I make a blond roux with butter, add enough whole milk to make a thin sauce, which I season with salt and white pepper. I then parboil waxy potatoes, peel and slice thinly, layer them in a glass or porcelain baking dish, spooning the sauce between the layers. This is baked in a medium-high oven (350 or so) until the potatoes are tender through and the top somewhat browned.
A lighter, simpler version of what most of us know as scalloped potatoes, this recipe is also known as a potato cake.
Most versions involve peeled potatoes, but I don’t find this necessary, justifying my lassitude by presentation. The only trick to preparation is turning the cake to brown both sides. I’m certain some people have the strength and manual dexterity to flip the cake, but I’ve yet to master this technique. Instead, I find a lid that fits, flip it, and and slide the potatoes (brightly, and with beauty) back into the pan to brown evenly.
Slice small red potatoes very thinly (having a mandolin comes in handy) and–working quickly before the potatoes discolor–arrange in layers, sprinkling with salt and pepper in a well-oiled or buttered sauté pan. I do not like to add herbs in this recipe, nor garlic. Place in a hot oven—400 or so—until bubbling and lightly browned. Flip (however best you can) to brown evenly.
Serve hot with a hard grated cheese or cold with sour cream.
While this dish just screams of trailer park cuisine to many, I’m certain that millions in my generation who grew up in small towns across the South, likely across the nation, remember Spam in scalloped potatoes as a familiar side on the dinner table and a standard of church potlucks and dinners-on-the-ground.
A bone of contention with scalloped potatoes is whether to add cheese or not. I rarely use cheese myself, opting instead to use a thin, black-pepped cream sauce ladled between layers of sliced parboiled potatoes (peeled or unpeeled) and diced Spam. Chopped onions are an option. Bake in a medium-high oven (350 or so) until the potatoes are tender and browned.
If, like me, you find sweet potatoes too sugary for many menus, then this combination of sweet with regular spuds provides a semi-savory option. Use any waxy white potato. Peel and slice potatoes on the thinner side, layer in an oiled casserole, gratin, or skillet with sprinklings of salt, pepper, and thyme. Add enough whole cream to saturate, but not cover. Brush lavishly with melted butter, and bake at 350 until the top crispens and browns.
My father was a GI in the Pacific, so I grew up with Spam. We’d have it fried with eggs for breakfast, slathered with mayo on Wonder bread for lunch, and with potatoes for dinner.
The bone of contention with scalloped potatoes is whether to add cheese or not. Purists (I’m one) opt for a rich white sauce over thinly sliced potatoes (I like to use reds) baked in medium heat until potatoes are tender.