I Tried Ina Garten’s Cheesy Potato Gratin and It’s a Thanksgiving Hit

published Nov 23, 2021
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Credit: Grace Elkus
Ina Gartin Potato-Fennel Gratin

I’m always eager to see what Ina Garten posts on Instagram, but I’ve been especially tuned in this past week. That’s because she’s been sharing the dishes she’ll be cooking for her micro Thanksgiving — and they all look incredible.

Green beans were up first, followed by mashed sweet potatoes and a savory bread pudding. But the dish that really caught my eye was her Potato-Fennel Gratin, which appeared to be decadent, cheesy, and deliciously burnished. Could it be good enough to replace my mashed potatoes this year? I tried it to find out.

How to Make Ina’s Potato-Fennel Gratin

What’s especially great about Ina’s micro Thanksgiving is that she’s done all the math for us. Each of her posts links to a “half-recipe,” which means the gratin was already scaled down to serve four — perfect for my small Thanksgiving crew this year.

This recipe is incredibly simple. You’ll start by sautéing sliced fennel and onions in olive oil and butter until tender. As they cook, thinly slice russet potatoes. Mix the potatoes with heavy cream, Gruyère, salt, and pepper, then stir in the sautéed veggies. Pour into a buttered baking dish, combine more heavy cream and cheese, and pour that over the top. Bake for one hour, then let set 10 minutes before serving.

Credit: Grace Elkus
Potato Fennel Gratin

My Honest Review of Ina’s Potato-Fennel Gratin

I’ve now come to expect greatness from Ina, and this recipe certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s everything you want from a potato gratin: tender potatoes, crispy edges, and lots of cream and cheese. I also couldn’t believe how easy it was. You don’t have to warm the cream first, or mince garlic cloves, or perfectly shingle the potatoes. In fact, the hardest part was waiting for it to bake. The fennel was a nice addition and wasn’t overpowering in the least — in fact, I would have been happy with even more.

My only qualm is that the gratin definitely needed more salt. Ina is typically pretty heavy-handed with salt, so I was surprised to find myself wanting more. But a few pinches post-bake was an easy-enough fix (and I’ve provided some seasoning suggestions below).

While I’m not quite ready to give up mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving day, I’ll keep this recipe in my back pocket for the dreary winter months ahead. And if you are open to switching up your potato routine, I do think it would be great on the Thanksgiving table. Everyone is sure to love it, the ingredients are easy to find, and it’s a much better make-ahead option than mashed potatoes. Simply assemble in the morning and bake just before eating.

Credit: Grace Elkus
Potato Gratin

If You Make Ina’s Potato-Fennel Gratin, a Few Tips

While this gratin is great as is, follow this advice for the best-ever version.

  1. Weigh your potatoes. Ina calls for one pound russet potatoes, which she says is about two large. However, one medium and one small potato weighed one pound total for me.
  2. Increase the salt. The final dish needed more salt, which is likely because you only season once during prep. I would recommend seasoning the sautéed onion and fennel with salt to taste, and bumping the salt in the potato mixture up to 3/4 teaspoon. You could also swap in some Parmesan for some of the Gruyère, which will add its signature salty flavor.
  3. Bake in an oven-safe skillet. If you need to reserve your casserole dishes for stuffing and sweet potato casserole, you could easily bake this in the skillet used for sautéing the fennel (and save yourself a dish to wash, too). After mixing everything together, simply return to the skillet and bake.
  4. Don’t be afraid of the browning. When I peeked in the oven just 40 minutes through bake time, I was shocked to see how deeply browned the top of the gratin was. But despite 20 more minutes of baking, it never burnt or got too crisp, so let it do its thing.
  5. Top with fresh herbs. While the bubbly browned top is certainly enticing on its own, some fresh thyme leaves would be right at home in this dish and add a pop of color.

Have you ever tried Ina’s Potato-Fennel Gratin? Let us know in the comments!