Friday, January 9, 2009

Bill's Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes

This is just a variation on what my mother did. It was pretty unusual for Mom to gild the lily. I do not think that she would have even considered putting Parmesan cheese with potatoes, much as she loved the cheese. The big issue was cost. Potatoes were pretty cheap where I grew up, and when Dad was sick and dying, there was probably that field of Potatoes across the road from the house to keep us all going. There was the cow I guess, so milk and butter was not an issue for the most part...Elsie was her name. Though it may be the second time on this site, I will post her picture with Sis and Mildred. This was a potato field sometimes, especially in later years.

Grease or spray a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
Slice four medium potatoes into 1/4 inch slices.(Not Russets)

It occurs to me to ask myself now, just how much potato are we talking about here. I guess the only real answer is: enough. I peel four or five roundish potatoes and end up having to do three or four more by the time I am done. Suffice it to say that the milk should not quite cover the potatoes in the baking dish.

4 tablespoons of butter in bits
3 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk Whole milk is best but I do it with skim as a rule. For company, include at least some proportion of cream or half and half.
1/3 to 1/2 cup Parmesan depending on how generous you want to be...more is always better.
Grated nutmeg(optional)

Put one layer of potato in the bottom of the pan. If you overlap, do it just slightly. Voids from overlapping make it hard to judge how much milk to use.
Dot with butter, sprinkle with some of the flour and sprinkle all with salt and pepper.
Do additional layers till the potato is gone, but the top should have no flour.
Pour the milk mixed with just a pinch of nutmeg over the entire dish. The milk should not quite cover. If you have over estimated the potatoes and need more milk, make sure to whisk in a proportional amount of flour when you do, so it will thicken as it should at the rate of one tablespoon per half cup of milk. Over do the flour and you will have glue, over do the milk and you have Vichyssoise.
Place in a 350 degree oven for one hour.
Test for done with a toothpick. They should yield but not be mushy.
Sprinkle with cheese and bake an additional 15 minutes. If the top is dry, dot with more butter when the cheese is added.

You could certainly add grilled onions, roasted garlic or tons of cheese in the layers of potato. Any cheese will do of course. Gruyere comes to mind right off, but cheddar would be great.
Top with crisp crumbled bacon if you like.
Savory bread crumbs would be good on top as well. I like to saute coarsely processed fresh bread crumbs in butter. Mix them with powdered mustard and cayenne when they brown a bit.

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