Tasked with creating a scalloped potato recipe was no hardship for my potato-loving self! Four pans of various techniques and lots of research through my archive of cookbooks later, I landed on my favourite preparation method. But I also discovered that there are two distinct preferences for making the sauce. My whole milk thickened with a flour roux way, and Chef Nick’s (and most professional chefs) method using naturally thick but oh-so-rich whipping cream. Farmer Rob was the taste tester for them all, and even after forty years of marriage, he closed his eyes and blissfully sighed when I landed on the method that reminded him the most of his mother’s! I wasn’t insulted, as she was an excellent cook and most likely taught me how to make scalloped potatoes many years ago.
After you decide on your sauce option, there are still a few more decisions to be made. Sliced and caramelized onions, chopped onions, or no onions at all? Cheese or no cheese? Gruyere sprinkled in between the layers or cheddar cheese on top? Or both? Garlic or no garlic? What’s not up for debate is which type of potato to use. This dish calls for a starchy potato, my preference of Yukon Gold, and Chef Nick’s russet potatoes both working well. This is not the dish for creamy small new potatoes or fancy fingerlings. A mandoline to ensure evenly sliced potatoes is also an asset. My other takeaways were to allow ample time for cooking, at least 90 minutes. Also, let the potatoes rest out of the oven for at least 15 minutes before serving, which allows the sauce to thicken and set appropriately for cutting into serving.
Whichever method you land on, I hope you enjoy this old-fashioned but full-of-flavour creamy comfort food.
Technically, these are Potatoes Au Gratin, as they contain cheese. Allow plenty of time to bake them, at least 90 minutes. Cooking a bit longer and getting a nice brown crust on top only enhances the rustic look and flavour of my favorite dish!
1 cup Lepp’s chicken broth (could also use 3 cups milk and omit broth if you like it really creamy)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced ⅛” thick. A mandoline is perfect for this task.
1 – 1 ½ cups shredded Gruyere cheese, optional Or 1 ½ cups shredded Cheddar Cheese (see note)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter, onion, and garlic. Cook until the onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Reduce heat to low. Combine milk and broth. Add a small amount of liquid at a time to flour/onion mixture, whisking continuously as it thickens to reduce lumps. The mixture will become very thick, continue adding a little bit of liquid at a time, whisking until smooth.
Once all of the liquid has been added, bring to a boil over medium heat while continuing to whisk. Stir in salt and pepper and taste to adjust seasonings. Potatoes can take a generous amount of salt, so add in small increments and keep tasting.
Grease a 9″x13″ baking dish with softened butter.
Place ⅓ of the potatoes in the bottom and season with salt and pepper. As you layer the potatoes, separate them so they don’t stick together. This way you get sauce in between all the layers. Spread ⅓ of the cream sauce over top. If using Gruyere cheese, sprinkle ⅓ of the amount over each layer.
Repeat layers two more times, ending with cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
Uncover and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until golden brown and potatoes are tender. Use a knife or fork to poke into the potatoes to ensure they’re soft and cooked through. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Onions: If you prefer caramelized onions, slice 1-2 onions into thick slices, and slowly cook over low heat in butter until slices are a deep, golden brown color. This could take up to 20 minutes.
Cheese: Substitute layers of Gruyere cheese with Cheddar Cheese, sprinkle Cheddar over the top layer of sauce.