What to say about gratins? I am grateful they exist; they are a gracious thing to serve and they go well with any meal. So how do you define a gratin? The word itself is French and simple and refers to the browned, crusty surface of a prepared dish, usually created with cheese and/or bread crumbs and cooked until crisp in a hot oven. Some examples are macaroni and cheese, lasagna, creamy casseroles and potatoes au gratin.
The classic potato gratin is one of the most satisfying and comforting potato dishes I know of, right up there with mashed potatoes. Interestingly, it has practically the same ingredients as mashed potatoes — with the addition of cheese — but results in a more complex-looking dish. It only looks more complex, however, for it is actually simpler to prepare.
The potatoes are peeled and sliced thinly, then cooked with the cream for about five minutes until thickened, placed in a casserole dish, sprinkled generously with cheese and baked until browned and bubbly. No mashing, de-lumping or elbow grease required. When it is cut for serving, you see these multiple, stacked layers of potatoes and cream, looking practically elegant.
Chilly weather calls out for the comfort of a tender, creamy gratin, but since the desire for comfort doesn’t require blistering winds, it can be had at any time, any meal — and no one is going to complain about the dish being out of season with their mouth full. Discover how to make two delicious and easy-to-do potato gratin recipes: