A potato gratin is the kind of dish that is always scraped clean at the end of the meal, every morsel of tender tuber, cream, and cheese devoured. It's a guaranteed crowd pleaser (um... because carbs, cream, and cheese) so it's a perfect choice for a potluck. Well, at least this one is. See, most potato gratins take about an hour in the oven but our version here uses a simple shortcut to cut down on that baking time so that you're only using the oven for about thirty minutes. The trick is that the potatoes are simmered in the cream on the stove top first, so by the time they head to the oven they're already partially cooked and infused with flavor. As they simmer, the potatoes release starch and thicken the cream into a subtle and sinfully delicious sauce. This also means that you can taste and season the sauce as you go, so you can be sure that the dish that comes out of the oven has the perfect flavor.
We love the nuanced flavor of these potatoes, just a subtle hint of garlic and nutmeg in the cream. It's like the cream has just been infused with their flavor so that it's not overpowering. They're simple but still flavorful, so they go well with anything else that happens to end up on the potluck table. We rely on this recipe a lot because of its quick, make-ahead qualities. You can slice and simmer the potatoes, get them into the baking dish, and then cover and chill the whole thing overnight. Then you just bake it when you need it. Since the baking time is only thirty minutes, you can even bake it at the potluck if you really wanted to. You can also bring it already done and warm. Or give it a quick jaunt in the oven to reheat once you get there. It's a well-loved dish that's easy and amenable to being carted around, so we find ourselves taking it to any event with a hungry crowd. Because every potluck needs potatoes. So you might as well bring the perfect ones.
- Preheat oven to 400°F and liberally grease a casserole dish with butter. (About 8x12-inch works well.) Set aside.
- Add cream, garlic, potatoes, and nutmeg to a large pot and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let cook about 10 minutes, potatoes will be slightly tender and liquid will have thickened. Adjust seasoning as needed.
- Arrange potatoes in baking dish. If making ahead, cover and chill until ready to bake.
- When ready to bake, remove foil and top with grated cheese. Bake uncovered until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 25-30 minutes, longer if chilled. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!