This is, hands down, my favorite way to prepare potatoes. A simple bake of potatoes, cream, Gruyere, and garlic, this is French comfort food of the highest order. While it bakes you will be tempted to do nothing but stand in front of the oven, peering through the glass to watch this beautiful dish bubble and brown. Please, do other, productive things!
Use a mandolin or the thin slicer on your food processor to slice the potatoes. You can use a very sharp knife to slice but please be sure to slice off one thin slice down the long side of the potato. Hold the potato firmly with the flat side against the cutting board and slowly slide rounds as close to 1/8" as you can.
This dish is perfect alongside roasted meats or fish like salmon or halibut. It is equally wonderful as a hearty main dish on a vegetarian plate. I like to make Potatoes au Gratin in a cast iron pan, though a 9x12" casserole will do. Almost any cheese will work on top (try feta!) but I prefer Gruyere because it doesn't compete with the garlic and browns beautifully while staying a little gooey. This will draw 'ohs' and 'has' from everyone at your table!
3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
3 c. whole milk
2 tsp. salt
Black pepper, to taste
2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. grated Gruyere (preferred), Swiss, Cheddar, or cheese of your choice
1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Place the garlic in a heavy bottom sauce pan with the milk and bring to a slow boil. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir once.
3. Lower the milk to a simmer and add the potatoes. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, stirring occaisionally but gently. Do not let them boil and do not overcook - you just want them to be about halfway cooked. Remove from the heat and remove the garlic.
4. Using a large slotted spoon, spoon the potatoes into a well buttered 10" cast iron pan or 9x12" casserole dish. Discard any milk left in the pan after you have transferred all of the potatoes.
5. Pour the cream over the potatoes and sprinkle with the cheese. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
6. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes until the cheese has browned.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.