Cheesy Potato Gratin with Smoked Salmon and Paprika Cream Sauce.
Thin slices of potatoes are layered with onions, parsley, smoked salmon, loads of cheese, and a rich paprika cream sauce, topped with panko bread crumbs and baked into crispy, creamy, cheesy, awesomeness.
This is a deliciously rich dish that fancies up a simple roast like nobody's business. Add a green vegetable and you have a meal worthy of dinner parties, date nights, and holidays, but simple enough to make any ol' weeknight a special occasion.
Paprika Cream Sauce is Literally Awesomesauce.
Also, paprika cream sauce contains no actual cream. It just tastes like it does. This simple béchamel sauce takes less than 10 minutes to make and is the secret to not only adding extreme creaminess to potato gratin, but loads of smoky paprika flavor.
Smoked Salmon. Or Crab. Or Lobster. Or Sausage. You Decide.
Smoked salmon is actually not one of my favorite things to eat. However, as with most things, there's an exception to that rule. When it's wrapped in forkfuls of potatoes, paprika cream sauce, and cheese, it's positively delicious. I used smoked salmon because that's what looked good at my local grocery store. But, feel free to substitute crab or lobster meat if that strikes your fancy. Or, ditch the seafood altogether and layer in some slices of smoked sausage.
For the Paprika Cream Sauce:
- 1 ¾ cup whole milk
- 2 ½ tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp spanish smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 3 ½ tbsp butter, divided
For the Potato Gratin:
- 3 tbsp butter, divided (plus more for buttering the baking dish)
- 1 cup minced onions
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup half and half
- 2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes (Russet potatoes will also work)
- 4 oz smoked salmon (May also use crab, lobster, or sausage)
- ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
- 4 cups medium white cheddar OR muenster cheese, grated
Make the Paprika Cream Sauce:
- Pour the milk into a measuring cup or bowl and heat in the microwave just until bubbles appear around the edges - about 90 seconds.
- Put the flour, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine.
- Add 2 & ½ tbsp butter to a medium size saucepan and set it over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the flour and spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, for 2 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the warm milk to the pan slowly, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, until the sauce is completely smooth.
- Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, making sure to get around the edges of the pan as you stir. Let the sauce boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Taste and add more salt if you like. Cover to keep warm while you assemble the rest of the dish.
Make the Potato Gratin:
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees and butter a 8 or 9-inch square baking dish.
- Add 2 tbsp butter to a large skillet and set it over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the minced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the dried thyme, garlic, and salt, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and half and half. Set aside.
- Fill a large saucepan with water and add 1 tbsp salt. Set over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into ¼-inch thick slices. (The quickest way to do this is with a mandolin.) Drop the potatoes into the boiling water and let cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain in a colander set in the sink.
- Add half the potatoes in an even layer across the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Spread the onion mixture over the potatoes, scatter with pieces of the smoked salmon, and top with 1 cup of the grated cheese. Layer on the remaining potatoes in an even layer. Use the back of a flat spatula to press down on the potatoes, compacting the gratin in the pan. Top with 1 & ½ cups cheese, the paprika cream sauce, and then the remaining 1 & ½ cups of cheese.
- Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small dish in the microwave. Add the panko bread crumbs to the bowl of a food processor, pour in the butter, and pulse 5 or 6 times to combine. Spread the bread crumbs over the top of the potato gratin. Set the baking dish on a baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling around the edges of the pan.
- Let the gratin sit for 10 minutes before serving.