This is one of those dishes where I didn’t know what I was missing until I had it prepared correctly. I grew up in the 1970s, that heyday of prepackaged foods. To me, as a kid, scalloped potatoes were the dehydrated boxed version with the packet of powder that you mixed up with liquid and threw in the oven. And I liked them, since I didn’t know any better.
And then I grew up and started cooking. And then I learned to make a basic beschamel sauce. And then I got a food processor.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Or at least boxed scalloped potato mix was history to me from that point on.
The basis of this recipe is that mother of all sauces, the beschamel, that simple but genius combination of butter, flour and milk and/or cream. To me, you can’t really call yourself a cook unless you can whip up this basic white sauce. I mean, it’s the basis for so many dishes, from these scalloped potatoes to macaroni and cheese to lasagna besciamella to mornay vegetables to moussaka.
I’ve seen many scalloped potato recipes that just have you putting potatoes, butter and milk in a pan and baking. I’ve also seen those that use condensed creamed soups. Please don’t take these shortcuts. Trust me, the extra few minutes to make the beschamel makes a far superior dish.
Oh, and you will also see recipes involving cheese, but, to be nitpicky, then this is not scalloped potatoes, but rather, potatoes au gratin. Nothing wrong with it, to be sure, but I like to call things by their proper names.
You will see that I have onions in this recipe, because, well, we like onions at our house. However, if that’s not your thing, feel free to leave them out. Also, I use a combination of milk and cream, but, you can use all whole milk if you want the dish a little lighter. It won’t be as creamy, but it will still be delicious. Or you could use all half and half.
The baking times are approximate – it really depends on the amount of potatoes and how thinly they are sliced. (A food processor or a mandolin is a great help to cut down on slicing time). You just need to keep the dish covered in the first stage of baking so the top doesn’t brown too much. This recipe is also easily doubled to fit into a 9″x13″ pan, as well.
Scalloped potatoes are a classic accompaniment to ham and pork, but they can really go with just about every meat entree.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- dash cayenne pepper
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 large russet potatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced (optional)
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add flour, garlic salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and stir until smooth and bubbly.
- Add milk and cream slowly, stir until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil, remove from heat and cover to let white sauce thicken while preparing potatoes and onions.
- Peel and slice potatoes and onions in a food processor or mandolin, and place in a small greased cassarole (8″x8″ or 9″x9″) in an even layer.
- Pour white sauce over potatoes and onions.
- Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 375° for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 30 minutes more, until potatoes are cooked and top is nicely browned.