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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Everyday Scalloped Potatoes

I'm not sure why I haven't made this dish more... it's super easy. Spend 5-10 minutes making a gravy, a few minutes more slicing up some potatoes, put it in the oven and go do something else! And who can turn down tender slices of potato immersed in a flavorful, creamy sauce? Not this girl, that's for sure!

Perhaps, because nice even slices of potatoes are pretty important for best results, I waited to make it regularly until I had a food processor or a mandolin. Either works great. I like the slices to be about an eighth of an inch thick... mainly because I'm impatient. It seems that making the gravy/sauce causes a ticking time bomb of salivary anticipation and the longer I have to wait, the worse it gets. Therefore: thinner is better in my book.

While you can make scalloped potatoes into sin city, this everyday version is pretty tame and you can eat a decent sized serving without feeling too guilty. If you're making it for company, you can always use cream, more cheese, or more bacon... or all of the above!!

As I mentioned, you first make the sauce. This simply involves cooking the bacon, sauteing the onions, adding a slurry of milk and flour, and then - off the heat - adding the cheese. All you have to do then is mix the sauce and potato slices together and place in a greased baking dish! The last step is the trickiest... occupy yourself long enough that it can bake completely and form a nice golden top!

Everyday Scalloped Potatoes
Yield: four side servings

2 strips bacon, diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly (about 1/8 inch)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups milk
1 rounded TBS flour
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste - depends on how salty your bacon and cheese is)
dash fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Start the bacon cooking in a skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, peel and slice the potatoes. If for some reason, your potatoes will be sitting more than 10 minutes between slicing and mixing with the sauce, let them hang out in some water to keep from browning.

When the bacon is nicely rendered but not too browned, add the onion. Do not remove the bacon grease unless your bacon was overly fatty. A tablespoon or two of grease is necessary to flavor the dish. Saute over medium heat until the onion is soft but - again - not browned. Mix the flour with a small amount of the milk while it is still cold. Add the remaining milk slowly to form a lump-free mixture. If you are concerned there are still lumps, simply run it through a sieve as you add it to the pan. Cook the sauce over medium to medium-low heat until it thickens and just starts to simmer. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, holding back a couple of tablespoons. Stir to mix. Add the salt, but be sure to taste as you go. The bacon and cheese may add more salt than you think. Add the pepper and stir one last time.

Add the potatoes to the sauce mixture and stir to completely coat the potatoes. Pour into a greased 10x6 inch pan (or similar). Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on the top. Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are nice and tender and the top is golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.

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