I have been on the lookout for a good “standard” potato gratin recipe for years. It seemed every time I tried making the dish the potatoes were underdone or the flavor just wasn’t up to par with what I’ve had at a restaurant, so when I came across a potato gratin recipe from Food 52 for a “gratin that cooks in half the time…and lets you have control all the way through” I had to try it.
Technically I think the dish turned out well, the potatoes were cooked through, the sauce was creamy, the cheese browned, but I definitely under-seasoned things. I deviated from the original recipe and added about 1/3 cup of milk to the potatoes when they were boiling as it just didn’t seem like there was enough liquid there to cook with. I should’ve trusted the recipe on that step, once the potatoes settled into the pot and were stirred periodically there was more than enough milk there and I think my additional liquid made the end result runnier than it was supposed to be.
You’re instructed to season to taste right at the end of the boiling-potatoes-in-milk step of the recipe and I thought things tasted ok at that point, but by the time everything had baked together (and the potatoes absorbed the half and half) the result was a bit on the bland side. I added cayenne pepper as well as the nutmeg the recipe called for and was hoping for a hint of heat to cut the super creamy sauce but I think I was too light-handed with that too.
I would also use a different cheese than Gruyere for the topping. For one, at least in Williamsburg, Gruyere was a bit difficult to find and rather expensive. Second, aside from allowing the top to brown and getting a little golden-brown-deliciousness there was little flavor that the cheese added to the party. It was also only added to the top of the gratin and not integrated at all. So next time I will use a cheese like cheddar, swiss or similar and and integrate it throughout the layers of potatoes as well as on top.
So, overall, a good recipe base, but lots of license can be taken with the seasonings and toppings to jazz it up, and next time that’s just what I’ll do.