The secret to a good potato gratin is in the technique, and mine is simple: simmer thinly sliced potatoes in seasoned cream, milk, or broth until barely tender. Then layer the potatoes in a casserole dish, top with breadcrumbs, a quick bake, and you're done. The advantages to this method are several: simmering the potatoes lets them soak up more flavor; there's less chance of curdling, since the potatoes release their starch into the liquid early on; and the top layer of the potatoes remains moist.
Plus, with this basic technique, you can make endless variations to suit your taste: combine other root vegetables with the potatoes; lighten up by swapping in broth in place of cream; add in layers of cheese, bacon, or sauteed vegetables; and jazz up the topping with grated cheese or chopped nuts. This interactive recipe builder makes it easy to build your own personalized gratin recipe.
Photos: Scott Phillips