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What is the Difference Between Scalloped and Au Gratin Potatoes?

 
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I recently made a potato dish that turned out to be a flop so I tried to unsuccessfully salvage the potatoes by turning them into something else.

Was this Scalloped or Au Gratin Potatoes?

What is the difference between Scalloped and Au Gratin Potatoes?

Potatoes in a creamy sauce then baked in the oven.

What is this called?
 
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This bothered me for years until I finally went out of my way to find out what in the world made it one or the other since both are creamy baked dishes. Apparently, there is indeed an official (if subtle) difference between them. There are three basic traits as follows:

Slice thickness - Au gratin tends to have a thinner slice than scalloped potatoes so that the cheese and cream can soak in. Scalloped potatoes are usually hand-cut, while a madolin is preferred for making au gratin.

Cheese presence - Traditional scalloped potatoes lack cheese, while au gratin will have cheese sprinkled between the layers.

Breadcrumb presence - Similar to the cheese, traditional scalloped potatoes lack this, while au gratin has it mixed in with the cheese.
 
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I think whether or not cheese is added is the main difference.

A few years ago I posted this recipe but couldn't find it today. It must have been in a thread I didn't start or I didn't use the right wording to search. For years I thought the name was the name of the restaurant that it came from. Found out that dauphiono is actually a fancy French term for cooked in milk or cream. It's decadent & seems to make it's own cheese sauce. It's a favorite holiday dish. Enjoy!









Dauphino-s-potatoes.jpg
[Thumbnail for Dauphino-s-potatoes.jpg]
 
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Mike,
I use a similar recipe for sweet potatoes for the holidays. I don't like marshmallow sweet gooey sweet potatoes. My recipe is pretty, basic, sliced sweet potatoes, little salt and then cover them with heavy cream. The result is a very thick nearly cheese like sauce and the mildly sweet flavor of the tuber of choice.
 
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Between Anne's name and the mention of fancy French cooking, it made my mind think of the recipe for "Pommes Anna." Maybe you could make up your own recipe or a variation of another, and present it here as "Pommes Anne!"
PommesAnna_article.jpg
[Thumbnail for PommesAnna_article.jpg]
 
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Au gratin just refers to the breadcrumb topping, so if you made scalloped potatoes, but added a breadcrumb topping, they'd be scalloped potatoes au gratin. Anything with those crumbs can be _______ au gratin.
 
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Jordan, that is such a lovely presentation! It looks like a dahlia or chrysanthemum!
 
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Carla Burke wrote:Jordan, that is such a lovely presentation! It looks like a dahlia or chrysanthemum!


I agree, looks like that one will get made here
For Thanksgiving, I think.

crispy French potato dish of beautifully arranged sliced potatoes seasoned with only butter and salt.


Definitely making not the classic recipe. BORING!!
I like food that dances with flavor.
 
Jordan Holland
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Carla Burke wrote:Jordan, that is such a lovely presentation! It looks like a dahlia or chrysanthemum!



Mine don't turn out that well, lol! But I don't usually do so many layers cooking for just myself. Looking this up, I did notice someone in a comment section say they tried it and it didn't turn out well, then they tried it by slightly baking the potatoes first and it allowed the butter to soak in better rather than pool in the bottom. I had forgotten them, so I do need to make them again as well. Like Pearl says, it's just potatoes, butter, and spices. So simple!
 
Jordan Holland
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Carla Burke wrote:Jordan, that is such a lovely presentation! It looks like a dahlia or chrysanthemum!



Ooh, I just had another idea. What about a Bundt pan? You could put something else in the middle then!
 
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I'm thinking white and sweet potato pieces arranged pretty, with cheese and spices in between layers.
 
Carla Burke
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Jordan Holland wrote:

Carla Burke wrote:Jordan, that is such a lovely presentation! It looks like a dahlia or chrysanthemum!



Ooh, I just had another idea. What about a Bundt pan? You could put something else in the middle then!



I've done them in little 'stacks', in a muffin pan, to put a little stack on each person's plate, and I've done them neatly layered, in a casserole dish, but the bundt pan opens a whole new set of options!! It could be filled with dressing, veggies, or a vessel of some sort could be tucked in there, for gravy, or....
 
Jordan Holland
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Carla Burke wrote:
I've done them in little 'stacks', in a muffin pan, to put a little stack on each person's plate, and I've done them neatly layered, in a casserole dish, but the bundt pan opens a whole new set of options!! It could be filled with dressing, veggies, or a vessel of some sort could be tucked in there, for gravy, or....



A BIG PILE OF BACON!!!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Jordan Holland wrote:

A BIG PILE OF BACON!!!


Jordan wins the thread. A pile of bacon wins no matter what, even if we are talking about pouring a concrete porch  

I'm thinking I don't need a bundt pan to lay them out in a ring, which means something could be baked in the middle of it... and gravy in the middle would ooooze it's flavor in... Hm.....
 
Anne Miller
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Jordan Holland wrote:I did notice someone in a comment section say they tried it and it didn't turn out well, then they tried it by slightly baking the potatoes first and it allowed the butter to soak in better rather than pool in the bottom. I had forgotten them, so I do need to make them again as well. Like Pearl says, it's just potatoes, butter, and spices. So simple!



After making my dish which turned out to be a flop, I read more about Scalloped and Au Gratin.  Then after still not getting it right, I read some more. The Joy of Cooking Cookbook by Irma Rombauer:

https://permies.com/t/125687/kitchen/Skills-Cook-Pro#1363041

https://permies.com/t/72491/Recommendations-Cook-Book-Books-yr#604489

One of her recipes for Scallop Potatoes suggests boiling the potatoes for 5 minutes before assembling the dish.

For Pommes Anna:

She also suggests using Yukon Gold potatoes for Pommes Anna.

She says there is a special pan for Pommes Anna though a cast iron skillet will work.

After assembling all the potatoes, lightly butter a pot lid slightly smaller than the pan and press firmly on top of the potatoes to compress them.

After baking, to serve, invert the potatoes on a plate and cut them into wedges.
 
Jordan Holland
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To the original question, I do believe "gratin" in French cooking refers to the slightly browned crust that form on the top when it cooks. I'm not sure about scalloped or the American "Oh grawt'n" though.
 
Anne Miller
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Jordan, you might be right.

I found some conflicting info when I was trying to figure out which had cheese and which one was without the cheese.

One article I read said that Au Gratin meant bread crumbs.

Of course, that would be the American version.
 
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To the original question, I do believe "gratin" in French cooking refers to the slightly browned crust that form on the top when it cooks.



You are absolutely right Jordan, a gratin in French cuisine is any dish that forms a crust while cooking in the oven or under a grill.  The dish can be savoury or sweet.  The topping can be cheese, bread crumbs, coarsely ground nuts, herbs, a mixture of all or some of these and when sweet, maybe just butter, nuts or sugar or all three.  Of course the most common is one made with cheese topping.

As for scalloped potatoes I truly have no idea where the term comes from.
 
Olga Booker
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Further to my post above, I was wondering where the word scalloped came from.

I looked at a recipe for scalloped potatoes and it looks like it is made with thinly sliced potatoes, so it got me thinking.

The word escalope in French means a thin, long cut of meat, mostly veal, pork or turkey, sometimes fish.  So could it be that because the potatoes are cut long and thin, the word got adopted and over time became scallop.

Just musing of course!
 
Jordan Holland
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That would make sense. I never really gave it any thought, but I guess I always just subconsciously assumed it was originally made by slicing them on a scalloped cutter like this one. The only advantage I can think of to that would be possibly to prevent two flat surfaces from sticking together and preventing the liquid goodness from fully coating each slice of potato. Or maybe it could help prevent the ones on bottom from sticking to the pan if overcooked or something.
01b4f04775e3fb723f08b94f8de7e74d.jpg
[Thumbnail for 01b4f04775e3fb723f08b94f8de7e74d.jpg]
 
Olga Booker
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I guess if scalloped potatoes are ridged (which I did not know), then it is more likely to come from the shape of the scallop shell.

Personally. I have one of those and it slices bread, ham, salami, cheese, potatoes, cucumbers, lemons, you name it!

https://www.amazon.com/Graef-H9-Trancheuse-manuelle-Allemagne/dp/B002QZW85W/ref=sr_1_6?crid=G2JN5CDMBF1Q&keywords=trancheuse+manuelle&qid=1669229930&qu=eyJxc2MiOiI1LjMxIiwicXNhIjoiNC44OSIsInFzcCI6IjMuNzkifQ%3D%3D&sprefix=trancheuse%2Caps%2C673&sr=8-6

 
Carla Burke
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I can't help thinking it's likely because potatoes are round, and sliced, and layered, the potatoes will look as if the edges of the dish are scalloped - like many lace doilies.
 
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So, we could make the recipe with potatoes sliced thinly, on a scalloped cutter, arranged so that they stick out the edge in a scalloped pattern, and we could name it Thrice Scalloped Potatoes!
 
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Ah, but if we put cheese on top it will be Thrice Scalloped Au Gratin Potatoes!!
And I think we have looped back to the original question :D
What if it's BOTH!! Or thrice!!
Hmm.. philosophy in the cooking forum....
 
Olga Booker
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Hmm.. philosophy in the cooking forum....



Yeah!  Who would have thought!  Whatever next??!! :)

Scalloped or gratin it does not really matter as long as it taste good.  Me, being French, I mostly cook with wine and sometimes I even add it to the food.  
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Ah, but if we put cheese on top it will be Thrice Scalloped Au Gratin Potatoes!!
And I think we have looped back to the original question :D
What if it's BOTH!! Or thrice!!
Hmm.. philosophy in the cooking forum....



And what if we use THREE TYPES OF CHEESE?!?!  Hmmm...

Thrice Scalloped Au Gratin Three-Way Potatoes? LOL!
 
Carla Burke
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Three cheeses, three types of potato, 3 types of onion... and BACON!!! Call 'em Triple Insanitaters!!
 
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It's been my experience that Au gratin potatoes have a cheese-based sauce and Scalloped potatoes have a flour roux-based sauce. I think that's the basic difference. Either can have a breadcrumb topping but that's not the heart of the meal.

I add ham to my scalloped potatoes, but you can add other cooked meats or vegs -- just don't add veggies that will "weep" -- zucchini is ok but say, cabbage is not. It makes a pretty good breakfast casserole by layering cooked scrambled eggs over the finished dish instead of ham or in addition to ham. You can develop other ways to incorporate it into the dish.

This is the classic recipe from good ol' Betty Crocker and very similar to the recipe I have from my mom.
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper (alt: white pepper)
2 ½ cups milk
(Optional: about 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)

6 medium peeled or unpeeled potatoes, thinly sliced (6 cups)
a small onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup) or thinly sliced
1 ½ cups cubed fully cooked ham

Fresh or dried breadcrumbs, toasted as a topper (alternative)

Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 2-quart casserole.
Make a roux with butter, flour, salt, pepper, milk, and optional nutmeg if you are using it.
In a saucepan, melt the butter, and when it starts to bubble, add the flour, salt, and pepper.  Cook for at least 5 minutes on low heat until it loses the "floury" taste. (You can cook it longer but keep a close eye on it and stir often. I will often cook it until it's light brown. It gives the roux a nutty flavor and it doesn't look pasty white in the dish.) Once the flour is cooked add the milk and optional nutmeg, and continue to whisk until it starts to thicken.  Make sure the roux is pourable (think pancake batter or thinner) and set it aside.

Layer potatoes, ham, and onion, then roux in the casserole – as many layers as you can make, ending with the roux. Add the breadcrumbs if you are using them.
Cover and bake for the first 30 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake until the potatoes are tender – about 30 or 40 more minutes.  

Alternatives*
1. Pour the roux over the whole thing and use a knife/spatula to help it leak down to the other layers.
2. Add all the ingredients to a big bowl, and mix until the roux coats everything, then pour into the casserole. Or mix it all in the casserole, but I find this to be messy.

Vegetarian option:  peel and slice sweet potatoes, ditch the ham and bake as indicated. It's very tasty.
 
Jordan Holland
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Carla Burke wrote:Three cheeses, three types of potato, 3 types of onion... and BACON!!! Call 'em Triple Insanitaters!!



It would be Tatergeddon!
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Dauphinoise potatoes is how the French say casserole of potatoes, heavy cream, and cheese. https://www.thekitchn.com/dauphinoise-potatoes-recipe-23009449
 
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I believe scalloped is a bastardization of escalope– thinly sliced.
 
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Rachel Royce wrote:Dauphinoise potatoes is how the French say casserole of potatoes, heavy cream, and cheese. https://www.thekitchn.com/dauphinoise-potatoes-recipe-23009449


I also add a hint of garlic and sometimes nutmeg. We use the French term Gratin dauphinois. I think the handwritten recipe shown above in the thread is a cute copy error, mistaking the i for an apostrophe so that dauphinois turned to dauphino's
 
Jordan Holland
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Cara Campbell wrote:I believe scalloped is a bastardization of escalope– thinly sliced.



I think "bastard potatoes" has a lovely ring to it...
 
Olga Booker
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Dauphinoise potatoes is how the French say casserole of potatoes, heavy cream, and cheese[

The gratin Dauphinois or the Pommes Dauphinoises is a very  old, traditional, gastronomic specialty of the Dauphiné region of France.

It has been bastardised many times and in many places but in its original form it never has cheese in it.  It is heavy on cream because the region is alpine and the cows live on high pasture most of the year, hence the abundance of cream.

 
Barbara Manning
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Jordan Holland wrote:Between Anne's name and the mention of fancy French cooking, it made my mind think of the recipe for "Pommes Anna."



Congratulations on making this dish!  I am too anxious to press the potato rounds into a flower arrangement and then carefully brown the results to perfection. I'm just not wired that way.  Yeah, I can slice and rinse the potatoes and oil up the pan, and even get the potatoes evenly arranged in the pan. But I'm hell on waiting the required time to get these beautifully arranged results. I've tried to make this many times and have never been able to wait out the required time to flip the batch for the "show." Ugh. I inevitably end up with a batch of hash browns. Deliciously edible for sure, but no princess presentation.
 
Jordan Holland
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Thank you Barbara, but I've far from perfected it like in the picture. I've also had issues with getting the perfect brown. I've placed the pan on the stovetop after baking for decent results. I think I need to try lowering the oven rack. I just had the idea that maybe it could be made without the flipping. After baking, the broiler could be used to brown the top, and then without flipping there's no chance of it falling apart. I tried one the other day in a smaller stainless bowl to try to get the rounded shape with a smaller recipe, but forgot to scrape the edges to release it and when it flipped it turned to hashbrowns. But like you say, they were still delicious!
 
Anne Miller
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Jordan, reading about Pommes Anna I saw that some folks used a 10-inch springform pan.

From all the replies, it just seems like there may be 100s of ways folks cook these dishes depending on where they live, how they were taught, etc.

I know completely nothing about French cooking, much less about French Cuisine, and the only dish that I know I have cooked that is French is the ClaFoutis of which I have only tasted my own cooking:

https://permies.com/t/101228/kitchen/RECIPE-Simple-Clafoutis

I do know about French Wines and have studied about all the different regions though I may have only tasted the ones like Pinot Noir; Chardonnay, etc. I did like cooking with the wines, years ago.

I very much prefer Italian Wines, though I don't buy wine.

Thanks, everyone for making this a fun discussion.
 
Jordan Holland
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Thank you for starting it!

Jordan, reading about Pommes Anna I saw that some folks used a 10-inch springform pan.

From all the replies, it just seems like there may be 100s of ways folks cook these dishes depending on where they live, how they were taught, etc.



I'm no snob about recipes; I'll change whatever it takes to make it work for me, though I try to tell anyone how mine differs from an official version. With a recipe like Pommes Anna, we actually know the exact restaurant where it was created and even the socialite for which it was created (though there is some argument as to which of two Annas it was for at the time), so I'm sure some people might get bent out of shape at people changing things. I don't use spring-form pans myself, but all I've seen are flat bottomed. I'm really digging the rounded form of the one in the pic I posted above. The picture in my recipe book is flat, and that's how I've usually made them. My biggest concern with a spring-form pan is whether it would leak. Are they watertight? I didn't think they were. I can see butter leaking through and making a grand mess in the oven at best, and at worst a raging fire. Pommes Anna Flambe!
 
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I've not tried doing it, yet. I think I'd probably only practice it, for us, and then - occasionally, do it for guests, &/or for very special occasions. It's just too fiddly for my typical patience, lol
 
Anne Miller
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I am a frugal (aka cheap) cook so I don't splurge on a lot of fancy cooking equipment.

I have not used a springform though probably parchment paper might help keep them from leaking.

And parchment paper might work with the pan you are using.

I resisted using parchment paper for many years after dear hubby bought a roll of it.  Now I use it for almost everything that I bake which needs to easily come out of the pan.
 
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