My sister, the doctor, lover of pies and Peeps, is hosting Thanksgiving this year. She has it all under control, sleeping arrangements organized, color-coded cooking timeline mapped out, and the menu finalized, promising her 12 guests a turkey, a spanakopita, cranberry sauce (not this one) and pie.
To help lighten her load, I’ve signed up to bring punch, stuffing, bread, and this potato gratin, a dish my mother has served at nearly every big holiday gathering for as long as I can remember, one that often steals the show no matter what it’s beside, turkey or otherwise.
It comes from Chez Panisse Vegetables, which offers a number of enticing combinations — potato with turnips or celery root or leeks or sweet potato — but we almost always use potatoes exclusively and keep the seasonings simple too: salt, pepper, thyme and just a dash of freshly grated nutmeg. Submerged in a mixture of equal parts heavy cream and chicken stock, topped with a mixture of gruyère and parmesan cheeses, these potatoes emerge irresistibly crispy on top and creamy underneath.
This gratin couldn’t be easier to throw together, and you can’t mess it up. I promise. Hope all of your Thanksgiving preparations are going well.
A mandoline makes quick work of the slicing, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry.
A few other ideas for Thanksgiving (images link to recipes): Red Wine Cranberry Sauce, Peasant Bread, Pomegranate-Green Olive Salad, Cheddar Biscuits, Balsamic Brussels Sprouts, Apple Sauce, Slow Cooked Kale, Philadelphia Fish House Punch, Cranberry Buttermilk Breakfast Cake, French Apple Tart, Apple Pie, Maple Cream Tart. And you can find a few more ideas here.
I love the simplicity of the Chez Panisse Vegetablesrecipes, so I've written this one out exactly as it appears in the book and have offered some guidance on quantities/timing below:
Rub an earthenware gratin dish with smashed peeled garlic and butter. Layer overlapping slices of potato cut ⅛-inch thick. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Make another layer of potato slices and season again. Moisten with cream, cream and chicken stock, or milk to the top level of the top layer of potatoes. According to taste, sprinkle the top with grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese, and distribute thin shavings of butter on top. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour in a preheated oven at 375ºF (see temperature note below), until nicely browned.
Many variations are possible: potato and turnip, potato and celery root, potato and winter squash, potato and leek, potato and and black truffle, or potato and sweet potato. Try adding a layer of some other delicious thing between the potato layers: sorrel, green garlic or roasted garlic, grilled chicory, sautéed wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, kale or chard, black olives, artichoke hearts.
If you need to make these ahead of time, just reheat covered with foil in a preheated 350ºF oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until cream-stock mixture is bubbling.
- softened butter
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 3 lbs. red skinned potatoes, peeled (I used about 2 lbs. 10 oz. peeled potatoes)
- kosher salt
- fresh thyme sprigs
- freshly grated nutmeg (optional, but really nice -- I forgot to do this)
- 1.5 cups (or more or less) chicken stock
- 1.5 cups (or more or less) heavy cream
- 1 heaping cup (about 2 oz.) grated gruyère cheese
- ¼ cup (less than 1 oz.) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Preheat oven to 425ºF. Rub an earthenware gratin dish (I used a 9x13-inch Pyrex) with smashed peeled garlic and butter.
- Using a mandoline or knife, cut potatoes ⅛-inch thick and layer overlapping slices in the prepared pan. Season with salt (don't be afraid to use a heavier hand with the salt — potatoes can handle it), pepper, and thyme leaves (no need to chop — just pull and scatter). Lightly grate nutmeg over top — be sure to go light. Make another layer of potato slices and season again in the same manner.
- Moisten with cream, cream and chicken stock, or milk to the top level of the top layer of potatoes. (I used 1.5 cups each of heavy cream and chicken stock, but I probably could have used more, and you may need more or less depending on the size of the pan you are using.) Sprinkle the top with grated cheeses, and distribute thin shavings of butter (forgot to do this) on top. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, checking after 40 minutes or so to make sure the potatoes are not browning too quickly. If they are browning too quickly, cover the pan with foil and continue baking until the potatoes are tender and the top is nicely browned. You can also turn the temperature down to 375ºF if necessary.