Scalloped potatoes FAST!

Scalloped Potatoes

Don’t be fooled. People make out that it’s only on special occasions when luscious, creamy scalloped potatoes turn up at the table. It’s a fib. This is extremely easy and quick to make.

With layers of cream, onions, and potatoes all baked until lovely, rich and bubbly, people think this is a complex and indulgent dish. It is and it isn’t, but it’s possible to cook the prepared layers in the microwave in just 10 minutes!

I agree there are few other dishes which pair comfort and luxuriant elegance quite so perfectly.

Is there a difference between Scalloped Potatoes and Potato Gratin? Both are constructed with thinly sliced potatoes and then cooked in full cream milk or cream, but the difference is cheese.

Scalloped potatoes only really need to be made with milk or cream and potatoes, while gratins add cheese, either between the layers or just over the top. But if you want to add cheese, it’s fine, just that bit richer.

To give the dish a bit more acidity, I like to add some thinly sliced good-old brown onions, though red or white is good too. The layers should be: potato at the bottom, then onions, then more potatoes, and more onions etc. until the last layer which should be potato again.

The key is to choose a starchy potato – and don’t bother to peel it.

It’s the starch that will help the dairy you choose, whether milk or cream, to thicken to a velvety smooth sauce while cooking. Russets have the most starch and you will find the sauce will be creamier than when you use a more watery spud.  Russets, by the way, are the large ones, with dark brown skin and few eyes. The flesh is white, dry, and mealy, and it is suitable for baking, mashing, and chipping.

Work on the basis of one good-sized potato per person. Slice the potatoes so they are between 1/8” and ¼” thick. Using a mandoline makes this very easy and quick. What’s important is to make sure the slices are all about the same thickness so they all cook at the same speed.

If you were cooking this dish the long-winded way you may simmer the sliced potatoes in the milk or cream for a few minutes before arranging the layers. If you do it this way then remember you don’t want to thoroughly cook the potatoes at this stage. Once the milk and/or cream starts to simmer, it’s time to move on.

Place the layers in the baking dish you have to hand and pour over the seasoned cream and or milk sauce so that it seeps through all the layers. Cover this dish in cling film and put it all in the microwave. Cook on full power for ten to 12 minutes.

If you would like a slightly caramelised top then remove the cling film when you take the dish out of the microwave and finish it under a hot grill for a few minutes more.

Serving your scalloped potatoes, don’t worry if the dish is still loose and liquid, as long as the mixture is tender and bubbling everything will be delicious.

A slotted spoon or even a fish spatula will help you lift the layers and serve the potatoes in whatever shape or non-shape you like. Make sure you scoop out all that creamy sauce. Don’t leave it in the pan.  Drizzle it over the top.

Bish, bosh. Delicious!

The Autumn is upon us, time for something cheesy, rich and satisfying

Tartiflette

September, the ninth month of the Gregorian calendar, but the seventh in the Roman calendar from which it takes its name, is when the weather starts to cool.

Today, Meteorological Autumn is upon us. Astronomical Autumn has yet to come. But it is the month of blackberries, potatoes, courgettes, aubergines, onions, and tomatoes.

As the abundance of summer’s flowers and forage die off, milk tends to become grassier so real cheeses (rather than the mass produced versions) change in flavour. As the cold weather encroaches butterfat and proteins start to jump.

The beginning of Meteorological Autumn on September 1 also marks International Bacon Day. The celebration began in 2000 when a group of students in Massachusetts deemed the flavour so delicious that bacon deserved its own holiday. They were probably right.

The average temperature is now around 16°C and as the month progresses, temperatures will decrease even further. It’s time to start thinking about cooking some warming food, and what could be better than an unctuous bowl of Tartiflette. If you have a stomach for potatoes, bacon, and cheese then there is nothing like this dish that originated in the 18th-century but recently got a shot in its arm.

Nowadays the dish is traditionally made with Reblochon cheese because the marketers at Union Interprofessional Reblochon decided it would be a glorious way of boosting sales of this rich cow’s cheese.

I have decided, therefore, that it is no sacrilege to combine the other traditional ingredients with much easier to locate creamy tangy Brie. Mixed with the smoked bacon lardons and potatoes it makes for an unusual but no less appealing twist.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 300g smoked lardons
  • 1 thinly sliced large onion
  • 5g fresh thyme leaves
  • 284ml Double Cream
  • 300ml milk
  • 3.5cl white wine
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1kg thinly sliced potatoes, such as Albert Bartlett Roosters
  • 250g thinly sliced Brie

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to around 180°C and lightly grease an ovenproof dish of about 1.5-litre. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and lardons on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they start browning.
  2. Prepare the thyme leaves, keeping a few back for garnish. Place the herb, cream, and milk in a large saucepan. When this starts to simmer, add the potatoes, and cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Prepare the lardons by sautéing with a knob of butter, add the sliced onions and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes. Then add the white wine and crushed garlic clove and cook for 3 minutes. Then add this sauté to the potatoes and season with freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Place half the potato infusion in the base of the prepared dish, and top with half the sliced cheese. Repeat, ensuring you finish with a layer of cheese.
  5. Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, and the top is golden and bubbling. Garnish with thyme and serve with a crisp green salad and chunks of Sour Dough bread.

Cook’s tips

You can assemble all of this so it’s ready for the final cooking several hours ahead of even the day before. When it’s cool, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge until needed. Because you are cooking straight from the fridge, when you have removed the clingfilm cook for an hour (ie an extra 15 minutes).