Potatoes In Beer

This is a simple yet surprisingly sophisticated dish from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food. I’ve long been a fan of making scalloped potatoes with milk and/or cream. The use of beer makes the dish a little less rich, which can be a good thing, yet still flavorful, and the onions add a sophistication that I really enjoyed.

Potatoes in Beer
from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food
Serves 4

1 1/2 lb potatoes, thinly sliced*
1 large onion, halved then finely sliced
1 cup beer (see below)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp of unsalted butter

Preheat oven at 400F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a deep baking dish**, and then place alternate layers of onion and potatoes. Have your first layer be onions and the last be potatoes, and try to make your layers as densely packed as possible. Salt each layer lightly.

Pour the beer over the potatoes, and scatter thin shavings of butter all over the top. I used a pale lager for this dish, and think a pale ale would work well too. I’m curious to try it with a dark beer and will update this post when I do.

Place the dish into the oven and turn the heat down to 370F. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove and pour the cream over the surface, and then return to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.

*I think this dish will be excellent with either large red potatoes or baking/Idaho potatoes.  The texture will be slightly different at the end.  I sliced them about 1/16″ thick (or two mm).

*Note: Olney recommends a deep baking dish, and I understand why. You can see from the above photo that I used a pie dish, not having a deep, medium-sized baking vessel available at the time. The dish came out great but I was not able to pack in all the potatoes, which left the results a little too soupy. Not a problem flavor-wise, but it required more care when serving to not flood the plate.

  • Colloquial Cook

    Mh, the picture speaks volumes… I’m wondering whether I could do this in the springform cheesecake mould Stéphane got me – ouate dou you sink? Is that deep enough?

  • Maggie

    This sounds wonderful! Did you use a special beer?

  • Giff

    Claire, I’m thinking that 2″ to 3″ is a good depth.

    Hi Maggie, the exact brand I used was Heineken Premium Lager Light. I think Bass would be a good equivalent. I am very curious to try this with a stout, since I am quite fond of dark beers. 🙂

  • julie jams

    Looks amazing! Very hungry now.

  • bee

    this is so so so awesome looking. it’s work going off the low carb thing for tis. will make it one of these weekends.

  • Charles G. Thompson

    That looks incredible. And if it’s a Richard Olney recipe it must be. I had the pleasure (and luck) to spend time with him in Paris in the early 90s. A really wonderful man.

    Bon appetit!

    100 Miles

  • Giff

    low carb, low schmarb bee! 😉

    Charles, you lucky man. My father worked with him on the Good Cook series in the 70s and has wonderful stories.

  • Charles G. Thompson

    If I’m not mistaken my friend Jeremiah Tower also worked on the Good Cook series with Richard in London… I’d think your father must also know, and might have worked with, Jeremiah? If so, very small world.

  • Giff

    yes indeed – he was the editor of the series at the time in London, so he got to work with both. I was too young to remember any of it!

  • Charles G. Thompson

    It was through Jeremiah that I met Richard. Again, small world.

    I’ll be following your blog to see what else of Richard’s you decide to cook.

  • Stacey Snacks

    Giff, I made Olney’s Soupe au Pistou this weekend and it was so good. Not sure why I don’t use this book more often.
    Beautiful potato dish, you know I love anything gratin or in a dish like this!

  • T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types

    I’m knocking the side of my head saying “Why didn’t I think of that?” Yes – MORE cooking with beer! I’ve got everything in the pantry to make this.

  • kat

    Oh I love this idea! & I imagine you can change the flavor profile a bit by using different beers.

  • RecipeGirl

    The husband would like this one for sure! Great comfort dish.

  • The Short (dis)Order Cook

    Very cool idea. This is great for cooking for people who are lactose intolerant, but love potatoes.

    BTW, your pork dish from your previous post looked awesome too. Your waving around seems to have worked.

  • Maria

    I love cooking with beer and these potatoes sound especially good!

  • Cynthia

    This potato and that braised pork from your previous post are definitely on my must-try list.

  • Ivy

    I’ve heard of beer baked beans just recently but this dish is new to me but it sure sounds delicious and I would definitely like to try it.

  • I can confirm that this is very good made with stout – I made this a while back using Guinness (http://www.thedailyspud.com/2009/02/22/spud-sunday-au-gratin-au-guinness/) and it was a definite hit!

  • Sigari

    What, exactly, do you mean by “thinly sliced,” please? One quarter inch? One eighth? Transparent slice? What kind of potato do you recommend? Please help with specifics. Thank you.

    • Giff

      Hello Sigari, in terms of potato, I used large red potatoes, but you could use baking (Idaho) potatoes and still have a delicious dish. The texture will be different at the end, but both should be good. The same goes for slicing thickness — I will typically slice about 1/16 of an inch (or two millimeters) thick. Try not to go thicker than 1/8 of an inch, but above all be safe and comfortable. The dish will still taste good at thicker cuts. One tip to make fine slicing easier is to take a thin slice off of one side of the potato, which then creates a flat base so the potato isn’t rocking while you try to cut.

  • Fascinating! I’ve tried potatoes in white wine prepared the similar way, but not with beer. Bookmarked 🙂