Make Ahead

Potatoes au Gratin From Todd Coleman

December 23, 2014
24 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

A potato gratin that cooks in half the time, can be made ahead, and—best of all—lets you have control all the way through. "This is the kind of food you close your eyes to eat," our Social Media Manager Rachel Christensen said, after tasting the gratin pictured here, made exactly as written. But the extra flexibility and control also makes it adaptable -- something we'd be reluctant to do in the black box of traditional gratinery. Coleman sometimes adds hot sauce or fresh thyme, or uses a Dutch oven to make it truly one-pot and oven-to-table. You can switch in a different type of potatoes, dairy, or allium, if that's what you have. And if you don't have the right size pan, you can scale up without worry. Or down -- but why would you do that? Adapted slightly from "Gratin Made Easy" (Saveur, December 2006). —Genius Recipes

Test Kitchen Notes

There are two things we think of when talking about potatoes au gratin: that they're creamy, cheesy, and oh-so delicious; and that they take absolutely forever to make (we're talking two hours in some cases).

Luckily, this Genius-approved recipe from Todd Coleman hits all the right marks in terms of flavor and texture (there is a melty-crisp layer of cheese on top, the sauce is thick and luscious, and the potatoes are soft, but not too soft), while cutting down the normal cook time by about half. How does it work? The trick is simple, but brilliant: par-boil the potatoes in a mixture of half-and-half, garlic paste, and butter to soften them and add flavor at the same time. When you do it this way, you only have to bake the potatoes in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

Yet another reason to add this potatoes au gratin to your list (in case we haven't convinced you already): It's totally make ahead-friendly. You can prepare the mixture up to the point of baking and keep it in the fridge (yes, even overnight) until you're ready to toss it in the oven. The only thing you'll want to do is let the gratin cook a touch longer in the oven if it's been chilled. Make it during the holidays, make it for dinner parties, make it on random weeknights, no matter what you do just make it. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic cloves
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 6 large waxy potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), such as red bliss, peeled and sliced about 1/8-inch thick
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
  • 1 pinch fresh nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Rub the inside of an 8- × 8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Smash the garlic with the side of a knife and sprinkle generously with salt. Chop and scrape the garlic into a mushy paste.
  2. Combine garlic paste, potatoes, half-and-half, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces) in a pot; stir. Season with salt and pepper and grate in a hint of nutmeg. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon. After 8 to 10 minutes the potatoes will be a little tender, and their starch will have thickened the liquid considerably. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish; smooth the top as much as possible. At this point you can hold the dish until you're ready to bake, even overnight in the refrigerator. Cover the gratin with Gruyère and bake until deeply golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes (longer if chilled overnight). Let the gratin cool and set a little before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • John Cole
    John Cole
  • JCrys
  • Rupa
  • Änneken
  • Sherry Weatherly
    Sherry Weatherly
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

60 Reviews

John C. December 25, 2022
I used ½ & ½ potatoes & beets and used a Dutch oven start to finish for 1 dish clean up. It was delicious.
JCrys April 12, 2021
This is such a good recipe! Easy and good flavor. The only thing I did differently was instead of gruyere, I used emmanteauler and old cheddar. My cheese wasn't very brown when cooking time was up so I turned on the broiler and achieved cheesy goodness.
Rupa March 27, 2020
Oh, this was divine. Minimal effort and maximum deliciousness, my favorite kind of recipe! I didn't have gruyere on hand so I used a mixed of asiago, parmesan, and monterey jack - also forgot to put in the nutmeg so I threw some rosemary on top before putting it in the oven. Still came out absolutely delicious. Will definitely be making this regularly!
Änneken March 3, 2019
This is indulgent, simple, very satisfying, comforting and forgiving. Lovely to make on a cold winter night. Thank you for the recipe!
Sherry W. December 16, 2018
Could this dish be fully prepared (cooked) and frozen?
Kristen M. December 16, 2018
I wouldn't recommend it, though I've been proven wrong before—maybe someone who's tried can chime in. But be sure to check out the make-ahead instructions in step 3!
CookOnTheFly April 22, 2019
Yes! I make it quite often for just me and freeze it in single-serve containers. Reheats beautifully in the microwave, but I also imagine you could do it gently in the oven once it is defrosted.
Marsha S. September 15, 2019
I've done the same..we wrap it in glad wrap and foil(takes up less room that way) and it heats up beautifully in the microwave!
nana M. March 1, 2018
Is there any method to stop the potatoes from turning grey? Would love to make it the night before
Barb M. March 1, 2018
I have not ever had this happen and I have made this many times - and always make it the day before. I follow the recipe exactly using either red bliss or Yukon gold potatoes. I do cover the casserole tightly with plastic wrap while in the fridge.
cookinalong March 1, 2018
I had the same problem when I made it about a year ago and posted here to see if anyone had an explanation. But time moves on, and until you posted, I'd forgotten that my nerd-like obsession (and some googling) had led me to a possible answer. According to no less an authority than the Idaho Potato Commission, the black or grey discoloration can occur if the spuds have been sliced with a steel knife that has some iron in it. Both my chef's knife and carving knife are of carbon steel and since they are the only ones sharp enough to do the job, I know I'd have used one of them. I haven't tested the theory yet, but I'm guessing those Idaho people know their spuds. Nevertheless, I'm going to give it a try and see what happens. Will report back.
Barb M. March 1, 2018
Wow. You really do learn something new every day!
Lynnsy December 27, 2017
I swapped a potato for about the same quantity of slices carrot and added a bit of dill instead of nutmeg. Winner!
Suzy Q. December 6, 2017
Can this be successfully made with cauliflower? I'm going ketogenic.
Thank you for your help
coraline December 6, 2017
c'mon, use your brain ;) why does the milk (or milk and cream) magically turns creamy and sticky while simmering with potatoes? it's because of the starch! potatoes contain a lot of starch, cauliflower is a very low starch vegetable. so if you want the sauce to be creamy and low carb you have to thicken the milk with products that contain no or very little starch. i.e. carob gum after cooking the veggies in milk before you will transfer it into oven. you can of course whisk eggs and cream as well and pour the mixture over a blanched, or cooked cauliflower florets and even add some ham stripes. but as you see it is quite a different recipe
Barbara P. May 8, 2017
I made this recipe yesterday when my children and grandchildren came over for dinner. Having a larger crowd of people I doubled the recipe and used a 9 by 15 pan. Doubled the ingredients and it worked wonderfully!! I made it early morning, wrapped it well and after being in the fridge for an hour or so grated the cheese, placed on top and rewrapped it and placed back in the fridge until ready to heat in the oven. I found it took a bit longer to brown the top simply because of the larger quantity of potatoes and sauce perhaps. Needless to say it turned out wonderfully and everyone loved it. My children wanted the recipe and there was enough for everyone to have seconds! Highly recommend!!!!
Barbara P. May 8, 2017
Correction on my size of the pan for doubling up the recipe. It was a 9 by 13 pan not 9 by 15.
Barb M. December 11, 2021
Thank you, this is exactly what I was looking for. Needed to double the recipe for Christmas!
cookinalong April 23, 2017
I was so excited to see this recipe for a do-ahead potato gratin. But I prepped everything as per the recipe, covered the dish and popped it in the fridge overnight. But when I took it out to bake it the next day, many of the potato slices on top had turned black or grey. Ugly! But more worrying was whether they were safe to eat. DH and I don't usually care about how a dish looks, but since it was for guests, there was the double problem of food safety and appearances, so the whole thing went in the trash.
Has this every happened to anyone else? I used Yukon Golds, if that matters.
Barb M. May 8, 2017
I used Yukon Golds once because that is what I had on hand. Definitely not the same results - the end product was a little gluey, which never had happened with russets. I have made the recipe with russets a day ahead, and have never had them turn color.
Gabriela B. November 17, 2017
When I made a small test batch the night before a potluck the dish turned out perfect. I stored the unbaked gratin for approx 16 hrs. When I went to bake it the next day the potatoes definitely had a grayish color that in my opinion didn’t look very appetizing. Everyone ate it and there wasn’t anything left so I guess it was a success. I will make it again but I will cook it immediately after assembling in the pan.
jdspring April 2, 2017
This recipe is really great. I brought it to a dinner party and finished cooking it there. It made all my friends very happy.
Barb M. December 30, 2016
I have made this recipe about six times now. Always perfect, and gets so many compliments! Love it that it can be made the day before. And not a bad thing that I think it is wonderful, too! PS I feel slight guilt because I never use the nutmeg. Only slight.
sarah December 22, 2016
Has anyone tried this 2 nights before? Would that work too?
Achefwannabe May 20, 2016
Made this several times as written and was a hit with the family. Easy to modify. I've added a couple of layers of caramelized onions, sprigs of thyme or Rosemary to the pot and also extra garlic. All worked well.
I accidentally omitted the butter once, don't do that!
Sharon H. April 13, 2016
Love the recipe but often the pot burns on the bottom because of the milk which is a drag. Trying to figure out how to minimize this.
Barb M. December 30, 2016
Sharon, my suggestion would be to use a heavier pot, and a little lower heat.
Yvette March 30, 2016
Made this recipe twice now and it turned out perfect both times. As we don't have "half and half" here in South Australia I just used 1 cup of cream + 1 cup of milk and it worked out beautifully.
Kathy December 29, 2015
I made this recipe for Christmas with ham and it turned out great. It is nice that I did not need to thicken with flour as with other recipes.
Mary E. December 23, 2015
I'm travelling from Massachusetts to New York on Christmas Day. This dish sounds perfect to make the night before and take with us to reheat when we get to our family's house. I'm going to give it a try!
Catherine December 21, 2015
I wonder if this recipe works with russet potatoes in place of the waxy ones called for
Sharon H. December 29, 2015
I have made it with russets and yukon golds as well - it`s fine.
tuesdaywine December 21, 2015
I made this tonight to go with what was otherwise a rather simple dinner. It was nice to have the potatoes and sauce simmering on the stove while I worked on other tasks. I added some onion, a little Dijon, and some fresh thyme - perfect. As another poster mentioned, if you make the sauce in a Le Creuset some of the potatoes will stick to the bottom. Something I will keep an eye the next time.