Potatoes have been a beloved ingredient in many cuisines for centuries, and there are countless ways to cook them. Two of the most popular ways to prepare potatoes are scalloped potatoes and au gratin. These dishes are cheesy, creamy, and comforting, making them perfect for serving at family dinners, holidays, or special occasions.
While they might seem similar, they have their differences, and each dish has its unique flavor profile and preparation methods. In this article, we will compare scalloped potatoes and au gratin, so you can decide which dish is the best fit for you.
What are Scalloped Potatoes?
Scalloped potatoes are a classic American dish made by layering thinly sliced potatoes with cream, butter, and sometimes onions, then baking them in the oven. The name “scalloped” comes from the shape of the dish that was traditionally used to bake them, which had a scalloped edge. Scalloped potatoes are typically seasoned with salt, pepper, and sometimes nutmeg, and they are often topped with breadcrumbs or grated cheese. The dish is then baked in the oven until the potatoes are tender and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Scalloped potatoes have been a favorite in American cuisine for centuries, and they are a staple side dish at many holiday dinners. The dish is easy to make, and it is perfect for feeding a crowd. The creamy, cheesy flavor of scalloped potatoes is a comforting and indulgent treat that is perfect for cooler months.
What is Au Gratin?
Au gratin is a French dish that involves layering thinly sliced potatoes with cream, butter, and cheese, then baking them in the oven until they are golden and bubbly. The term “au gratin” refers to the technique of topping a dish with breadcrumbs or grated cheese and then baking it until it forms a crispy golden crust. Au gratin can be made with a variety of cheeses, including cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmesan, and it is typically seasoned with salt, pepper, and sometimes garlic or nutmeg.
Au gratin has been a popular dish in France since the 19th century, and it has since become a staple in American cuisine as well. The dish is often served as a side dish, and it is perfect for serving alongside roasted meats, vegetables, or salads.
Differences between Scalloped Potatoes and Au Gratin
Scalloped potatoes and au gratin might seem similar at first glance, but they have distinct differences that set them apart. One of the main differences is the cheese used in each dish. Scalloped potatoes are typically made with a mild cheese, such as Monterey Jack or Cheddar, while au gratin is often made with a stronger cheese, such as Gruyere or Parmesan.
Another difference is the texture of the dish. Scalloped potatoes are typically creamier and more sauce-like, while au gratin has a crispier texture due to the breadcrumbs or cheese topping. Additionally, the potatoes in scalloped potatoes are often sliced thicker than in au gratin, giving them a more substantial texture. Scalloped potatoes also typically include onions, while au gratin does not.
The cooking time and temperature are also different between the two dishes. Scalloped potatoes are typically baked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, while au gratin is baked at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time to achieve the crispy crust on top.
Taste and Texture
Scalloped potatoes have a creamy texture with tender, soft potatoes that have absorbed the flavor of the cream and cheese. The dish is rich and indulgent, making it a comfort food favorite. The mild cheese used in scalloped potatoes allows the other flavors to shine, giving the dish a subtle cheesy flavor.
Au gratin has a crispy, crunchy texture on top with a creamy, cheesy filling. The cheese used in au gratin is usually stronger, giving the dish a more pronounced cheesy flavor. The breadcrumbs or cheese topping on au gratin add a textural contrast to the creamy potatoes.
Both scalloped potatoes and au gratin are high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates due to the cream and cheese used in the dishes. Scalloped potatoes have around 300-400 calories per serving, while au gratin has around 400-500 calories per serving. Both dishes are not recommended for those on a low-fat or low-calorie diet.
However, both dishes do provide some nutritional value. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, and they are a low glycemic index food. Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein, and cream contains vitamin A.
Popularity and Cultural Significance
Both scalloped potatoes and au gratin are popular dishes in American cuisine and are often served at holiday dinners, potlucks, and family gatherings. Scalloped potatoes are a classic comfort food, while au gratin is considered a more upscale side dish.
Au gratin has its roots in French cuisine and is often served as a side dish with steak or seafood. In France, the dish is known as “gratin dauphinois” and is a popular dish in the region of Dauphiné.
Scalloped potatoes, on the other hand, are a staple in American cuisine and have been a favorite side dish for generations. The dish has been adapted and modified over time, and many families have their own unique recipes for scalloped potatoes.
Scalloped potatoes and au gratin are both versatile dishes that can be served in a variety of ways. Scalloped potatoes are a great side dish for roasted meats, such as ham, turkey, or beef. They are also a perfect accompaniment to vegetables, such as green beans or carrots.
Au gratin can be served as a side dish or a main course. It is a popular side dish for steak, fish, or chicken, and it can also be served as a vegetarian main course. Au gratin pairs well with a variety of vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts.
Variations and Twists Both scalloped potatoes and au gratin can be customized to suit your tastes or dietary preferences. Here are some variations and twists on the classic recipes:
- Sweet potato au gratin: Use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes for a healthier twist on the classic dish.
- Vegan scalloped potatoes: Substitute the cream and cheese for non-dairy alternatives to make the dish vegan-friendly.
- Mushroom au gratin: Add sautéed mushrooms to the dish for an earthy, umami flavor.
- Jalapeño scalloped potatoes: Add diced jalapeños to the dish for a spicy kick.
- Truffled au gratin: Drizzle truffle oil over the dish for a luxurious, decadent twist.
- Loaded scalloped potatoes: Add bacon, sour cream, and chives to the dish for a loaded baked potato-inspired flavor.
- Gouda au gratin: Use gouda cheese instead of cheddar for a smokier, more complex flavor.
While scalloped potatoes and au gratin may seem similar at first glance, there are key differences in their preparation, ingredients, and flavor. Scalloped potatoes have a creamy texture and a subtle cheesy flavor, while au gratin has a crispy top and a stronger cheese flavor. Both dishes are high in calories and fat, but they provide some nutritional value.
Whether you prefer the classic comfort of scalloped potatoes or the upscale elegance of au gratin, both dishes are versatile, customizable, and delicious. So why not try both and decide which one is your favorite?