Make Ahead

Potatoes au Gratin From Todd Coleman

December 23, 2014
Photo by James Ransom
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

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 6
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.

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Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Creative Director Kristen Miglore.