Czech Potato Gratin
Czech Potato Gratin
Not much to see here, just the BEST POTATO GRATIN EVER. A chunk of it and a pint of Pilsner makes me happy as a pig in mud. Should I keep going?
Let me start with the name. It’s called French potatoes in Czech. No idea why. Maybe my ancestors landed in Provence, sampled a potato casserole, and decided to put their Central European spin on it. Either way, bless them because their version is a masterpiece.
I learned this recipe from my mom, who made it for weeknight dinners when I was a kid. Let’s go over the key ingredients that must go into this gratin:
- Potatoes – the XXL yellow Russets are the best, because they make potato-chip-size slices, which allow for perfect layering.
- Eggs – seven seems like a lot but it’s four hard-boiled ones for the taste, texture, and color and three raw to be mixed with heavy cream and cheese to hold the whole thing together.
- Salami or prosciutto – pork is essential PERIOD.
- Onions – they caramelize during baking and become sweet
- Pickles – they provide a burst of surprising sour flavor — definitely my fave
- Cream – because we all deserve rich experiences
- Cheese – see “Cream”
There is nothing to the cooking method. Take out your mandoline, if you have one, to slice the potatoes — don’t include your middle finger please! — otherwise use a sharp knife.
Then, you start layering in the baking dish. You have options here: round, oval, square, rectangle. You decide. Personally, I went for a photogenic slice to show off, so I used a square 8x8x3-inch baking dish (you’ll get a taller, but not as wide gratin).
To assemble, you aim for three layers of potatoes (bottom/middle/top) and two layers of eggs, salami, onions, and pickles in between. The good news is, this dish is versatile and it’s cool if you add an extra layer of potatoes or salami. Easy, right?
Once it’s done and you slice into it, you’ll see a mouth-watering stack of everything tasty you put into it.
- Serves 4–6
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 7 eggs
- 2 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled (bigger potatoes will be easier to slice)
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
- ¾ cup finely chopped salami (casings removed), or prosciutto (about 5–7 slices)
- 3 medium pickles, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese, or your favorite melting cheese
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375F and grease an 8 x 3” square baking pan or a 9" round cake pan with the vegetable oil or butter. Dust the bottom and sides of the pan with the breadcrumbs.
- Place 4 eggs in a small pan, cover with water and bring to boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes for hard-boiled eggs. Remove the eggs from the water with a spoon and transfer to a bowl filled with ice-cold water. Let cool for 10 minutes.
- Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice the potatoes 1/8-inch thick.
- Tap the eggs on the countertop until they’re cracked all over. Peel the eggs, starting at the large end. I like to dip them in the bowl with the water to remove any little shell pieces.
- Slice the eggs thinly with a sharp knife.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining 3 eggs with a fork. Add the heavy cream and cheese, and mix.
- Now you’re ready to assemble your gratin. Your goal is to create 3 double layers of potatoes (bottom, middle, top) and 2 single layers of hard-boiled eggs, onion, pickles, and salami or prosciutto.
- Start with two layers of potatoes covering the bottom of the baking pan. Slightly overlap each slice as you go.
- Add a layer of sliced hard-boiled eggs, followed by a layer of onion, pickles, and bacon or prosciutto. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add a middle double-layer of potatoes, followed by another layer of eggs, then onion, pickles, and salami or prosciutto. Sprinkle again with salt and pepper to taste.
- Finish with a top layer of potatoes. Pour the cream mixture all over the top.
- Cover the gratin with a lid or aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for an extra 15 minutes until crisp and golden brown on top. I placed my gratin under the broiler for 4 minutes at the end to get the top extra crispy and browned.
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Slice into individual portions and serve.
- Store in the refrigerator for up the 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.