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.
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.
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.