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Scalloped potatoes are layers of thinly sliced potatoes baked in a creamy sauce until the potatoes are tender. This classic side dish is always a crowd favorite. Add cheese and crumbs on top to get Potato au gratin.
Scalloped potatoes have layers of tender sliced potatoes in a creamy sauce. The creamy sauce is flavored with onion, garlic, thyme, and Gruyere cheese, making this side dish cozy and comforting. In my opinion, any holiday meal is incomplete without scalloped potatoes. With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, I am sharing a fantastic scalloped potato recipe that is delicious and a crowd-pleaser.
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It is believed to have come from England, and while it is difficult to say for sure, if it comes to potatoes, it very well could be.
Why cheese in scalloped potatoes, you may ask?
Me: “Why stick to conventional definitions when you can make something taste much better by adding one ingredient?” Enter Gruyere cheese.
Gruyere has a creamy and nutty taste that compliments the creaminess of the dish. Adding it to the milk and stock makes the sauce creamier and cheesier. Sprinkle it on top, if you may, and you get a nice golden crust on top, and it becomes potato au gratin.
Scalloped potatoes or potatoes au gratin?
These two dishes are very similar, with slight differences, and hence have lost their differentiation over the years. The ingredients and the way you make them are mostly similar.
Gratin dishes have a French origin and mean ‘topping’. They use breadcrumbs, often mixed with cheese, to create a baked crust on top. In fact, any dish baked with crumbs and cheese that forms a crust on top is called a gratin.
Both scalloped potatoes and potatoes au gratin use a roux that is creamy and cheesy and layer potatoes in more or less the same way. You can see my Baked Cauliflower Au Gratin recipe, which has a crunchy crust on top too.
So, if you have breadcrumbs and want a golden crust on top, go ahead and make a gratin. Otherwise, it is the creamy scalloped potatoes. Even without the breadcrumbs, a sprinkle of cheese over the top can be baked to get a slightly golden crust on top.
See, there is not much difference, and let us not get lost in the definitions. Make the best of what you have and make it a creamy dish with cheese, which pairs with potatoes the best. The best version is a blend of both, which is what we are making. Add breadcrumbs if you have them.
- Potatoes: use Russet or Yukon gold potatoes. The starchier the potatoes, the tender they will become. Prefer a bite? Use ones less starchy.
- Milk: to make the creamy base.
- Chicken stock: adds volume but also loads of flavor to the base with milk.
- Flour: forms the base with a creamy and velvety texture as part of the roux.
- Gruyere cheese: is a hard cheese that tastes rich, creamy, and slightly salty. Added to the base to make a creamy sauce for the potatoes to be layered into.
- Butter: is used to sauté the garlic and then mix with flour to make the roux, which makes the base-rich and smooth.
- Minced garlic and onion powder: these are the aromatics used to add flavor to the base.
- Thyme and parsley: herbs added with onion powder to add a herby flavor to the creamy sauce.
- Dijon mustard: The rest of the ingredients make the dish creamy, cheesy, and rich. And we need to cut that—add Dijon mustard that has umami and tanginess to cut the creaminess.
- Salt and pepper: Salt brings out all the other flavors, while pepper adds a touch of heat.
How to make scalloped potatoes
The recipe can be done in three steps here: first, to prep the oven and potatoes; second, to make the creamy and cheesy sauce; and third, to bake the potatoes with the sauce. Each task can be referred to below as its own collage of step-by-step images.
- Prep the oven by preheating it to 400°F / 200°C.
- Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, and keep it aside.
- Peel the potatoes and keep them covered in water or milk. This keeps them from browning. Keeping the slices longer in water may draw out the starch that we want to happen later in the sauce. So it is better to submerge them in milk so the milk has seeped starch into it.
Make the creamy sauce
- Add butter to a hot pan. Saute the minced garlic in butter. It takes a minute to remove the raw smell of garlic and add flavor.
- To make the roux, which is equal parts butter and flour and also makes the base smooth, add flour now and stir.
- Add milk and stir to get a creamy base.
- Chicken stock added and stirred to mix well adds depth of flavor to the creamy base.
- Next, add onion powder and herbs, and let the sauce simmer for 3 minutes. The simmering sauce incorporates the flavors from the herbs.
- Add shredded gruyere and mix to get a cheesy and creamy sauce to layer in the potatoes.
Bake the potatoes
- It is better to keep those sliced potatoes ready beforehand. Pick a bunch of the slices with a spatula or a few with your fingers (easy). Layer the sliced potatoes on the baking tray.
- Refer to image 8 below for how the layered potato slices should look.
- Pour a third of the sauce over the layered potatoes. Layer the other half of the potatoes on top, and pour the rest of the sauce over them.
- Cover the baking tray with aluminum foil and tuck the sides over the rims of the tray tightly. Transfer the tray to the oven and let it bake for 45 minutes. Take the tray out, remove the foil, transfer it back to the oven uncovered, and let it bake for another 25 minutes.
In the final step, before you put the tray in the oven for the second time, you may choose to sprinkle cheese (or mix it with breadcrumbs) over the top. When it bakes, it will produce a golden crust on top, making it a potato au gratin. Voila!
What kind of potatoes to use
Starchy is the keyword here. Starchy potatoes, like Russets or Idaho varieties, are what you want if you want your potatoes to soak in the sauce and become tender and soft to bite. If you prefer some crunch to be left in them, go for Yukon gold or red potatoes, which are waxy potatoes.
The higher the amount of starch, the less moisture there is, and the potatoes will soak up the liquid. Waxy potatoes will not soak up like the starchy ones and keep some of that crunch.
One of the options for starchy/waxy should be available in the supermarkets in your area.
For people who like potatoes that are soft and tender, storing them in the refrigerator allows the potatoes to absorb more of the liquid and flavors. They turn softer, and you can scoop them up and enjoy the best version of them.
- Allow the dish to cool down.
- Shift the dish to airtight containers and refrigerate for up to four days.
- Freezing: You can freeze the dish in freezer-safe containers or vacuum-sealed bags for months.
- Reheating: In an oven-proof dish, bake at low temperatures (around 300°F) until heated through.
- If the stored dish appears dry, add some milk or cream to restore the texture and consistency.
Tips for best results
- Prep and cook potatoes: slice the potatoes evenly to ensure even cooking. To reduce cooking time, you may even parboil the potatoes a bit.
- Layer well: Layer the potatoes with the creamy sauce alternately for even distribution and for the potatoes to soak up the flavors of the sauce.
- You may adjust the ratio of cream and milk for a more creamy sauce.
- Cover the tray with foil during the first bake to ensure proper cooking of the potatoes.
- During the second bake, bake it uncovered. This is important to get a golden crust on top. For an even better crust, sprinkle a mix of breadcrumbs and cheese on top. That’s potato au gratin.
- Let the dish rest for at least 10 minutes after you remove it from the oven. This allows the crust to settle down.
To complement the creamy goodness of scalloped potatoes, I would suggest serving them with meaty dishes like roasted chicken, glazed salmon or ham, or pork tenderloin. To complete the meal, add some roasted vegetables or green salad on the side.
Must try potato delights
- 2.5 pounds Yukon gold potatoes sliced about ⅛” thick
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 tablespoons garlic mince
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1.5 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ tsp thyme
- 1 cup gruyer cheese
- Peel the potatoes and keep them covered in water (to prevent them from browning).
Make the cream sauce
- In a saucepan melt butter. Add minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. The garlic should be aromatic.
- Reduce heat to low. Add flour to the saucepan and saute flour for about a minute on very low heat. Make sure the flour doesn't change the colour to brown.
- Slowly add milk to the saucepan, while stirring the mix with a wooden spatula using another hand. Keep stirring until all the milk has been added to the pan and the mixture is smooth (lump free). Then stir in the chicken stock followed by onion powder, salt, pepper and thyme. Let the sauce simmer for 2-3 minutes. It will thicken further.
- Take off the saucepan from the stovetop. Add cheese and stir until the sauce is completely smooth.
Bake the potatoes
- Take out the peeled potatoes from water, using a mandoline slicer cut into 1/8th inch thickness.
- Arrange half of the potatoes in the prepared casserole dish to layers. pour 1/3rd of the sauce on top. Layer rest of the potatoes. Then pour remaining cream sauce on top. Spread the sauce evenly.
- Loosely cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and the top looks set with a few golden sports.
- Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes, then serve.