Monday, April 25, 2011

Julia Childs' Potato Gratin

Last weekend, we went to a Julia-themed pot luck dinner at a friend's house and this is what I made. The meal was amazing and the company even better, but I've been reluctant to post this recipe. You see, as we transported it, the lovely milky, starchy liquid spilled out onto the carpeted floorboard of my car and we didn't notice until the next morning, and the morning after, and yes, this morning too. I've just tried a solution of vinegar and baking soda and have high hopes that it is working. While I don't think I'll be making this again anytime soon after smelling the 3 day old variety, it was a really good dish and as with most of Julia's recipes, could use a little simplifying. Her recipe was a small paragraph in my battered copy of "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom" so I've translated it into something easier to follow. This recipe makes a ton but it should be easy to half it. Would go great with any cut of meat or maybe even as a fancy side for crappy chicken night. Enjoy!!

Time: hour and a half
Serves: 12-16 as a side

  • 4 lbs red-skinned new potatoes
  • 1/2 a stick of butter
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 large onion, about the size of a baseball
  • 2 cups Gruyere cheese
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Peel the potatoes and slice them into 1/4 inch slices, putting them into a bowl of cold water as you go. The cold water keeps them from turning brown. I used my food processor to slice them, which saved a ton of time.
  3. Cut your onion in half and peel it. Then slice each half into 1/4 inch thick slices.
  4. Melt about 2 tsp. of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Once it's hot, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes or so until they're translucent (silky and clear) but not brown yet. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. Grate the cheese.
  6. Smash your garlic and peel the skin. Then crush the garlic into your casserole dish. You can either use a garlic press or you can grate the clove with small grater.
  7. Brush your casserole dish with about one TBSP of melted butter, spreading the garlic all around.

  8. Drain off the water from your bowl of potatoes.
  9. Grab a handful of potatoes and dry them on paper towels. Then, layer them in the casserole dish so the overlap a bit and cover the whole dish.

  10. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over the layer of potatoes. Maybe 2-3 tsp. of each.
  11. Add about 1/4 of the onions and 1/4 of the cheese.

  12. Repeat the drying, layering, seasoning process until you use up all of the potatoes. Finish with a layer of cheese and add another 2-3 TBSP of cold butter, cut into small pieces.
  13. Heat up the milk and chicken stock in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Then pour over the whole dish. It should come up about 3/4 of the way to the top of the potatoes.


  1. Slide the dish into the oven and bake for an hour.
  2. The liquid will rise up over the potatoes at first - this is normal though and probably not the best time to try to transport the dish!
  3. You know it's done when most of the liquid has soaked in and the top is nice and brown. I tasted a couple of the potatoes around the edges to make sure they were soft too.
  4. Let cool for 15 minutes or so, then serve.

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