The Potent Ingredient To Intensify Au Gratin Potatoes

Potatoes au gratin needs little introduction. Just reading the title probably already has you conjuring up a porcelain dish filled with scalloped potatoes completely bathed in a creamy, cheesy sauce. And to think, it's only considered a side dish rather than the star of the show. Still, this decadent recipe could use a little upgrade, and we know just the ingredient to take this traditional casserole to the next level. 

Horseradish, the spicy root that brings special oomph to cocktail sauce and tartar sauce, can also impart some tangy zip to this rich and comforting potato dish. Think of it as a spicy counterpoint to all of the gratin's dairy-rich decadence, cutting through all the velvet cream with a punch. In fact, horseradish and potatoes are a classic pairing, and many recipes for mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, and even potato salad have called for a tablespoon or two of prepared horseradish stirred into the mix to add a touch of nuance. 

How to add a spicy kick with horseradish

You can incorporate two different kinds of horseradish into your gratin — a prepared paste or a freshly grated version. Think of freshly grated horseradish like grated ginger, as it has a fibrous texture and has a tendency to mellow out a bit during the cooking process. The only downside to using the fresh variety is that horseradish's pungent flavor is fleeting, fading after continued contact with the air. Prepared horseradish, on the other hand, is treated with vinegar to preserve its flavor. This means that ultimately the prepared version is about half as pungent as the fresh kind. 

When making your potatoes gratin, you'll want to incorporate your horseradish into the creamy sauce you'll pour over the potatoes. To make sure it's evenly incorporated into the cream, make sure to finely grate it — a food processor works wonders here. Add about one tablespoon of freshly grated horseradish or two tablespoons of prepared horseradish per gratin recipe. From there, you'll proceed with the recipe as called for. Once you take a bite, you'll wonder why it's taken so long for you to discover the umami-rich pleasures of horseradish-spiked potato gratin.