A Friend Who Knows No Strangers

The first time I’ve been encountered with “this friend” was at a buffet dinner in one of the 5-star hotels in Jakarta.


Who is this friend who knows no strangers?

This friend’s name is “Potato au Gratin”

Tom Hirschfeld in http://www.food52.com wrote about Potato au Gratin as follows:

“Have you ever had a friend who knows no strangers? The kind of genuine person to whom everyone in the room gravitates — someone who doesn’t have to work at meeting new people, because somehow it is coded into their DNA for others to like them? 

A potato gratin is just such a friend. A friend who hangs out with all the cool entrees too: an herb-crusted roast beef taking a bath in a platter of flavorful juices or a perfectly roasted chicken with crackly brown skin are its best friends.”

I couldn’t agree more with Tom Hirschfeld hence the title of this post.

What is potato gratin?

Gratin is a widespread culinary technique in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using grated cheese, egg and/or butter. Gratin originated in French cuisine and is usually prepared in a shallow dish of some kind. A gratin is baked or cooked under an overhead grill or broiler to form a golden crust on top and is traditionally served in its baking dish

One of the most common of gratins is “potato au gratin” and is known by various names including “gratin potatoes” and “Gratin de pommes de terre”. Slices of boiled potato are put in a buttered fireproof dish, sprinkled with cheese and browned in the oven or under the grill.

Last week, during Eid holiday, I decided to cook Potato au Gratin for my family.

I used the following ingredients:

  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 100 gram unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 100 gram cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 500 ml fresh milk
  • salt & pepper

and the following is the step by step of my version of Potato au Gratin in the making:

Step 1:

  • peel and slice the potatoes

step 1

Step 2:

  • put the potatoes in a heavy bottom wok, add in 1 teaspoon of salt and equal  parts of water and milk to cover the potatoes
  • bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat and cook the potatoes till just tender but not falling apart, then drain.

Step 2

Step 3: 

  • while the potatoes are cooling, grate the cheddar cheese


Step 4: 

  • then prepare the Bechamel sauce. The bechamel is made by melting the butter in saucepan over medium heat


Step 3

Step 5:

  • sautee finely diced onion in the butter about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender
  • when the onions are translucent, add the flour and blend it until smooth.

step 4

Step 6: 

  • stir in the milk and half of the cheese. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.

step 5

Step 7:

  • boil and stir 1 minute
  • remove the Bechamel sauce from heat


Step 8:

  • layer half of the potatoes into the bottom of prepared baking dish
  • top with half of the Bechamel sauce 
  • add remaining potatoes and top with the remaining Bechamel sauce.

layer the potatoes and bechamel sauce

Step 9:

  • sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top of the dish


Step 10:

  • stick the dish in the preheated oven and set a timer for an hour
  • when the timer goes off, remove the potatoes from the oven.
  • leave the potatoes au gratin to cool off for at least 20 minutes

Voila……this is the look of my version potatoes au gratin……..


My version of potato au gratin

It’s hearty and rich and creamy and nutty and salty and savory, and oh God, so good. 

There’s enough textural stuff going on in there—between the mild bite of the onion and the unmashed potato slices and the gaps between them filled with creamy, cheesy heaven !

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