Classic Potato Gratin

This creamy, satisfying potato casserole makes a wonderful side on the holiday table or is excellent paired with a piece of grilled steak. Gruyère cheese is the traditional cheese used in a gratin and while it is delicious, it can be a little pricey. Feel free to substitute a good Swiss if you like -- the results will still be fantastic. This recipe makes 6 servings but can easily be doubled.

PREP TIME: 20 minutes
COOK TIME: 1 hours 30 minutes

2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and very thinly sliced (use a mandolin to slice if you have one)
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon black pepper
Leaves from 2 fresh sprigs of thyme
4 ounces Gruyère or Swiss, grated
1 ounce grated Parmesan
Salt, to taste

Preheat your oven to 325 F.

Arrange potatoes in a glass baking dish. Try to fan the potatoes evenly, angling them up slightly as opposed to lying the potatoes flat. This will ensure that all potatoes get an even amount of the cream sauce and cook evenly.

Heat a medium-sized stock pot to medium on the stove top. Add butter and shallots. Stir and cook until the shallots begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more. Add flour to the pot, stir to coat the flour with the butter mixture and cook for 2 minutes, until the flour begins to very lightly brown. Add half-and-half, nutmeg, pepper and thyme leaves to the pot and whisk to combine the mixture well. Whisk about every 30 seconds for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove pot from heat and stir in cheese until the cheese has mostly melted.

Pour sauce over potatoes evenly, making sure to get some of the sauce on all of the potatoes. Season with salt, cover tightly with foil and cook the potatoes inn the oven for 60-75 minutes, or until the potatoes become fork-tender.

Remove potatoes from oven and remove foil. Turn on the oven's broiler. Evenly sprinkle the Parmesan over the potatoes. Put potatoes back in oven and broil for 1-2 minutes, until the top begins to brown.

Remove gratin from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.