WHAT ARE POTATOES AU GRATIN?
Potatoes au gratin are baked potatoes that have a crunchy, golden brown topping made with cheese and a starch like flour or breadcrumbs. If you’ve ever had real potatoes au gratin then you know this is a dish that’s worth the trouble. To make it right (versus the gloppy, cheddar cheese topped imposter often trying to pass for the real thing) the secret is in the sauce. A classic Béchamel–a butter, flour and milk sauce–is then enriched with cheese, making it a Mornay sauce. Back in the day, only Gruyere cheese made it a Mornay, but it has become an equal opportunity cheese sauce. Munster D’Alsace is often used for Potatoes Au Gratin because of it’s strong flavor that can stand up to being “diluted” in a milk sauce without losing its character.
SUGGESTIONS WHEN MAKING POTATOES AU GRATIN
- Get your ingredients ready before you start
Like many sauces, this cheese sauce requires attention and care. That means it’s best to get your ingredients prepped and ready so you aren’t futzing around trying to keep up. There’s a lot of whisking involved between making your roux (butter and flour mixture) to adding the cheese. No time to stop and start grating. This also means having your sliced potatoes nicely seasoned and nestled in a buttered baking dish waiting for their blanket of sauce.
- Keep your roux smooth and your milk cold
Starting out lump-less is key to a good roux so be prepared to whisk your little heart out. For the best results use cold milk and add it slowly whisking all the while. When you have a nice smooth sauce, let it simmer a bit–again whisking. Next you add the cheese and, you guessed it–keep whisking.
- A word on potatoes
All potatoes are NOT created equal. Use a potato that’s too starchy and you’ll get a gloppy mess, if they’re too “waxy” they’ll have too much bite. We find that Russet potatoes are always a good choice because they hold their shape while cooking up tender.
WHAT PAIRS WELL WITH POTATOES AU GRATIN?
Potatoes Au Gratin are an excellent side dish to roast meats or grilled steak. They’re kid-friendly enough to even pair with chicken nuggets or hot dogs. In terms of wine, a crisp, dry white like Chenin Blanc or a sparkling Rose can work well. Or for beer lovers, the Belgian whites Hoegaarden or Flat Tire can also create a refreshing contrast. (written by Chef Stef)