The most difficult part about creating (and cooking) this recipe was figuring out exactly what I should call it. Is it a Potato Gratin? Potatoes Au Gratin? Scalloped Potatoes? Potato Dauphinoise? Gratin Potatoes Dauphinoise? Gratin Savoyard? Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin Dauphinoise Savoyard…?
Regardless of what it’s actually supposed to be called, it’s friggin’ delicious. It requires just a few plant-based pantry staples like potatoes, cashews, and garlic, and in just one pan, in about 30 minutes, you’ll have a rich, decadent, creamy, savory, and comforting dish to serve as a side or main course depending on how your day (week… month… year…) is going.
I hate to admit it, but I was pretty old when I learned that not all rice was Minute Rice, and that scalloped potatoes didn’t just come from a box with Betty Crocker’s name on it. Growing up in a small town in the 80s, I didn’t really know the difference between real food and processed food. Food was just food, and however it got into the fridge or pantry was none of my business.
Convenience foods were simply the norm. It’s not as if my parents were being lazy or incapable of cooking a meal from scratch, it’s just that they didn’t have to. Why babysit a pot for 20 minutes, when you can let parboiled rice soak up hot water for 5? Why would you go through the trouble of cutting up potatoes and simmering them and boiling them when you can just dump a box of dehydrated potato chips into a pan with a bit of water and milk, and have perfect “au gratin” potatoes in 25 minutes?
That’s just how things were. And as much as I love cooking, sometimes I wish things were that easy sometimes.
However, for better or worse, most convenience foods are off limits for vegans. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of new vegan convenience foods showing up on the market daily, but the good ‘ol late 20th century convenience foods that remind me of my childhood are normally full of animal products. Hamburger Helper anyone?
As I mentioned, I was quite old before I knew that there was an actual dish called “Scalloped Potatoes” that didn’t come from a package. And if you asked me what the difference between scalloped potatoes and potatoes au gratin was, my best guess would have been that one came with bacon bits in the box, while the other didn’t.
Well, here I am, nearly 40, making my own version of this dish (which is almost as easy as just opening up a box) and now seemed like as good a time as any to try to untangle the names of all of the creamy, cheesy, French-style potato dishes that I have loved for so long.
With a lot of help of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and a little help from Google, I think I finally know the difference, and I’m prepared to name my own creamy potato dish appropriately… (drumroll please)…
“Vegan Scalloped Potato Au Gratin Dauphinoise”
Let’s break it down. Julia Child parenthetically describes Gratin Dauphinois as “Scalloped Potatoes with Milk, Cheese, and a Pinch of Garlic). My dish, though it does not contain any dairy milk or cheese of any kind, still fits that description. Mostly.
First of all, I called it VEGAN because it does not contain any meat, eggs, or dairy. A savory garlicy cashew cream takes the place of the heavy cream normally used in this type of dish, which when it mixes with water and the residual starch from the second word in the title: POTATOES, creates a rich creamy sauce that enrobes every SCALLOPED, or “thinly sliced” potato; creating a layer of bubbling golden perfection on top.
Speaking of that beautiful top, that’s where the “AU GRATIN” comes in since”gratin” refers to the darkened crust that forms on the top of this dish.
The wildcard here is the word DAUPHINOISE, which refers to the region in France from which this type of dish originated. Since I’m using a dish that originates from a specific area, I might as well honor that with the naming of my dish.
Needless to say, after all of that, I shortened the title of this post to “Scalloped Potatoes” for SEO and searchability purposes. But deep inside, we all know what the real name is.
Aside from being a mouthful to say, it’s more than a delicious mouthful to eat. Serve this creamy potato dish as a main course or a lunch, along with a green salad, or offer it as a side dish to help bulk up a cold weather meal. It’s a breeze to throw together. The ingredients are few and simple and pantry staples for most folks. With a bit of prep work, and 30 minutes in the oven, you’re on your way to one decadently delicious comfort food.
Watch the video below to see just how easy this dish is to make, and then scroll down below it for the full, printable recipe.
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 1 cup water or vegetable broth
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons "No Chicken" flavored Better than Bouillon (or enough bouillon to make 2 cups of broth)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ large onion
- red pepper flake (to taste)
- 1 ½ to 1 ¾ lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
- ½ teaspoon no salt seasoning (or favorite herb seasoning blend)
- 2 to 3 cups boiling hot water
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh herbs such as basil or parsley
Preheat oven to 425 F.
In a high-speed blender, blend the cashews, 1 cup water, garlic and bouillon until creamy. If you do not have a high speed blender, you should soak your cashews in water for a few hours so that they will blend easier.
Using a food processor with a thin slicing blade, or a mandolin, slice the potatoes into ⅛ to ¼ inch thick slices. Remove the potatoes, and slice the onions.
To a 10” oven-safe skillet* on medium-high heat, add olive oil and onions. Saute until onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add sliced potatoes and toss to coat potatoes in oil and onions. Add enough boiling water to cover the potatoes halfway, and then pour in cashew mixture. If the liquid in the pan does not reach the top of the potatoes, add a bit more boiling water. Gently maneuver the ingredients to combine, and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Place a lid or a large sheet of foil onto the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low, and gently simmer the potatoes for 5 minutes. Remove lid, and carefully place the pan into the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, uncovered until the potatoes are fork tender, bubbling in the center, and golden brown. If the potatoes are cooked after 30 minutes, but the top is not golden to your liking, place the pan under a broiler for a minute or two.
Top with fresh herbs, and allow the scalloped potatoes to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm as a side dish, or a a main course with a fresh green salad.
*If you do not have an oven-safe pan, you can pour the potatoes and cream mixture into a baking dish after they have finished simmering. Bake as directed above.