Potatoes, milk and cheese go together, no matter what you call them. Sure, it is easy to pick up a box of the dried potato slices with the included powdered sauce. But why do this when you can put in just a little more effort to get something that tastes so much better?
I usually make cheesy potatoes by slicing potatoes, boiling them until they are barely tender and then layering them with the cheese sauce I use for macaroni and cheese before baking them until brown and bubbly. I change the cheese mixture to concentrate heavily on sharp cheddar and Parmesan – we like the stronger cheese flavors with the potatoes.
The other night I decided to skip making the cheese sauce and try making the potatoes the way I made them once, several years ago. We were at my parents’ house during the holidays and my brother and his family were visiting. We had been shopping or sightseeing (the memory is fuzzy) and were throwing together dinner at the end of the day. It was one of those meals where several people each made a dish and what we got was a hodgepodge that was perfect. I can’t remember anything but the potatoes and how much fun we had. Not sure what that says about my memory, that I only remember the dish I made.
Anyway, I sliced the potatoes and simmered them on the stove in milk. Then I layered the potatoes in a casserole with grated cheese and poured the hot milk over the top before baking them in the oven. They were fabulous, if I say so myself.
To truly recreate what I did this time, you will have to boil the milk over onto the stovetop. Then you have to trail milk all over the stove, floor and counter while you are removing the pan from the stove. Oh, and you have to forget to grease the casserole dish until you have half the bottom covered with hot potatoes. Don’t forget to start the whole process with a sink full of dishes that you forgot to wash earlier in the day. Other than that, you can follow the recipe and end up with a quick version of what my mother used to call scalloped potatoes. I recommend starting with a clean sink and skipping the boiling over part.
From The Cook’s Life
Use starchy white or yellow potatoes for this recipe, rather than waxy red ones. The starch will help thicken the sauce.
4 large potatoes (about 1½ pounds)
2-2 ½ cups milk
2 cups shredded cheese (I used 1 cup sharp cheddar, ½ cup Swiss and ½ cup Parmesan)
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a large casserole (mine is almost 9 by 13). You can also use a smaller casserole, but you won’t have as much surface area for the browned cheese on top.
Peel the potatoes and slice them into thin rounds. Put the potatoes in a large pot. Add milk until most of the potatoes are covered. Add salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cover with the lid and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are almost tender. Lower the heat if the potatoes threaten to boil over.
Use a slotted spoon to move about half the potato slices to the greased casserole dish. Spread them in a single layer – you don’t have to be neat. Layer about half the cheese on top. Add the rest of the potatoes, spreading them out as evenly as possible. Pour the hot milk evenly over the potatoes. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbly and the top and edges are browned. Tent the top loosely with foil if it starts to get too brown. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving so the sauce can thicken just a bit. Reheats well.