Gratins made in the traditional style from Dauphine in France, get their name from the golden crust that forms on the surface of a dish when it is cooked in a hot oven. The crust is usually formed from grated cheese, breadcrumbs or egg. A very traditional Dauphinois is made only with potatoes and cream, so the challenge of making it wholly plant-based relies completely on selecting the correct replacement for the cream.
I tried many variations that led to a disappointing dish that tasted too sweet…despite using unsweetened non-dairy milk. I finally decided to use a combination of oat cream and soy milk which gave the dish the correct thickness and did not taste overly sweet. Make sure you read the label on the oat cream and use one with few ingredients. The one I used only had a thickener, oats, water and organic sunflower oil.
Gratins can be made in any dish, but I like to use a heavy cast iron pan because the gratin doesn’t stick to the surface and it looks rather rustic and cool. I would also suggest having a type of slicer (like a mandoline) to cut the potatoes unless you possess excellent knife skills. It is important for the potatoes to be an even thickness to promote even cooking.
Now, about those potatoes… The ones used in France are always of the waxy variety (the ones that hold their shape when cooking and not ones typically used for baking or making purees).
You can dive deeper into the world of potatoes in our Ingredients section.
Yield: Makes 1 medium-sized gratin – enough for 4-6 servings
- Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F)
- Slice the potatoes quite thin…not paper thin, but roughly 1/2-cm (1/8-inch) thick. The thinner you make the potatoes, the creamier the final dish. I personally like the flavor of the potatoes, so I don’t leave them paper thin. Reserve the potatoes in a large bowl.
- Combine the oat cream and soy milk in a pot and season with salt and pepper. Gently heat the milk and add some dried thyme (I use about 2 teaspoons). Bring the milk to a simmer and remove from the heat. Taste the seasoning and adjust (remember, this milk will season your potatoes so be a bit aggressive in this step).
- Pour the warm milk over the potatoes and gently mix together.
- Generously oil your gratin dish, then rub it well with the garlic clove. I usually slice the clove in half to expose it to the air and encourage more of the flavor to hit the dish.
- Add the potatoes to your gratin pan – work in batches rather than just chucking everything into the pan in one big pile. Add a bit of the liquid about half way through, then continue adding the potatoes until your dish if filled. Top with the milk. The idea is to completely cover the potatoes before putting everything into the oven.
- Place the gratin into the preheated oven and bake for 60 minutes. The top should be golden. If your potatoes begin to take on too much color, then drape a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the gratin during the final baking time. Remove the gratin from the oven and allow it to settle for 10 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold.
Jack’s Fresh Tip
I like to flavor my cream with a fresh bay leaf, but this is not necessary.
I also add a thinly-sliced onion to the potatoes on occasion. Try this variation – I think you will be amazed how prevalent the onion flavor develops in the potatoes.
You can also add some cooked and sliced seasonal vegetables to the potato layers. Try sliced artichoke hearts, sliced celery root (celeriac), sliced parsnips or sliced Jerusalem artichokes…not really traditional, but definitely tasty variations.
This is a Sample Recipe
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