Gruyere Potato Gratin Recipe

One of my favorite things about St. Louis (aside from Cardinals baseball, pork steaks, and my family) is the gruyere cheese potato gratin at Annie Gunn's Restaurant. It is, as one of the roomies stated "a brick of potatoes and cheese."

That stuff is nutty, starchy with a touch of cream, and dense as all hell. I'm sure that a single square inch of it could cause me to lose the Cholesterol Contest at work outright. So of course, I have to try to recreate it at home.

Chef Lou's potato gratin is fairly no-nonsense. I've watched them make it, and it's comprised of approx. 6 ingredients---fresh butter, fresh cream, organic potatoes, the-worlds-most-expensive-gruyere-cheese, and salt and pepper. My budget does not allow me to cook with the cheese of cows that have been swathed in silk and read Pablo Neruda poems. So instead, I sub in 90% of the cheap stuff, bacon, and leeks. The result is pretty creamy, nutty, and dense. Just do me a favor, and buy the tiniest hunk of fancy gruyere you can to grate over the top. Once that stuff goes under the broiler, you'll be glad you didn't Kraft it up.

Gruyere Potato Gratin
4 slices of Bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped Leeks
1 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. Flour
1 1/2 cup Milk
1 1/2 cup shredded Swiss Cheese (cheap crap)
2/3 cup shredded Gruyere Cheese (fancy stuff)
1/2 tsp. Thyme
1/4 tsp. dried Nutmeg
4-5 large Potatoes

Using a mandoline or a paring knife, slice potatoes 1/8 inch thick in the largest pieces you can. This is easiest if you remove the rounded ends, stand the potato up on the flat just-cut edge, and slice downwards. (The flat side will also help you layer your gratin later, and you can use the trimmings for skin-on mashed potatoes when you're done).

Cook the bacon until it's beginning to brown, and add the leeks. Sautee the leeks and bacon until the bacon is crispy and the leeks are soft. Drain and set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed skillet, make the bechamel. Melt the butter over medium-low heat, then quickly stir in the flour. Cook for 3 minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the roux is a golden brown. Add the milk and wisk to make the bechamel smooth. Bring the mixture to a low boil, and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken. Add thyme and nutmeg.

Butter a loaf pan, and pour a thin layer of bechamel on the bottom of the pan. Put a layer of potatoes over the bechamel sauce, and top with the bacon/leek mixture, salt & pepper, swiss cheese, and another thin layer of bechamel.

You can use the bechamel sparingly on the bottom layers, because it'll spread throughout the loaf pan. Try to use approx. 1/4 of the swiss cheese (cheap crap) on each layer. Alternate the direction that you layer the potatoes, so the gratin is less likely to fall apart as you cut the finished product. Continue until you run out of bechamel, ending with one layer of potatoes only.

Cover the top layer of potatoes with the gruyere cheese (fancy stuff) and salt & pepper, and then cover with parchment paper. Gently lay several canned goods over the waxed paper to compress the gratin evenly. Let the gratin compress for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake covered for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Use your broiler to brown the top of the gratin, and enjoy!

[No finished product pic--though potato gratin smells and tastes awesome, it does not photograph well. The pics all looked sort of alien with the layers of white cheese, white potatoes, and then browned glistening stuff on top. Crispy, browned gruyere with leeks and bacon, people. That's all you need to know.]


  1. Ooh a loaf pan? I like. Anything with bacon and cheese is sure to be a HIT!

  2. Haha, yeah...I like as many layers as possible for some crazy dense gratin.

  3. Oh my goodness gracious. I love potatoes au gratin, but I always make it with cheaper cheeses like cheddar. I adore gruyere, and should just make the investment!! And your addition of bacon just made me love potatoes au gratin even more!

  4. PassionateEater: re: the bacon--if you can't saute leeks in bacon grease, what CAN you saute them in? ;) (You'd be surprised how far that rationale can get you!)

  5. kind of a late post, but that sounds good. you'd probably like this post from my site: