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Growing up I remember my mother loved the convenience of Betty Crocker box au gratin potatoes.  When I started cooking on my own I wasn’t in love with the salty flavor from the boxed mix. I couldn’t tell you the last time I made them from scratch. We roasted a chicken over the weekend and I had a craving for potatoes, so I decided to open one of my Ina Garten cookbooks and found her recipe for Potato Fennel Gratin Potatoes. I changed a few things leaving out the fennel because I don’t like the taste of licorice, and I substituted the Gruyere cheese for Jarlsberg.

Why did I substitute the cheese? I love the flavor of Gruyere. It’s a smooth, slightly sweet, and salty melting style of swiss cheese. But, it’s also expensive because it ages six months if not more. One 4-0z block is $9 and I needed 8-oz of cheese. I Googled substitutions for Gruyere and decided on Jarlsberg, a rich buttery, slightly nutty cheese.  One 8-oz block was $8. I am really happy with my changes. These potatoes were amazing.

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The best way to make sure your potatoes cook evenly is by slicing them thin and of the same thickness. My most favorite cooking gadget is my OXO Good Grips Complete Grate and Slice set. Mr. Bee gifted me this and I use it all the time. The best part is that it stores all in its own measuring box to save space.   The set comes with a mandolin (straight slicing) blade which makes slicing the potatoes a breeze.

Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes (modified version of Ina Garten’s recipe)

  • 1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled (4 large potatoes)
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 2 ½ cups grated Jarlsberg cheese, divided (½ pound)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 10 x 15 x 2-inch (10 cup) baking dish.

Put the olive oil and butter in a medium (10-inch) sauté pan and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender.

Thinly slice the potatoes by hand or with a mandoline. Place them in a large bowl with 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 2 cups of Jarlsberg, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add the onion mixture and mix well.

Pour the potato mixture into the prepared baking dish. Press down lightly to smooth the top. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream and ½ cup of Jarlsberg and sprinkle evenly on the top.  Bake for between 1 and 1¼ hours, until the potatoes are very tender and the top is browned and bubbly.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve hot.

Recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved.