked. Then remove the foil
    and spoon over the reserved garlic cream. Replace
    in the oven until the cream has set and slightly
    caramelised. Serve the gratin straight from the
    oven or when still very hot.
    Serves 6:
    180’C for 60 minutes
    1.25 kilo baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
    1 tbn butter for greasing 1200ml oven dish
    300 ml milk for poaching potatoes
    300 ml double cream
    2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
    salt and milled pepper
Preparing Dish