Comforting. Elegant simplicity. Potatoes au gratin’s soft layers of creamy potatoes topped with a golden, slightly crispy crust embodies the definition of comfort food. Especially with a couple layers of bacon nestled in between the potatoes.
Using just a few common kitchen ingredients, and with a little technique and time, one can create an unforgettable dish. Potatoes au gratin isn’t complicated to make, but does benefit heavily from a bit of attention to detail.
One key to the preparation of this recipe: While baking, break the crust the cream forms a few times. This allows the cream and potatoes to slowly cook into one another, perfectly softening the layers of potato, while preventing the top layer from overcooking. After the third break, you should notice a difference in consistency of the cream and it will appear slightly more translucent, almost as if the cream was combined with melted butter.
After this third break in the crust, allow the potatoes to continue baking untouched until golden brown. It is best to allow it to cool for about 15 minutes before serving, since it will be very hot coming out of the oven and will hold its heat quite well.
Since there are only a few ingredients, the details in them make a difference in the final outcome. Table salt won’t taste as good as sea salt or kosher salt would. Pre-ground pepper won’t be quite the same as fresh ground pepper. You’ll notice a distinction in the different varieties of potatoes (the Yukons cooking softer and more buttery, but the russets are a nice, economical choice.) And not all heavy creams are equal. Some dairies’ creams are richer and have a little more depth in flavor than others. Find the one you like best in your area.
All of those details will reflect in the final dish. That is the beauty in simplicity — the details matter.
Bacon Potatoes Au Gratin Recipe
Prep tip: It helps to take a slice or two off the bottom of the potatoes before slicing the rest of it. It gives the potato a flat surface to lay on as you slice.
- 1/2 pound bacon
- 4 pounds potatoes (russets or Yukon Golds), peeled and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
1. Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Cook bacon until very lightly golden on each side. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
2. Slightly crush garlic clove to open it up. Rub garlic over inside of 9″x13″ baking dish.
3. Put sliced potatoes in a large bowl. Toss with thyme, salt and pepper until evenly coated.
4. Layer 1/3 of potatoes in bottom of baking dish. Cover with a single layer of bacon.
5. Layer another 1/3 of potatoes, another layer of bacon, then final layer of potatoes.
6. Pour cream over potatoes. (Should be enough cream than when potatoes are pressed down on, cream rises above potatoes.)
7. Place dish on sheet pan and put in oven.
8. Bake for 30 minutes, pull out of oven and with the back of a large wooden spoon, break the crust the cream is starting to form. Return to oven. Bake for another 20 minutes and repeat crust breaking. Bake for another 20 minutes, then break the crust again.
9. After third crust break, return to oven and continue to bake for another 20 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Todd Porter and Diane Cu are professional food and travel photographers who publish the popular food blog White on Rice. Their lives have always been about love, family, friends, sharing, exploring and food.
More Sides for Your Holiday Feast:
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- Butternut Squash with Pecans and Blue Cheese
- Pomegranate Quinoa Pilaf
- Creamed Onion Gratin
- Sausage and Southern Greens Dressing