France has at least as many potato dishes as there are days of the year. Pommes à la dauphinoise, or gratin dauphinois, is both one of the simplest and one of the tastiest. Traditionally it’s baked in a shallow gratin dish rubbed with garlic, but I like the creamy interior that results from baking in a deeper casserole or soufflé dish. Punching up the flavor by introducing sliced garlic between the layers of sliced potato gives the dish a little more impact.
Some recipes call to top the potatoes with cheese, and you can certainly do that if you feel so inclined, but it is by no means necessary—the potatoes form a lovely browned and crisp topping all on their own. Using white pepper to season white dishes is very classic, but mainly aesthetic. Feel free to use freshly ground black pepper in its place.
Served with roast chicken or pan-seared steak and accompanied by a green salad, pommes à la dauphinoise rounds out a great classic French bistro-style meal. It could, of course, function as a vegetarian main dish as well.
Pommes à la Dauphinoise
Serves 4 as a side dish.
1½ pounds (725 grams) starchy potatoes, about 4 medium
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
sea salt and white pepper to taste
1¼ cups (285 ml) cream or half-and-half
butter for the dish
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 6½-inch (17-cm) round soufflé dish or equivalent. Peel the potatoes and slice about ¼ inch (½ cm) thick.
2. Layer the potatoes in the dish, scattering garlic slices in between each layer and seasoning every other layer with salt and pepper. Pour the cream over the potatoes. It won’t cover the potatoes; you want it to come about three-fourths of the way up because the potatoes will cook down.
3. Bake for about an hour, until bubbly and starting to brown on top. Check the potatoes with a knife to see if they’re tender. If you want more contrast (and you probably do), brown an additional few minutes under the broiler. Let cool a few minutes, at least until the bubbling stops. Serve hot.
Camille Malmquist is an American pastry chef living and working in Paris. In her spare time, she cooks and bakes at home (believe it or not), as well as tackles the difficult task of trying out as many restaurants and bakeries as possible, then she blogs about her food and travel adventures at Croque-Camille.