How to Make a Potato and Leek Gratin
There is nothing better on earth than a well made potato gratin.
Rich and luscious, crisped and lightly browned on top with a melting creaminess within; the potato gratin is the ultimate indulgence side dish – and also the one most likely to steal the show from whatever protein dares line up beside it!
While it’s hard to go wrong with a straight up potato gratin (a la potatoes dauphinois) this version, which throws leeks into the mixture, makes for a nice change of pace and is also very worth making.
It’s very hard to make a non-tasty potato gratin…what with the potatoes and the cream and all that – but really, your goal for this dish should be to produce something that is just ridiculously good. And this is not hard to do; all it requires of you is to taste it a bit before baking to ensure that you get the seasoning right.
To make an insanely good potato gratin – after you have assembled the dish and everything is in the baking pan and ready for entry to the oven, let it sit for about 10 minutes and then taste the cream mixture for salt. The 10 minutes wait lets the salt you’ve added to the potatoes percolate through the cream and that last minute prebaking tasting lets you add more salt if needed to get the seasoning spot on – guaranteeing a perfect dish. To taste for salt, just dip a spoon (or your finger…if no one’s looking) deep into the potato layers, and taste away…
Leek and Potato Gratin
- 2 lbs of potatoes (waxy ones, like Yukon Golds, will hold their shape better, but any kind will work just fine here)
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
- 2 medium sized leeks
- Salt and freshly cracked pepper
- A little butter for greasing the baking dish
- 3 or 4 ounces of freshly grated parmesan for the top (you could use other cheese instead of the parmesan, if desired, such as an aged cheddar, Ementhal, Gruyere, etc.)
- Preheat the oven to 325
- Combine the milk, garlic and cream in a sauce pan and bring this mixture to a simmer – and then turn off the heat
- Peel the potatoes and then slice them as thinly as you can. If you have a mandolin slicer, it will shine here
- Clean the leeks well, making sure to cut down into the leek to the center and to clean it inside with running water to make sure you get rid of all dirt – and then slice finely
- Rub a little butter around 2 quart casserole dish and then lay out a layer of potatoes followed by a scattering of leeks.
- Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the potato layer, and then repeat with another layer of potatoes and leeks and salt and pepper - until you’ve added all potatoes and leeks to your dish.
- Pour the cream/milk mixture over the potatoes and press down
to submerge all potatoes in the cream - if by chance, the cream doesn't submerge the potatoes, feel free to add in a dash more cream/milk until it's enough to cover
- Let the mixture rest on the counter for about 10 minutes, and then dip a spoon into the cream (down deep) and taste for seasoning…adding more salt if necessary.
- Top with the freshly grated parmesan
- Cover (either with a tight fitting lid or with aluminum foil) and bake for 45 minutes. Take off the lid and bake for another 30-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through (a fork inserted meets little resistance) and the top is golden brown.
Eat and enjoy…
This dish can be made in advance and reheated with great results.
- (if you’ve got the time…star chef Heston Blumenthal recommends cooking potato gratins very slowly, like at 225f, for four hours before finishing under a broiler to brown. He says this makes for a creamier gratin…and with 3 Michelin stars under his belt at what many consider the world’s best restaurant – he does speak with some weight!)
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