I hope my mother doesn’t read this but growing up, the au gratin potatoes in the box with freeze dried potatoes were horrid. And when you thought freedom had arrived, they followed me to undergrad and got me through my first year in a new apartment. It was my duty to find a “grown up” recipe that would fulfill my cheese and potato love and ditch the packaged mix.
First, let’s start with the potatoes- it is important to parboil them before assembling the dish and baking in the oven. During my first rounds of recipe testing, I found out very quickly that raw potatoes can really kill a vibe. Parboiling really stands for a partial boil (not as fancy as you thought, huh?) This method is fairly simple and requires that the potatoes are boiled until partially cooked or just beginning to become fork-tender. Be sure to cut your potatoes into 1/4 thick slices prior to baking to save yourself the trouble.
The cheese sauce or in the culinary world- bemachel sauce, is everything you need! I started with the fresh aromatics of garlic and chopped onion, butter and flour for thickening and milk, heavy cream, and lots of cheese. Not sure on what kind to use? I prefer cheddar, gouda, colby, and Monterrey jack. Seasoning the sauce perfectly ensure a great taste when baking- I’ve added ground mustard to the recipe for the perfect creaminess. You won’t taste the mustard taste but you can tell the noticeable difference. If you don’t have it, that’s fine but it is indeed a great pantry option!
Now, if you haven’t heard by now- this is a freshly shredded cheese stan account. You just don’t get the same melt and creaminess with shredded cheeses. The packaged kind that we all love is mixed with cellulose to keep the cheeses from sticking together and absorbs extra moisture. I love using my food processor to grate fresh cheese. If when Kroger has cheeses on sale, grab the block of cheese later and thank me later!
- 2 1/2 pounds potatoes (this is totally your call, but note that potato variety have different cook times. I use russet or yukon gold (shorter cook time).
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 to 3 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 to 1 cup whole milk
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp ground mustard
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp thyme (optional)
- 3 cups shredded cheese
- Chives for garnish
- Smoked and Original Paprika (for color when baking)
What To Do
- Peel your potatoes and cut them into even slices that are 1/8″ if you’d like the OG thinly sliced au gratin or a 1/4″ cut like in this pictures shown.
- Bring a pot of water to boil with salt to taste. Once the water begins boiling, add the potatoes to the water and boil for about five to seven minutes or the potatoes only resist a little when stuck with a knife or fork. Fully boiled potatoes will create a mushy dish, too raw requires a higher bake time.
- Add butter to a saucepan over medium heat and add minced garlic and onion. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the onions are soft.
- Stir in flour. The mixture may be clumpy but don’t worry- we’ll fix this.
- Pour in heavy cream and milk and whisk until the sauce is smooth and begins to thicken. As soon as the sauce begins to bubble, turn down the sauce to prevent burning of the pan.
- Add in seasonings and stir in 2 cups of cheese until it has melted and the sauce is creamy and smooth. And you’ve made a simple bemachel sauce!
- Assemble to a greased baking dish by adding a thin layer of sauce, potatoes, bemachel sauce and the remaining shredded cheese. Be sure to get sauce in between the potato layers.
- Sprinkle paprika and the chives and cover with aluminum foil. I like to sometimes add small butter cubes to the top before baking but it is optional.
- Bake the dish at 365 F for 30 minutes covered and then 10 minutes uncovered or until the cheese on top is bubbly and begins to brown.
- Be sure to serve warm and tag @elle.thefoodie in your foodie pics! Eat up!