Why It Works
- Adding sauce first and positioning the hash browns vertically allows for maximum crisp and crunch.
- A rich and cheesy sauce is flavored with garlic and freshly ground black pepper.
Our mission was to take some key fast food icons and make a delicious Thanksgiving feast. Starting with Popeye’s Cajun turkey, we made stuffing from Popeye’s biscuits, creamed corn from Chipotle corn salsa, and an apple dessert from Domino’s Cinnastix.
And what is Thanksgiving without a potato side? Crispy, greasy McDonald's hash browns aren't my go-to breakfast food, but they're one helluva a game-changer in this potato gratin. I was inspired by Kenji's far more highbrow Hasselback potato gratin, which showcases the perfect knife cut to maximize crispy edges while preserving a rich, starchy, creamy interior.
To get a similar effect, I sliced the hash browns and laid them vertically in the thick, cheesy sauce—a combination of heavy cream, Gruyère, and parmesan, seasoned with raw garlic, thyme, and a hefty dose of black pepper. It's the perfect bath for the already-fatty potatoes to soak in as their tops crisp up in the oven.
Be sure to pour most of the sauce into the baking dish before adding the potatoes—for our ideal texture and presentation, we want hash browns peeking out from the liquid, not soggy and mired beneath it. I also sprinkled on some old-school fried onion topping for some extra crunch and a dash of nostalgia. This cheesy, gooey concoction totally hits the sweet spot between the best spaghetti alla carbonara and the fast food breakfast my parents never let me have, except for that one time... in the car, in France, when I was seven.
- 4 ounces finely grated Gruyère cheese
- 2 ounces finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 10 McDonald's hash browns, cut crosswise into thirds
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup canned fried onions or fried shallots
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Combine Gruyère and parmesan in a large bowl with cream, garlic, and thyme, season with salt and lots of black pepper.
Grease a 2-quart baking dish with butter. Pour cream mixture into baking dish in an even layer, being sure not to get excess mixture on sides of dish. Place cut hash browns into mixture in three rows, ensuring tops of hash browns remain above liquid, partially submerged. Bake, rotating once during cooking, until liquid is bubbling and edges are starting to brown, 20 minutes. Top with fried onions and return to oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let rest 5 minutes, and serve.