Sunday, January 24, 2010

Easy Cheesy Potatoes

Trillian and I both love potatoes, especially in the cold of winter. We've been keeping them around, mashing, sauteeing, roasting, whatever sounds good. When we had family up for dinner in December, I got all fancy and made Pioneer Woman's Creamy Herbed Potatoes. They are decadent and delicious! Trillian was in the mood for them again yesterday, a perfect side for the ham we had on hand, but I knew we were short on a few of the ingredients.

So I did a little searching on line, looking for fairly simple potatoes au gratin or something similar. I ended up combining a few recipes, adapting for what we had on hand, and using a shortcut I found. The results were not at all bad, although this has made us resolve to keep better cheese on hand. I used mostly a colby/cheddar mix we had on hand, intended for dressing up tacos and nachos and the like, but this would be just divine with a really sharp cheddar! We will also add chives and/or leeks next time.

  • 4-6 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced--a food processor makes this incredibly easy (ours varied greatly in size, so I just used up the rest of what we had in one bag)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour (I used Pamela's Baking and Pancake mix, which works really well)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (about 200 Celsius).
  2. Place sliced potatoes in a glass casserole dish. Add some salt and pepper as you do this.
  3. Microwave potatoes for about 8 minutes--this will cut the baking time down greatly!
  4. Make white sauce: melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat and then add flour. Be sure to get the flour fully stirred in and cooked. (NB: since the Pamela's mix includes some baking powder, it will bubble a bit when you first add it, but it's otherwise just like using regular flour.)
  5. Add milk and stir frequently until thick. My little white sauce trick is to get the mixture up to a low boil and let it stay there for about a minute. This gets it to just about the right thickness a little faster, but you have to be careful not to burn the mixture!
  6. Either turn off the heat or put it as low as possible and add the cheese. Stir until smooth. You can add salt if you want.
  7. Pour cheese mixture over potatoes.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes. The top should be just a little brown.
I'm almost sorry I discovered this recipe. It's incredibly easy, especially with our food processor. Trillian and I have started to justify the likelihood we'll be making this on a regular basis with the fact that it's a lot lower fat than it tastes--we used 2% milk and can adjust the cheese to our mood. Compare that to recipes using cream cheese and heavy cream, and it would be foolish not to eat this all the time!