Made with layers of thinly sliced potatoes nestled in a bath of cream and topped with Cheddar cheese, this dish is perfect with roast beef or chicken. Using a food processor to slice the potatoes makes it a snap to make, but if you don’t have one, a sharp knife with a little elbow grease works great, too – plus, you’ll get to perfect your knife skills. Feel free to be creative with this. Change up the cheese for an entirely different dish. You can add broccoli, bacon, or spinach for even more variety. This recipe makes a lot, but if you’re not cooking for company, wrap individual servings of leftovers tightly in plastic and freeze. Reheat in the microwave.
If you want to get ahead, you can peel the potatoes and cover them in water (raw potatoes discolor when exposed to air), but leave them whole. Don’t slice them until you’re ready to cook; otherwise, you’ll rinse away the natural potato starch, which is what helps thicken the cream and hold everything together.
3 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 medium)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, or nonstick cooking spray
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
3 cups packed grated Cheddar cheese
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (if you have a food processor use it – it makes the dish a breeze!)
Smear the garlic on the inside of a 13x9x2-inch baking dish (to give it the essence of garlic). Alternatively, rub the inside of 8 t o 12 individual 1- to 1 1/2-cup oven-proof dishes with the garlic. Allow the garlic juices to dry, then coat the dish with the softened butter or nonstick cooking spray.
Put the potatoes, salt, pepper, and half-and-half or cream into a 6- to 8-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally (make sure no potatoes are sticking to the bottom and getting scorched), until the liquid thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
Pour the potatoes and cream into the prepared baking dish (or dishes). Press down on the top layer with a rubber spatula to submerge the potatoes. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and press down again.
Bake until the top is golden and the potatoes are tender, 45 to 60 minutes for a large baking dish, 30 to 45 minutes for small dishes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.