Last Spring when these photos were taken I went through a series of perfecting my Au Gratin dish. I looked at recipes and read about the purist forms, read about rustic forms, even engaged in a debate of whether it is called Au Gratin or Scalloped Potatoes. People have issues with these topics!
After making and eating this dish a dozen or so times over a four month period, I think I figured it out. Each time I would experiment using a different potato or a mix of them. Same with the cheese and the milk products. There is no one way to make this dish. However I found one way that received a four star review from the mister.
First of all, the liquids. Milk, heavy cream, half & half, water and/or chicken stock. About two cups total of some mix of those liquids. I like to use mostly milk and heavy cream with a half a cup of chicken stock.
Second goes the cheese. 8 oz of Tillamook Medium cheddar grated, plus an assortment of this and that if you have it on hand. If not just combine your favorites or use more cheddar. You'll need between 3 to 4 cups grated.
Thirdly you will need potatoes. This is where I went round and round. I have always used waxy potatoes to make this dish, reds, roses, whites. I tried a combo. I tried them alone. I tried Yukon golds, which are a little fluffier. The dish comes out fine and it re-heats well for leftovers and it is very filling.
But then I tried Russets. Pealed, sliced with the mandolin (not too thin), and boiled in salted water until fork tender. It doesn't take long because they are sliced. And yes I know it's a hassle to get a big pot of water to boil for something that is going cook in the oven for an hour, but this step gives the dish an incredible texture. So light like a souffle. Please try it.
Onward. Make the sauce first. In a small frying pan, melt 3 Tablespoons of butter with two cloves of minced garlic. When foamy, add 3 Tablespoons of all purpose flour. Fry a little bit. Don't let it get too brown. You have a roux.
Put the roux in a medium saucepan. Heat the two cups of liquid in the microwave for two minutes. Pour in saucepan that is now on medium heat and stir. Add grated cheese by the handful and continue to stir.
When thicken you will have a lovely cheese sauce. Taste for seasoning. It's probably salty enough because cheese is usually salted.
Cut and boil potatoes. Strain and put into baking dish. Pour cheese sauce into dish and give a little shake to make sure it is in all the layers. Do not stir.
Bake covered for 45 minutes and then uncover for the final 15 minutes. Allow to sit for about 10 to 20 minutes. Plate up.
Shown here with crispy bacon and steamed asparagus.