Christmas Eve in my house is a really big to-do. On top of all the Holiday festivities, it is my dad’s birthday. He loves good food and great wine so Christmas Eve dinner is a big deal. We spend weeks discussing the menu and days preparing. The day of usually consists of too many head chefs and not enough sous chefs if you know what I mean, but it's still my favorite day of the season. Lots of laughs, too much wine, and a feast of the best food we will have all year!
One of the staples of this night is a French style potato. I don’t know when or how that started but we always have a potato with cream, cheese, and heaps of butter. Usually scalloped, sometimes we add beef stock, sometimes just heavy cream. I have tested and re-tested and this year I have finally perfected the scalloped potato with the perfect ratio of cream to butter complemented by a flavorful beef stock. This year I added a top layer of roses to the potatoes. Completely unnecessary, I was just experimenting(see tips below). I hope you enjoy this recipe; it’s been a labor of love for many years!
So what is a scalloped potato? A scalloped potato is a potato that has been sliced extremely thin and layered with cheese and a fat, usually butter. The classically trained chef in me will tell you that all your potato slices need to be of precise thickness (1/8 inch thick if you had my chef as a teacher) so that all slices will cook equally. I, however, am not that particular at home. Eye it and move on in my opinion. What is important are the tips I have outlined below. Follow these and your potatoes will be tender, delicious, and a perfect addition to your holiday meal. Or any meal for that matter. An afternoon snack even, no judgement.
- When you layer your potatoes make sure to do so evenly.
- Salt and pepper each potato layer; the seasoning really lightens the heaviness of the cream and butter.
- Use a nice cheese. While cheddar works, I prefer Gruyère. It really elevates your dish.
- Make sure your cream and stock have been properly warmed but not simmering. The purpose of warming is to gradually bring your cream to temperature without curdling. Warming the cream before placing in the oven is key and making sure it does not simmer on the stove before it goes in is super important so the cream does not curdle. If curdled, the cream will not absorb into the potato as well.
- The garlic clove does not actually go into the dish. It is just to flavor the pan. This is a tip I picked up from Julia Child. She always rubbed her pans with garlic without adding it into her recipes. You can use a little garlic juice as well if you have that lying around. Just something to take your flavor to the next level.
- If you want to elevate the appearance you may add a layer of potato roses to the top of your scalloped layers. You will need a vegetable sheeter or large mandolin slicer to THINLY slice a few of the potatoes. Roll them into roses and tuck them between the layered scalloped potatoes so the top is barely showing. You will need to cover the potatoes with tin foil for the first 30 minutes and then remove tinfoil half way through baking. The thin potatoes will burn if uncovered in the oven for longer than 30 minutes.
4 Large russet potatoes
1 clove garlic
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese or the like
6 tbs butter divided into 12 pats
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup beef stock
- Preheat oven to 300°.
- Cut potatoes into thin round slices. They should be roughly ⅛ inch thickness and as equal in size as possible.
- In a shallow, round baking dish with a thick bottom rub peeled garlic clove on the bottom to flavor the dish. Place 1/3 of the potato slices in a single layer.
- Top with salt and pepper and evenly spread 1/3 of the cheese onto the potatoes.
- Spread 4 of the butter pats out on top of the potato layer, one on each side of the baking dish.
- Continue in the same fashion with two more layers of potatoes, cheese, and butter. The top of your baking dish should show cheese and butter when finished.
- In a small saucepan warm the beef stock and cream on the stove, taking care not to heat too quickly and burn the cream. Heat until hot but not simmering.
- Once at temperature, pour the liquid mixture over the layered potatoes evenly.
- Bake in oven for 1 hr until potatoes are fork tender.