Now that we’re back in business here, I’d like to share a dish I invented a few days ago.
Backstory: as much as I enjoy scalloped potatoes, they seem a little watery with all that milk and stuff squishing around. It occurred to me that you ought to be able to cook potatoes much the same way you make macaroni and cheese: layered with white sauce and cheese.
The possible trap is that macaroni is already cooked, and so traditional macaroni-&-cheese bakes only about 20 minutes. Being at heart incorrigibly lazy, I didn’t want to have to precook the taters. So I decided to use a mandoline to slice them very thin, which I hoped would allow the oven to heat them more efficiently. This trick results in a lot of potato slices! To accommodate them, I used the largest flat baking pan in the house, preparing it with a liberal coat of butter.
Because of the amount of potatoes involved, I prepared a double recipe of white sauce, which I flavored up with a little New Mexico chili, nutmeg, and parsley. I pulverized about 12 or 16 ounces of cheddar cheese in the food processor, and then did two layers of potatoes, white sauce, and cheese, ending with the cheese. Didn’t have any bread in the house, so to make crumbs I crunched up some rice crackers. Actual bread crumbs would have been better, but the cracker idea worked adequately.
The result is pretty darn tasty, and it made enough high-protein food to fill half the freezer:
Here are the specifics:
-about 4 cups milk
-about 5 or 6 Tbsp butter (plus enough to butter the pan)
-about 5 or 6 Tbsp flour
-salt and pepper to taste
-dash of nutmeg
-a few tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley
-something for zing, such as ground pepper, paprika, or Tabasco sauce, to taste
-about 8 or 10 thinly sliced small cooking potatoes, or more, depending on what’s in the fridge
-about a pound (more or less) of tasty cheese, shredded
Make the white sauce:
Melt butter in a pan large enough to accommodate the amount of milk you’re using. Add the flour and stir over medium heat until the butter foams. Don’t allow it to brown. Now stir in the milk. Heat, stirring, over medium or medium-high heat until the sauce thickens. While stirring, add nutmeg, salt, pepper, parsley, and any other flavoring you’ve selected.
Assemble the dish:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a buttered baking dish, lay down a layer of thin-sliced potatoes, using about half of them. Spread about half the white sauce over these, and then sprinkle on about half the shredded cheese. Layer the rest of the potatoes over this, and repeat the layering of sauce and cheese. Sprinkle some bread crumbs over the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Test by poking the potatoes with a thin knife to assess whether they’re cooked to your taste. If not, let them bake a few minutes longer. Remember that if you take the pan out and allow it to set for ten minutes, the food will continue to cook from its retained heat. So, use your judgment in deciding when the potatoes are “done.”