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Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes
My remix to the boxed au gratin potatoes most of us grew up on. Perfect for weeknight or Sunday dinner.
I love rediscovering childhood favorites, such as the box of au gratin potatoes. My mom made them often when we were children and so did my friends’ moms. There isn’t anything better than cheesy ass potatoes. Add some chives, because chives are my jam and its comfort food to the maximum power. Not until I was studying food and becoming a home cook did I learn that there’s a difference between au gratin and scalloped potatoes. They both require a bechamel sauce (we’ll get into more below) but au gratin potatoes include cheese, whereas scalloped potatoes do not require cheese just the bechamel.
This recipe is fairly simple to make in your kitchen and I promise that it’ll become a regular dish for yourself or the family. First, the potatoes. I recommend Michigan Russet, Red Skins, or my absolute favorite (and what I used in this recipe) Yukon Gold. The traditional au gratin potato recipe requires thinly sliced but after not being able to locate my mandolin, I decided to go with a 1/2-inch sliced potato and parboil the spuds to ensure that they are nice and creamy after baking. And baby. The one!
Parboil means to partially boil an item, usually root veggies or rice, until it is soft but not completely cooked. You can parboil potatoes for baking casseroles or carrots if used for stir fry. In the recipe I cut the potatoes, parboil them in cold water until they are slightly soft, and drain them carefully in a strainer. We use cold water when boiling potatoes because a hotter temp would react with the starch which would cause the potatoes to go into shock (pretty dramatic right???) and prevent even cooking. The little minions will also have a gritty texture which is not cute or tasty, to be honest lol.
The dish wouldn’t come together without the mother sauce, bechamel. Bechamel is a creamy white sauce that requires cooking equal parts of flour and a fat like butter or neutral (which is called a Roux) and warm cream. Bechamel is called a mother sauce which means that it is one of five basic sauces used in traditional French cooking. The mother sauces have classic recipes which can then be turned into a variety of “small sauces”. Sauces in the Bechamel family would include alfredo sauce, cheese sauce, mustard sauce, mornay, or the base of many casserole dishes such as the one we’re making and classic lasagna. I just shared day Semester 1, Day 2 of culinary school with you all LOL.
I hate to be “that girl” and talk your ear off so here are all of the details you need to make these cheesy potatoes au gratin.
What You Need:
2 ½ pounds potatoes,
3 tbsp Butter
½ Onion, small dice
2 to 3 tbsp Garlic, minced
2½ cups Half & Half, slightly warming the cream will make a smooth sauce
3 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
1 tbsp Ground Mustard
1½ to 2 tsp Kosher Salt, to taste so feel free to adjust
2 tsp Ground White Pepper, to taste so feel free to adjust
1 tsp Ground Thyme
3 cups Freshly Grated Cheese, I used colby jack, cheddar, and gouda. Save half for topping the casserole
Chives, for garnish
Smoked Paprika, for lightly dusting on top before baking
What to Do:
Peel your potatoes and cut them into even slices that are 1/8″ if you’d like the OG thinly sliced au gratin or a 1/4″ cut like in this pictures shown.
Add potatoes and a few pinches of salt to a large pot with cold water. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, allow the potatoes to cook for about five to seven minutes or until there is a little resistance when sticking with a fork or cake tester. Fully boiled potatoes will create a mushy dish, too raw requires a higher bake time which may dry out the dish but don’t worries!
Add butter to a saucepan over medium heat and add minced garlic and onion. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the onions are soft.
Stir in flour and cook until it has lightly browned or you smell the toastiness of the flour cooking.
Slowly pour in the cream and whisk until the sauce is smooth and begins to thicken. As soon as the sauce begins to bubble, turn down the sauce to prevent the burning of the pan.
Add in seasonings and stir in half of the shredded cheese until it has melted and the sauce is creamy and smooth. And you’ve made a simple, cheesy bemachel sauce!
Assemble to a greased baking dish by adding a thin layer of sauce, potatoes, bemachel sauce, and the remaining shredded cheese. Be sure to get sauce in between the potato layers & line the potatoes into the dish neatly. Avoid stacking completely because it will prevent them from cooking evenly.
Sprinkle paprika and the chives and cover with aluminum foil. I like to sometimes add small butter cubes to the top before baking but it is optional.
Bake the dish for 30 minutes covered and then 10 minutes uncovered or until the cheese on top is bubbly and begins to brown.
Be sure to serve warm and tag @elle.thefoodie in your foodie pics! Eat up!
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