Over the holidays, I have attended a few potluck parties. When it comes to bringing the appropriate food, it is always a bit tricky. It must be a dish that can withstand time (not everyone will arrive at the party on time), ability to keep warm and hopefully not require any heating up (not every house has an oven or an available stove) and most importantly easy to transport from your home to the host’s house.

Potato dauphinois is one dish that fits all the three requirements. It is essentially potato and cream with a hint of garlic. Seriously what’s not to love about potato and cream? This French dish is not terribly difficult to prepare and the ingredients are very easy to obtain. In addition, this dish can feed around 10 people as starter. It is also a great complement to any meat or fish dishes.

Besides being a starter, you can also prepare potato dauphinois as a meal, serving it with salad. If you like, you can add in protein to give it a bit more substance. However I don’t think this dish needs any cheese as the cream provides sufficient richness.

Potato dauphinois
(Adapted from Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen)
I am not very particular about the choice of potatoes – waxy (the potatoes will hope their shape, giving the dish a bite) vs. floury (the potatoes break down easily so you get a creamier gratin). In Singapore, the potatoes are not labelled but most of them are floury. If you like your potatoes to hold their shapes, cut down the cooking time in the pot.

1)      1kg potatoes of your choice
2)      300ml milk (and a bit more)
3)      300ml thickened cream (I used Bulla’s)
4)      A pinch of nutmeg (I prefer to use freshly grated nutmeg)
5)      1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6)      1 teaspoon (kosher) salt (Table salt is fine)
7)      1 clove of garlic, halve
8)      A knob of soft, unsalted butter
9)      Chopped parsley or dill (optional)

-        Prep the potatoes – peel (with a vegetable peeler) and slice them into 3mm-thickness. I like to use the mandolin for this as you will get a consistent result. If you do not have a mandolin, I would strongly urge you to get one. If not, take your time to slice the potatoes. Similar thickness will ensure even cooking.
-        In a large pot, pour in the milk, thickened cream, salt, nutmeg and mustard and give it a quick stir. Add in the sliced potatoes in the liquid mixture and put the pot on a stove and let it simmer for 10 minutes. If you like your potatoes to hold their shapes, you can cut down the cooking time to 7 minutes. In addition, if I am bringing this dish to a party, I tend to add in a bit more milk to prevent the potatoes from drying out during transportation and while sitting on the dining table.
-        While the potatoes are cooking (you can leave them alone to cook, there is no need to stir them; just make sure the cream don’t boil over.), preheat the oven to 200oC.
-        Using the cut side of the halved garlic, rub it around the inside of the baking dish. With the knob of unsalted butter, grease the inside of the baking dish. You can use any baking dish that will fit 1kg of potatoes and 600ml of liquid.
-        After the potatoes are cooked, place the potatoes and cream mixture in the baking tray. At this stage, I will pick the slices that are not broken and set aside. These pieces will be used to decorate the top of the dish.
-        Once the potatoes are placed evenly in the dish, you can put the picked slices of potatoes on top of the dish. It is not necessary for you to do this – I just like to present a pretty dish.
-        Bake the gratin for 35-40 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Be careful not to overcook as the cream will curdle. Once again, if you plan to bring this dish to a party, under-bake it (around 25 minutes) – the residual heat will cook the dish.
-        Serve hot with a sprinkle of chopped parsley or dill.