We have been having unusually cold and rainy weather in Northern California and I am craving comfort foods. The foods of my childhood, carb-loaded casseroles, long-braised meats, soups, and stews. And personally, especially anything made with potatoes. Last week it was beef stew and this week it was these Creamy Cheesy Potatoes au Gratin!
I served these potatoes as part of my New Year’s Eve Extravaganza with the #ProgressiveEats team that I posted on Tuesday. Perfectly cooked filet mignon steaks with homemade Béarnaise sauce are the pièce de résistance for any celebratory feast. As amazing as the steak and sauce were, I could not stop eating the potatoes. It must be the Irish blood of my heritage – I love potatoes!
I made the potatoes the day before to give myself plenty of focus for trying a new-to-me technique for the sauce. I love the flexibility of this side dish recipe, the ability to make it ahead and reheat when ready to serve. It frees you up to pair it with slightly more complex recipes if you want.
These potatoes are down right delectable! I could barely restrain myself from sneaking a spoonful straight from the oven when they were screaming hot. I hadn’t made them this way before and now I will never make them any other way!
I had a few blocks of Kerrygold cheeses and knew they would add a delicious flavor and richness to the potatoes. A blending of cream and milk gives the dish its lusciousness without being too heavy. You can use all milk if you want to reduce the fat calories, but heck, it’s the holidays, the perfect time for indulgences!
I made two significant changes that I really like and that are, in my opinion, are improvements to the traditional method. Instead of the typical sliced potatoes, I cut mine in small chunks. This made it easier to scoop and eat – especially helpful if you have little children who may not have their dexterity fully developed yet.
The second change was to create a Bechamel sauce and adding cheese to it, much like you would if you were making mac and cheese. Normally cheese is sprinkled over the layers of potatoes so it doesn’t melt smoothly and you wind up with clumps of cheese between the layers.
If you wanted a stronger cheese flavor you could add more to the cream sauce. Just adjust the consistency of the sauce if needed. I finished my casserole with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on the top during the second baking to create another layer of flavor as well as helping the top turn a beautiful brown in areas.
This is a more family-friendly version of the classic French dish. By cubing the potatoes instead of slicing them, they are easier to serve and eat, especially for children. This is definitely a special occasion dish – there is too much cream and cheese to eat it often, but a little indulgence once in a while is worth the extra exercise after!
If you are looking for an extravagance for your holiday meals, I hope you make these potatoes – I promise they are beyond delectable. I usually try to give away leftovers from my blog recipes to family or neighbors but I kept these all to myself, LOL.
May you have the most joyous holiday season, sharing delicious food, lots of laughter, and heart-warming moments with family and friends. Enjoy!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you have made these ahead and are reheating them, you can add a touch of water to loosen the sauce if you want. It is optional, but the sauce does thicken as it cools.
This recipe is easy to convert to gluten-free – just substitute a gluten-free flour to make the roux. I used sorghum, but you could use any mild flavored flour you like or a blend you have on hand. The trick to a roux is to cook it long enough to cook out the raw flavor of the flour, and in this case not long enough to turn golden. You want a white roux to showcase the delicate color of the cheeses.
- Cream Sauce
- 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- 2 shallots, peeled and minced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 4 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour, gluten-free flour blend, or sorghum flour
- 2 cups whole milk or half and half
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1-1/2 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- Potatoes au Gratin
- 8 large russet potatoes
- 3 cups shredded Cheddar or white Cheddar cheese, such as Kerrygold Dubliner and/or Blarney Castle
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- Fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Set out a 9x13-inch pan or other large baking pan with tall sides.
- Saute the Onions and Garlic: In a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, add oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until softened and beginning to color slightly. Stir in the garlic and remove from the heat. Stir occasionally as the onions continue to caramelize lightly in the residual heat.
- Make the Cheesy Cream Sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk until completely smooth. Don't take any shortcuts, you don't want any lumps! Reduce the heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes - this helps the sauce be smoother and gets rid of the raw flour flavor. Add the milk, cream, and salt, whisking until smooth. Turn the heat back up, bring back to a boil, and cook, whisking constantly until thickened.
- Stir in the sauteed onions and garlic. Add the Cheddar (half at a time) and the Parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheeses are fully melted. Keep the sauce warm over very low heat, stirring occasionally while you prep the potatoes.
- Prepare the Potatoes: Peel the potatoes, cut lengthwise in half and then each half into thick "sticks". If the potatoes are very large slice them in thirds and slice into "sticks". Turn the potato and cut crosswise into small cubes (this makes the dish a lot easier to serve and eat). Once cut, stir the potatoes into the cheese sauce and pour into the prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil cover from the pan, sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan and return to the oven. Continue baking about 20 minutes longer or until the casserole is bubbling, the top is golden brown, and the potatoes are tender when you insert a slender knife or prongs of a fork. You should test the potatoes in several places to be sure the entire pan is tender.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let set about 15 minutes before sprinkling the parsley on the top and scooping servings.
- Make Ahead: You can make these potatoes up to a couple of days in advance. Reheat uncovered in the microwave or oven until bubbling around the edges and the center is heated through.
- Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Create a New Tradition Today!
Let’s connect! If you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, need to alter a recipe for gluten-free, or want recipe suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask. Feel free to quote me, just give credit where credit is due, link to the recipe, and send people to my website. Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material from The Heritage Cook without prior approval is prohibited. If you have any questions or would like permission, please contact me. The suggestions here are not intended as dietary advice or as a substitute for consulting a dietician, physician, or other medical professional. Please see the Disclaimers page for additional details. Thanks for joining the Heritage Cook Family!