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I have long been intimidated by this classic French dish. The potatoes are so thin! So artfully arranged! But one day, I had nothing in the fridge but the ingredients for this gratin. And you know what? It wasn’t so hard. And it was every bit as delicious as it looks. Best of all, these ingredients are available year round, so this dish can be made in any season.

A few notes: I opted for Russet potatoes, but use whatever kind you like (except fingerling!), so long as you have a pound and a half; reduce the amount of butter if you’re using cream instead of milk; omit the pancetta to make this dish vegetarian – but then grease the skillet with butter or olive oil. Finally, this can be baked in a 9 x 12 baking dish if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, but definitely consider investing in one.


3 ounces pancetta, diced
3 large brown skinned potatoes – about 1 1/2 pounds – peeled
1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved lengthwise and slivered
1 cup whole milk
1 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place the pancetta in a 9″ cast iron skillet and set heat to medium. Cook til lightly browned and crisp, then remove pancetta from pan with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Remove all but about one tablespoon of the grease from the pan and reserve the rest for another use.

3. In a small bowl, combine the cheese, herbs and onions and set aside.

4. Using a mandoline or the blade attachment of a food processor, slice the potatoes as thin as possible (you can also do this carefully by hand) and arrange the slices in a spiral in the cast iron skillet, slightly overlapping the edges. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper, then top with a third of the cheese mixture. Repeat these steps til all potatoes are used but reserve the last third of the cheese.

5. Pour the milk over the potatoes then dab with butter and put gratin in the oven. Halfway through the baking time, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the gratin and lightly press the potatoes flat with a spatula. The gratin is done when the potatoes are soft and the top is golden brown.

inspired by smitten kitchen