This is a classic homestyle French dish that always manages to seem festive. I was introduced to the gratin during staff meal at a restaurant in France where my coworkers looked forward to it the way that Americans look forward to mac and cheese. It’s decadent for sure, but the ratio is on par with your typical holiday mash. Don’t skimp on the half-and-half here-the potatoes absorb a lot of moisture and should still be a little saucy when they come out of the oven. Serve it with a big meat centerpiece, or as a main with salad and a dry white wine, and call it a day.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. Peel potatoes and slice on a mandoline to 4.5mm or 3/16 of an inch, just a little thicker than the width of a nickel using a knife.
- Heat a tablespoon of butter in an enameled Dutch oven or other medium-size ovenproof pot, just until it melts. Swirl it around the base and sides to coat. Scatter half of the garlic and thyme (if using) in the bottom of the pot before layering all the potatoes, overlapping slices on each other by a third so that they are evenly shingled. Sprinkle each layer with salt, pepper, and a light grating of nutmeg.
- Top with the remaining garlic and thyme, and pour the half-and-half in against the side of the pot so as to not disrupt the layers. Move the pot to the stove, and bring the potatoes to a gentle boil over medium.
- Once the half-and-half starts to bubble, dab the remaining butter over the top, and move the gratin to the oven.
- Check on the tenderness after 45 minutes by inserting a thin knife through the middle-there should be absolutely no resistance. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Tammie Teclemariam is a food and drinks writer and wine professional. Her work appears in Wine Enthusiast, Thrillist, and Eater. She lives in Brooklyn where she shares one fridge with 5 roommates.