How To Make Potatoes au Gratin


With the holidays coming up, it’s going to be pretty hectic around here for the next couple of months. So I’m trying out an idea to make it easier to stick with home-cooked meals, even when we’re in a hurry and want something quick.

There’s a movement starting to catch on with the tag line, “Cook for a day, eat for a month.” They get super-organized for one day and stock the freezer with a month’s worth of dinners. I’m not that organized. So what I’m trying is for the next couple of weeks, each time I cook I’ll multiply the recipe as much as I can and still make it in one batch. Then I’ll shrink wrap meal-size portions and freeze them. Call it “Cook for a day, eat for a week.”

I actually got the idea when I was thinking back to the dinners I used to eat when I was 10 and 11, and I had to cook for myself before football practice: Boil-in-bag meals. They were really popular before microwaves became commonplace. They’re a bit more limited in what you can make, but they’re nearly impossible to screw up.

A couple more days like this and I’ll have enough quick meals to carry us through the end of the year.

(Oh, and if you’re looking for other sides for Thanksgiving, you’ve got to check out these glazed carrots.)


4 pounds Russet potatoes (fill a large casserole a little below the top)
1 large sweet onion
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese (not pictured, because I’m a moron)
8 tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper


If I were doing a single meal’s worth of this, I’d probably have peeled the potatoes instead of just washing them really well.

There were a couple of bad spots, eyes (sprouts) and discoloration, so I did peel just the trouble spots.

Grease a large casserole dish with some butter or bacon fat.

Slice the potatoes a quarter-inch thick. The exact thickness isn’t as important as getting all the slices the same thickness. Shred the onion.

Put a layer of potatoes in the casserole dish, then a layer of onion and a layer of cheese.

Season with salt and pepper, then repeat the layers until you run out of potatoes.

Since I forgot the salt and pepper — just like I forgot the cheese in the ingredients photo — I added it to the cream and shook it up before pouring it in.

Then cut the butter into thin pats and distribute across the top layer of potatoes.

Cover and bake at 350° for an hour. You can see that it hadn’t started to thicken up at all yet.

Some recipes call for a couple of tablespoons of flour or cornstarch. Mix it into the cream before adding it. If you didn’t use a thickener, give it a good stir and return it to the oven, uncovered, to reduce until it’s thick enough.

If you’re doing a smaller batch for a single meal, you’re done at this point.

For my “make my own boil-in-bag meals” project, I let it cool and vacuum-sealed it all in four portions. I could have done six from this amount.

Two days later … [imagine you’re seeing a shimmery fade-out here, to represent the passage of time]

Put the bag, straight from the freezer, in a pot with enough water to completely cover the bag. Place over high heat until the water is boiling, then reduce to a simmer. This moment represents the magic of boil-in-bag meals: You can leave it in the pot as long as you like and the food will never dry out or over-cook. You can turn the heat off and it will hold at serving temperature for a long time.

When it’s time to serve, carefully remove the bag from the hot water.

Cut the end of the bag off and pour the potatoes out into a serving dish.

And that’s it.

I’ve got three more helpings of this in the freezer for emergencies. Add a rice dish or two, another potato and some pasta and I’ll be set.

Potatoes au Gratin

Potatoes au Gratin


  • 4 pounds Russet potatoes
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 stick butter (¼ pound, ½ cup)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • salt and pepper


Grease a large casserole dish with some butter or bacon fat. Slice the potatoes a quarter-inch thick. Slice the onion root to tip, not in rings.

Put a layer of potatoes in the casserole dish, then a layer of onion and a layer of cheese. Season with salt and pepper, then repeat the layers until you run out of potatoes. Pour in the cream. Cut the butter into thin pats and distribute across the top layer of potatoes.

Cover and bake at 350° for an hour. Remove lid and cook until liquid has reduced and thickened to desired consistency.

Makes 16 generous helpings, or dinner for four plus three rounds of leftovers.


  1. I LOVE Potatoes au Gratin! In my house my mom used to call them cheese potatoes. I didn’t know what they were really called until several years later.

    I haven’t had them in forever.

  2. Looks great!

  3. Huh. And here I always thought potatoes got mushy in the freezer. See there, you proved me wrong, Drew. Now doesn’t that just make your day?

  4. Thanks for posting this! My husband and I were just talking about this recipe from our childhood days!

  5. Jon, they are cheese potatoes. It just sounds better in French.

    Honeyb, tastes better. :-)

    Kristin, as hard as it may be for you to believe, the quality of my doesn’t depend on feedback from you. 😛 (For anybody reading this who doesn’t speak emoticon, that was sarcasm. Just sayin’.)

    Jodi, that’s weird that you and Jon both remember this as a childhood thing. I don’t think I ever had them growing up.

  6. I would add some gruyere, myself. :)

  7. Jay, I can’t think of a cheese that wouldn’t be good in this.

  8. Totally off the subject, do you have a recipe for candied yams (whole, not mashed)? The ones with the gooey marshmallows on top? Thanks! And the potatoes were yummy!

  9. Jee-Sun, I wish I could help, but I have this weakness: I can’t cook anything I don’t like. And I don’t like yams.

  10. Shocking! To not like sweet potatoes! lol
    My mom always made scalloped potatoes… everything is the same but with no cheese.

  11. Looks absolutely yummy!

    Something that I add though is a packet of brown onion soup powder. It really adds to the flavor as well as serves as a thickening agent.

    Give it a try.

    Greetings from sunny South Africa!

  12. Madeline, that does sound good. I think (can you keep a secret?) I’m going to try that next time. Don’t tell anyone, though. Everything I do here is from scratch.

    Now if I could find a good recipe to make my own onion soup mix …

  13. This recipe is from Recipezaar for homemade onion soup mix. Hope it helps. I’ve never made it.. but I’m sure you could cut out a lot of that salt.

    Onion Soup Mix Recipe #3513
    Categories: Soup/stews, Mixes, Pitzer
    by Tonkcats

    SERVES 8 , 2 cups

    * 7 ounces beef bouillon granules
    * 1/4 cup instant tea powder
    * 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    * 1 cup dry onion, minced
    * 1/4 cup onion powder
    * 1/4 cup parsley flakes
    * 1/8 cup onion salt (7 tsp)

    1. Combine in order listed.
    2. Keep the mixture in jar at room temperature.
    3. Makes 2 cups.
    4. 1/4 cup mix equals 1 envelope commercial soup mix TO USE: 1/4 cup mix to 4 cups boiling water.
    5. Stir well until soup is dissolved.

  14. Anon, thanks, but I’m looking for one that’s really “from scratch”. Have you ever looked at the ingredients in bouillon granules? Scary.

  15. Jee-Sun!

    To make candied yams you’ll need –
    1 large can of yams
    1 large bag of marshmallows
    1 stick of butter
    1/3 cup of Brown Sugar

    Pile the yams in a casserole dish,
    slice up butter and place all over sweet potatoes and sprinkle the brown sugar all over as well. Add as many of the marshmallows as you want, bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until marshmallows are nice a golden brown.


  16. Awesome. I knew someone out there would have this recipe. Thanks for posting it.

  17. Whoa. How have I just now found your blog? You’re a man after my own heart. Hooray for butter, cream, and grandma!

    a.k.a. The Hungry Mouse

  18. Jessie, well of course butter and cream. Is there any other way?

    Oh, and I’d send you pics of what I made for your roundup, but I just came back into town and I’ve got four days of pictures to process and a couple of posts to write first.

  19. Paulissa says:

    I just found your blog. My version of scalloped potatoes has russet and sweet potatoes in a savory cream sauce.

  20. Paulissa, I don’t know why, but I’ve never been a fan of sweet potatoes.

  21. socaltransplant says:

    I use these bags all the time. They are great to send cookies in care packages because the cookies don't break. They are also great for making meals for the elderly. Plate up a meal on a sturdy paper plate and use a large bag to seal it up. They can pop the whole thing in the microwave. Just snip a small hole at the top before nuking it.

  22. Socal, don't the plates collapse when you vacuum seal it?

  23. What gear do you recommend to shrink wrap food? This is a great idea!!

  24. I’ve got a FoodSaver that I’ve had for about a decade and it’s still going strong. I’m sure the newer models work even better.

  25. sonnet says:

    this really help me with my foods SBA exam thanks

  26. I had to laugh, and not at you I promise, but when you wrote *not pictured because I’m a moron* all I could think was *glad I’m not alone* LOL….btw, I LOVE these simple easy recipe.

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