Serves: 2 people. Preparation time: 50-60 minutes.
Traditionally this side is made to be shared by two people served from one gratin baking dish. If you use the cheese to flavor the potatoes, you can change the cream to whole milk.
Wash, peel and slice the potatoes into thin slices. For uniform results, you can use a "mandoline" if available. Allow the slices to dry on a towel for a while to help prevent a watered-down dish.
In a saucepan add the cream (or milk) and half the garlic slices. Bring to a low boil on the range. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
While the cream is heating, take a small oven-safe gratin dish (about 6" in diameter) and rub the bottom and sides with the remainder of the garlic cloves and the butter. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of the potato slices, half overlapping as you go around. Cover the slices with some of the optional grated cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make a second and third layer the same way, alternating the potato slices, cheese and seasoning. When the cream is hot, pour it over the potatoes and cheese. Stop if the liquid starts to cover the top. The liquid should cover only 3/4 of the potatoes allowing the exposed top to brown slightly when baked.
Bake in the oven until the top is brown, about 30-50 minutes. Traditionally this dish is not browned very much. Test the doneness of the potatoes with a fork or knife. When cooked, remove and allow to cool somewhat before bringing it to the table and placing it on a hot pad.