I don’t know about you, but at the holidays my family loves potatoes. Meat and potatoes, in fact. Such a midwestern cliché, but it’s true! I love potatoes too, and since there are very few other times a year that I would indulge in a cheesy, creamy potato I tend to take my holiday potatoes very seriously. After all, if I’m going to indulge just once a year, they better be seriously memorable! These Cheesy Gruyere and Sage potatoes are so deliciously good, they’re a no-brainer for your holiday table this year.
The key here really is the cheesy sauce. Basically, I start with a classic béchamel (hello, lasagna!) then add grated Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses to make a rich mornay sauce. (Um, did someone say mac’ and cheese?!) As they bake, the blanket of saucy goodness oozes and melts into each little layer of potato. Yeah, exactly! That’s the crave-ability I’m talking about!
If you have ever made mac’ and cheese from scratch, you’ve already made a béchamel sauce which is milk thickened with a butter and flour mixture, also known as a roux. I start mine by melting butter then sweating some sliced shallot rings before adding the flour. Once the flour cooks for a minute or two, I stir or whisk in the milk slowly to incorporate the flour and butter without leaving lumps. This requires some attention, but it’s not difficult.
Once the milk comes to a simmer, it will begin to thicken. This part is super satisfying, I think. I just love the velvety smooth texture of a thickened cream sauce. From here, I whisk in small batches of Gruyere cheese waiting until the first batch is melted and smooth before adding the next. Finally, some grated Parmesan and fresh herbs finish it off. You might wonder if the sage is really necessary, but I think it is. Fresh herbs elevate every dish, and sage adds that nutty, warm fall flavor. Plus, the herbs make it look so lovely!
Truthfully, you could skip the potatoes all together and simply fold in some boiled pasta for a decadent mac’ and cheese dish right here. Yum! But, since we are making holiday potatoes and not holiday mac’ and cheese, let’s continue.
Now is the perfect time to whip out your mandoline. If you don’t have one, or don’t think you need one, think again. Mandolines are so handy and because they are really inexpensive, it’s a good tool to invest in. Find my favorite mandoline here.
Slice the potatoes to about 1/8-inch thickness. Spread a thin layer of cheese sauce on the bottom of the dish, then start layering or shingling the potatoes around the perimeter.
Start another row to fill in the middle. Don’t they look so snug and cozy? Happy food is delicious food!
Finally, the rest of the cheesy, creamy goodness that is our sauce gets poured right over the top like a beautiful blanket of flavor. I like to delicately spread the sauce to reach the edges of the potatoes, but since it will melt down as it cooks I don’t try to force the sauce into the layers or down the sides. It will work it’s way into everything as it cooks.
From here, I cover the potatoes with foil and set in the oven to bake for about 45 minutes. This phase helps tenderize the potatoes. Next, I remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes to really get the sauce all worked up and bubbly, then, I turn on the broiler for a few minutes to get that final browning on top. So good and delicious looking!
After all that, the potatoes are a fiercely hot mix, so let them chill out for a few minutes. Just like you would with a cut of meat, letting the potatoes rest before serving allows the juices to set and firm up which makes them easier to slice and serve. This waiting period is usually the perfect time to get all the other dishes out to the table or buffet, too. Once they’re ready, just scoop, serve and enjoy!
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Lower heat, add shallot, and sweat for 1-2 minutes to soften. Stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously.
Slowly whisk in milk, being sure to scrape up any of the flour mixture from the bottom and edges of the pan. If you have nutmeg, add a pinch, then increase heat back to medium and allow mixture to come to a simmer to thicken, about 5-8 minutes. Continue to stir often.
Once thickened, slowly whisk or stir in the grated Gruyere and 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until melted and smooth, then stir in 1 tablespoon each of chopped parsley and chopped sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Use a mandoline to cut the potatoes into 1/8 thick slices. Pour some of the cheese sauce in the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish. Shingle the potato slices around the edges, then fill in the center. Pour the remaining sauce over the potatoes. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan evenly over the top.
Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes until potatoes are tender. Test for desired doneness by piercing with a fork. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes uncovered, then turn the broiler on high and broil for 3-5 minutes to brown the top.
Once potatoes are out of the oven, sprinkle with one tablespoon of chopped parsley. Let cool for about 10 minutes before scooping and serving.
Nutmeg is a classic addition to béchamel and mornay sauces. However, it only requires a pinch, so I understand that you might not want to buy a whole thing of nutmeg for one holiday recipe. If it’s something you have already or are willing to invest in, then add it in.