I haven’t made scalloped potatoes in over a decade. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I never made scalloped potatoes that weren’t disappointing. I made them with warmed milk, and by simmering the potatoes in the milk first, then baking the partially cooked milky potato sludge. No dice.
Tonight I made scalloped potatoes because I was baking a ham, and I figured I’d best get back on that horse. (W asked me to roast him a ham as a bedtime snack earlier this week, and so because entire baked hams are not standard bedtime fare, I promised one on the weekend.) The two go together, don’t you think? And can only be served on a Sunday. All is well with the world when you find yourself at a table full of people, a sticky baked ham and a big pan of warm scalloped potatoes on a Sunday.
As it turns out, the two are soul mates, requiring the same time and attention in the oven – perhaps the reason they have come to be companions at the table.
The ham was a cinch. Unwrap, dump in pan, put in the oven. Go about making scalloped potatoes, slide them into the oven alongside. (350F is fine.) After about an hour, slide both out. Brush the ham with glaze (any kind) and take the foil off the potatoes. If you like, scatter a handful of grated cheese (cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere – whatevs) overtop if you like. Turn the oven up to 375F and slide them both back into the oven for another 20 minutes or so, until the top of the potatoes is bubbly and golden, and the ham is sticky and glazed.
Because there was a large jar of apricot jam in the fridge that wasn’t going anywhere fast, I used some – spooned about 1/3 cup into a ramekin, microwaved it enough to be brushable, and stirred in a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, a splash of balsamic and squirt (a tablespoon?) of grainy mustard. You can really do what you like here – the key is to brush it on toward the end, as sugary glazes can burn if they spend too much time in the oven.
This is likely the standard formula for scalloped potatoes out there – thinly sliced potatoes layered with a bit of onion, baked in a creamy plain white sauce – but mine came from Canadian Living.
(I opened up the oven and tossed a handful of cheese overtop toward the end. A good idea, no?)
Classic Scalloped Potatoes
4-5 russet or large Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed (don’t bother peeling them)
1 small onion
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 – 3 cups milk
1 tsp. fresh or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (optional)
salt & pepper
1/2-1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere or a combination – optional)
Thinly slice the potatoes and onion – use a mandolin if you have one; you want them as thin as possible. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. You should have a thick paste. Whisk in the milk (I started with the 2 1/2 cups the recipe called for, but wound up adding another splash because I thought it seemed a little thick) along with the thyme and some salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for a minute.
Layer the potatoes and onion in a buttered baking dish; about a third of the potatoes, half the onions, another third of the potatoes, the rest of the onions and the rest of the potatoes. Pour sauce over top, and move a few of the potatoes around with the tip of a knife to let some of the sauce ooze between the layers.
Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 1 hour. Uncover, scatter with cheese if you like, and bake until lightly browned and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes longer. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8.
We finished with a pan of warm chocolate chunk browned butter blondies at the table with coffee – inspired by the remains of a solid Easter bunny that had been taking up space on the kitchen counter. With a few extra around the table, I figured a little something sweet for dessert was in order. Blondies, like brownies, are dense and chewy – but are even quicker to mix together and bake. I stirred the batter together (browning the butter first) and slid the pan into the oven as we ate, so that they were warm and I needed only to bring the pan to the table after dinner. If only we had a tub of vanilla ice cream…