April 06, 2020

Problems of cooking scalloped potatoes – solved

Scalloped potatoes have never been my strong suit, possibly because they are not a great favorite around here, so lack of practice has something to do with it. When Penny Woodward asked if anyone had a good recipe I thought, “Oh, yay, maybe I will find one I like a lot.”

Several of you sent me a recipe or two. The ideas and directions were all over the place: Some like russets, others don’t specify. Some say four cups of potatoes, others say 21/2 pounds, some call for milk, others recommended canned cream soups, some called for flour, some for butter, and some for cheese. All called for onion. Sometimes the potatoes were parboiled, sometimes put into the baking dish raw. One even suggested a way to use a crock pot. One was knock-your-socks-off rich, another was a low-fat version.

What a wealth of options.

It would appear that the goal in scalloped potatoes is to bake thinly sliced potatoes, layered in baking dish, and interspersed with onion, in such a fashion that the flour that is sprinkled on the layers melds beautifully with the milk poured over it all to create a pleasant sauce.

One of my scalloped potato problems has always been that the milk separates and curdles. This does not cause edibility problems but certainly affects aesthetics. Using a canned soup certainly takes care of that problem. If you are eating chicken, chicken soup is a good plan; you might like mushroom with beef, or celery for any occasion.

I always thought if scalloped potatoes had cheese in them then they were really “au gratin” potatoes, but maybe this is being picky. Practically all the recipes had at least a half cup of cheese. Sprinkle it on the top and it certainly dresses up an otherwise fairly dowdy dish, and a good cheese adds a nice flavor, too.

Here is our collected wisdom on scalloped potatoes. You can use as many potatoes as you like. You can parboil them if time is an issue, otherwise you have at least an hour of baking time. Slice them thinly, at least a quarter of an inch. Sliced onions are required, and need to be laid in the potato layers. If you want a guaranteed smooth sauce, use canned soup thinned out just a little with milk and no flour. Otherwise use milk and flour and practice, practice, practice. If you want your potatoes to be low-fat, use skimmed milk, cool it on the cheese, and leave out the sour cream. If you want to gussy it up, use sour cream, cheese and whole milk. Season it with salt and pepper, garlic and parsley. Warm the milk up and add it until the milk comes up to the top layer of potatoes. You can probably get away with a 350 F oven, but if you are feeling a bit cautious drop it to 325 F until the potatoes are barely tender, then raise it to 350 F.

Try this and see how it goes for you.

Scalloped Potatoes

Serves four to six

4 medium potatoes sliced thinly

1 medium onion sliced thinly

3 tablespoons flour

salt and pepper

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

2 1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup of butter

1 cup sour cream (optional)

garlic powder (optional)

chopped parsley

Grease a 9-by-13-inch nine glass baking dish, and preheat the oven to 325 F. Lay in a thin layer of potatoes, sprinkle on about half of the onions, sprinkle in flour, salt and pepper, and part of the cheese, if you are using it. Then repeat this until the potatoes, onions, and cheese are used up. Heat the milk and butter together in a saucepan until the butter is melted, and if you choose sour cream, stir it in until it is all smooth. Pour this over the potatoes in the casserole and watch for it to show through the topmost layer of the potatoes. Cover with foil and put the casserole into the oven. Check back in 30 minutes, and test the potatoes. If they are just tender, remove the foil, and raise the temperature to 350 F and cook at least another 30 minutes or more until the potatoes are tender and the topmost cheese is slightly browned.

Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. E-mail: tastebuds@prexar.com. For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.

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