Just-baked potato gratin in its baking dish.

My sister, the doctor, lover of pies and Peeps, is hosting Thanksgiving this year. She has it all under control, sleeping arrangements organized, color-coded cooking timeline mapped out, and the menu finalized, promising her 12 guests a turkey, a spanakopita, cranberry sauce (not this one) and pie.

To help lighten her load, I’ve signed up to bring punch, stuffing, bread, and this potato gratin, a dish my mother has served at nearly every big holiday gathering for as long as I can remember, one that often steals the show no matter what it’s beside, turkey or otherwise.

It comes from Chez Panisse Vegetables, which offers a number of enticing combinations — potato with turnips or celery root or leeks or sweet potato — but we almost always use potatoes exclusively and keep the seasonings simple too: salt, pepper, thyme and just a dash of freshly grated nutmeg. Submerged in a mixture of equal parts heavy cream and chicken stock, topped with a mixture of Gruyère and parmesan cheeses, these potatoes emerge irresistibly crispy on top and creamy underneath.

This gratin couldn’t be easier to throw together, and you can’t mess it up. I promise. Hope all of your Thanksgiving preparations are going well.

Just baked potato gratin in a 9x13-inch baking dish.

My mother swears by red potatoes. I’ve learned not to question.

red potatoes on a cutting board
peeled potatoes on a board.

A mandoline makes quick work of the slicing, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry.

A mandoline with sliced potatoes on a board.

Rub baking dish with butter and garlic:

A 9x13-inch baking dish rubbed with butter and garlic.

Layer potatoes overtop:

A 9x13-inch baking dish with one layer of sliced potatoes.

Season the potatoes with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves:

Layer of potatoes in baking dish seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme.

Add another layer of potatoes and season in the same manner:

Potato gratin ready for the oven.

Submerge the potatoes with equal parts heavy cream and chicken stock…:

Grated parmesan and Gruyère in measuring cups aside potato gratin.

.. then top with a combination of grated gruyère and parmesan cheeses:

Potato gratin topped with two cheeses.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour:

Just-baked potato gratin.

Seriously, I could totally skip the turkey.

Plate of potato gratin on a plate.
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Just-baked potato gratin in its baking dish.

Alice Waters’s Potato Gratin

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Source: Chez Panisse Vegetables

I love the simplicity of the Chez Panisse Vegetables’s recipe, so I’ve written this one out exactly as it appears in the book and have offered some guidance on quantities/timing below:

“Rub an earthenware gratin dish with smashed peeled garlic and butter. Layer overlapping slices of potato cut 1/8-inch thick. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Make another layer of potato slices and season again. Moisten with cream, cream and chicken stock, or milk to the top level of the top layer of potatoes. According to taste, sprinkle the top with grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese, and distribute thin shavings of butter on top. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour in a preheated oven at 375ºF until nicely browned.

Make it Ahead

You can make this ahead of time two ways: 

  1. You can bake the entire thing ahead of time, let it cool completely, then cover with foil. To reheat: Place it covered in a preheated 350ºF oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until cream-stock mixture is bubbling. Uncover if necessary for 5 to 10 minutes to get the cheese bubbling.
  2. You can bake the dish halfway or three-fourths way — the top will begin to brown, but there will still be a fair amount of liquid in it. In other words, the liquid will not have completely thickened. Remove it from the oven, let it cool completely; then cover in foil. Reheat uncovered at 350ºF until it is done — the top will be browner and the cream mixture will have thickened sufficiently. 


  • softened butter
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 3 lbs. red skinned potatoes, peeled (about 2 lbs. 10 oz. peeled)
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • 8 to 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • freshly grated nutmeg, optional
  • 1.5 cups (or more or less) chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups (or more or less) heavy cream
  • 1 heaping cup grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Rub an earthenware gratin dish (or 9×13-inch Pyrex) with smashed peeled garlic and butter.
  2. Using a mandoline or knife, cut potatoes 1/8-inch thick and layer overlapping slices in the prepared pan. Season generously with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves (no need to chop — just pull and scatter). Lightly grate nutmeg over top. Make another layer of potato slices and season again in the same manner.
  3. Cover the potatoes with the stock and cream — you may need more to allow the liquid to get to the top level of the top layer of potatoes.  Sprinkle the top with the grated cheeses. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour (see notes above if you need to make this ahead of time), checking after 40 minutes or so to make sure the potatoes are not browning too quickly. If they are browning too quickly, cover the pan with foil and continue baking until the potatoes are tender and the top is nicely browned. You can also turn the temperature down to 350ºF if necessary. I find this consistently takes over an hour for the liquid to thicken up and for the top to be evenly browned. 
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hours
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American