scalloped potatoes. not from a box.

Posted on Mar 12, 2011 in Food

I was born in the 80s.

The decade that also birthed microwave popcorn, salad-in-a-bag and prepackaged brownie mix.

In the later decades of the last millennium, convenience foods were big business (and still are). Most households were switching from the previously standard stay-at-home mom model to dual-income, go-go-go lifestyle that embraced any product that freed up of a spare second of time.

I’m not exactly sure which year scalloped potato “mix” showed up on store shelves, but I do know that the sheer variety of flavors and styles indicates that there must still be a big market for the product.

What a shame.

I get it though. For us “convenience-food natives” it is ingrained in us that if a box mix exists, it must mean that the from-scratch version of the dish is punishingly difficult and time-consuming.

I mean, if it wasn’t why would they offer boxed mixes?

Because they are jerks. That hate cheese. And flowers. And puppies.

That’s why.

As I’ve tumbled along my culinary journey, I’m starting to realize more and more how many processed foods are just flat-out silly. But growing up in the age I did, I didn’t really know any different. It’s fun to think about food differently.

I digress. . .

While scalloped potatoes are decidedly time-consuming (mine took about two hours, including 90 minutes of cooking time), there is nothing hard about them. In fact, other than the slicing, I think this would be a great dish to have kids help with!

A few tips for really, really good scalloped potatoes :

  • Use a large, shallow baking dish. The star of scalloped potatoes is the crunchy, browned cheese topping. A more shallow dish allows for a bigger surface area to brown. I used a 9 x 13 dish.
  • Try to cut your potatoes as evenly as possible. Babyface liked to point out that my potatoes were uneven (and too thick) in the below photo (maybe this new big monitor wasn’t such a good idea). Even potatoes cook at the same speed. Use a mandolin if you have it. I (obviously) don’t.
  • Be patient. Let the potatoes do their thing. It may seem like a ridiculously long time in the oven, but trust me, it is worth it.
  • Shred your cheese fresh. I’m not sure why, but it makes a difference. I promise. Plus, shredding your own is cheaper. (Side note : you can’t really buy shredded cheese in Canada. They have a tiny, tiny selection in even the biggest grocery stores. Canadians know to shred their own cheese! Theme of this post : Americans are lazy when it comes to their food.)

These are fabulous as a side for pork. Which was the plan. Until I consumed so much of the potatoes themselves that I had no room for pork.

Obviously, they are also an excellent main course.

Scalloped Potatoes

Butter for greasing the baking dish
2 1/2 lbs. potatoes (about 4-5 medium), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped fine
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup half and half
1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
2 tbsp. butter, cut into piecesS

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with butter. Layer 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom, top with salt and pepper. Layer on top of that 1/2 of the onions, 1/2 of the parsley, 1/2 of the bacon, 1/3 of the Swiss and Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Top with the remainder of the potatoes. Mix half and half and milk together, pour over potatoes evenly, sprinkle butter pieces evenly over top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until the potatoes have absorbed most of the liquid. Remove foil, cover in remaining cheeses and bake for 20-30 more minutes, or until cheese is browned and all the liquid is absorbed.

Serves 8.


18 Comments

  1. I’m so with you, processed foods are evil. (Puppies are good.)

  2. I love love love homemade scalloped pototoes. When I was taking care of my mom, I made her throw out her boxed potatoes. Yuck! Homemade is easier (really) and tastier! (I like knowing what ingredients are in my food.) I totally support mandoline usage! It cuts down your chopping time immensely and your onions and potatoes are cut with an even thickness. Invest! You will not be sorry.

    • I seriously need to get a mandolin slicer. Any recommendations on a good one?

  3. Oh, I almost forgot. The last couple of times I made scalloped potatoes I used rice milk. It altered the flavor a little, a little more sweet, but not enough to turn everyone off of it. It’s good for those who can’t do regular dairy!

  4. I’ve never had boxed potatoes. The frozen mashed potatoes I see in the grocery store lately freak me out (almost as much as the pre-sliced apples–seriously, how lazy can the market that this item appeals to be?).
    I was fortunate to be the daughter of a mom who worked full time and still a homemade dinner on the table every night–even if it was at 7:30-8:00. She made it all seem manageable–and it is with planning.
    Love scalloped potatoes–the cheesier the better!

    • Whoa!? Frozen mashed potatoes? SERIOUSLY? I mean, the potato flakes are even better than that.
      My parents made a homemade dinner every night too, even though they both worked full time. I think the real convenience-food stage of my life came in college. Yuck. I don’t like to think about all the chemicals I ingested during those years.

      • Best potato flakes are from IDAHOAN! They have lots of varities. We absolutely love the plain …. no salt or anything added except REAL potatoes! Always best for us to season ourselves.

  5. Oh my goodness. These look delicious!

    • Mmm! They were super delicious. :)

  6. I live in Croatia. We have been introduced to processed foods rather late and it is catching up. We grew up on all home made foods “from scratch” so it’s normal for us. I brought with, from my trip, a box of this stuff and my brother’s and sister’s kids loved it and talked about it for years :((( I am sure going to make this for them and see how they like it and hope they change their story LOL I guess our home made meals are just a bit plain so the flavors in the box was what they liked so much!
    Fingers crossed! LOL
    Now I gotta say how much I love your pictures and all. I enjoy your blogs, both here and on SP!

    • I swear they put nicotine or cocaine or something in those processed foods to make people so addicted to them! Here’s hoping they like the “real” ones!

  7. I think what makes pre-shredded cheese different/worse is the cornstarch or other substance they put on the cheese to keep if from sticking together. I always grate mine at home, of course. :)

    And what they put in processed foods to make people addicted is salt. And probably sugar as well. I just finished reading “The End of Overeating” by Dr. David Kessler, who talks about the chemical and neurological reasons people get addicted to processed and restaurant foods. I highly recommend the book (I borrowed it from the library).

  8. My Nana, who was born in Maine & married a Canadian, always fixed ham and scalloped potatoes when we came to see her. This sounds exactly like her recipe. I’ve got to make some today!

  9. I hate to admit it but I have boxed scalloped potatoes about twice a month. There I said it. I’m a lazy American…sometimes. ;-)
    I definitely need to change that though…starting with these delicious potatoes. YUM! :-)
    Thanks for the recipe!

  10. “Because they are jerks. That hate cheese. And flowers. And puppies.” :D

    On a side note, I use my Cuisinart food processor’s slicing disk to make perfectly proportioned potatoes. And onions. And leeks. And I use it to slice cheese. $100 well worth the time it saves.

    • GENIUS! I have an attachment blade for my food processor. Must. Try. This. THANK YOU!

  11. Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look
    forward to all your posts! Keep up the fantastic work!

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