French Potato Cake with Leeks and Cheese
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Layers of cheesy, tender potatoes baked in a skillet with a cream, leeks and gruyere cheese.
This French-style creamy baked potato cake is a crowd pleaser. Tender, golden potatoes are layered with leeks, creme fraiche and lots of cheese.
Sounds good, right?! It’s comfort food times ten, a dish to serve for brunch or an unfussy supper.
Serve this creamy potato galette with a simple salad on the side and you’ve got a satisfying meatless dinner.
You have to admit that French cooks have a way with spuds — or excuse me pomme de terre.
How do they transform the humblest of vegetables into delicious (and definitely decadent) creamy potato galette and potato gratin?
The secret may be that the French aren’t shy about using butter and cream, and potatoes seem to be happiest when cooked in delicious fat.
Julia Child’s classic recipe for pommes Anna is one of the first dishes I attempted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (it’s in Volume Two).
It stands as one of my all-time favorite recipes, and it requires just two ingredients: Thinly sliced potatoes and yes— lots of butter.
When I prepare potatoes for pommes Anna, they’re thinly sliced and layered into a magically all-purpose cast iron skillet.
Cooking begins on the stovetop, then the pan is placed in a hot oven to finish cooking. The middle of the galette gets soft and tender, while the top and bottom of the potato cake form a crisp, brown crust.
Those crusted parts taste like the best potato chips you’ve ever had!
This recipe is very similar to that delicious buttery potato cake. It’s technically a scalloped potato dish — or gratin — because it includes milk, cheese and eggs.
The eggs form a light creamy custard as the potatoes bake and the cheese makes a savory crust on top of the cake.
Cheeses to use in a potato cake
- Comté and Gruyere are two of the best cheeses to use in gratins, and they’re interchangeable in this recipe. They’re both cow’s milk cheeses from the Alpine regions of France and Switzerland but they don’t have holes like Emmenthaler.
I think they taste more interesting and concentrated than everyday Swiss cheese — much more nutty and melty.
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French Potato Cake with Leeks and Cheese
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (230 g) creme fraiche
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
- 1 ½ pounds (680 g) Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
- Freshly ground black pepper from a pepper grinder
- 1 ½ cups (198 g) grated Comté or Gruyere cheese
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees (180 C) with the rack positioned in the center of the oven.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in an 8-10-inch cast iron skillet or heavy ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until wilted and golden, stirring frequently. Remove the leeks from the pan and set aside. Wipe out the pan.
- Whisk the eggs, creme fraiche, garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl.
- Put the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the edges of the milk start to bubble, remove from the heat. Slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking at the same time.
- Add the remaining butter to the skillet and smear it around to coat. Arrange a layer of potatoes in a concentric circle on the base of the pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Pour 1/3 of the egg mixture over the potatoes and sprinkle with 1/3 of the leeks and cheese. Repeat the layers twice more.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake 40 minutes. Stick a small sharp knife down into the center of the potatoes to make sure they're tender. If not, bake 5-10 more minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes, until the top is golden and the cheese is bubbling.
- Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Sprinkle with parsley.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- To make ahead: Prepare the recipe through step 5. Cover and refrigerate up to a day ahead before baking.
- Be sure to season the potato layers with plenty of salt for best flavor.
- Leftovers taste great and reheat easily.
Hey, I’m Karen
Creator of Familystyle Food
I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.
Do you have to use a cast iron pan???
Hi – No, you can use any skillet that’s ovenproof.
I have made this recipe twice now and it is incredible. Easy to make and looks and tastes fancy. Thank you for sharing this recipe!
This is one of my absolute favorite recipes! The flavors are perfect and it has become a go to recipe all fall, winter and spring! Thank you!!
Hands down amazing!! Truly one of my favorite recipes. The perfect combination of simple ingredients that make such a beautiful and tasty dish!! Thank you so much for this recipe!!❤️
I love this recipe but next I will cook it longer. For some reason the potato slices were not quite done but otherwise I liked all the ingredients together. I did use yogurt instead of creme fraiche and substituted one leek for several green onions. I’d love to make this again!
Hi Laura – If your potatoes didn’t seem done, an easy test before removing the pan from the oven is to stick a small sharp knife down into the center of the potatoes to make sure they’re tender. It could depend on the temperature of your oven (they’re not always accurate) and how thin you sliced the potatoes. I hope you give it another try!
I made this for a Pre Christmas dinner with Crispy Baked Salmon and these potatoes were so delicious. It did take a little longer to cook than in the recipe but it was worth it.
Definitely will make again.
I don’t have a cast iron, could I use a baking dish?
No, you won’t be able to use a baking dish since you need to place the pan over heat on the stovetop. You could use a heavy duty skillet made of stainless steel.
I found it to be very salty. But other than that a fun and interesting dish to make
Made this recipe tonight for dinner. Made a few substitutions by virtue of missing pantry items. Used sour cream in lieu of creme fraiche and used shallot in lieu of one leek. Also garnished with bacon.
I had a hard time getting the cheese to brown, so set the oven to broil during last minute or so of the bake, and it turned out lovely.
One family member said it was the best thing they’ve ever put in their mouth. Will happily make again!
Hi Jamie – Your additions sound so good. Bacon is amazing with this dish! Thanks for the tip on getting a quick browning on the top by using the broiler.
Looks delicious! Definitely pinning for later!
I simple love anything with potatoes and you definitely gave me a perfect weekend brunch idea.