Scalloped potatoes were the epitome of comfort food for my sister and me growing up—our favorite was when Dad made them with L'Etivaz. My version is made with plain 'ol cheddar, a from-scratch cream sauce with garlic and herbs, and thick pieces of ham off the bone.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Cook time: 90 minutes

For the cream sauce:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups almond milk (can substitute cow's milk), at room temperature
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano

8-10 russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick 
1 tsp sea salt, divided
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, divided
1/2 pound thick-sliced ham, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided

Make the cream sauce. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat and gradually whisk in flour, stirring continuously for about 5-7 minutes to make a medium tan roux. Stir in milk and again stir continuously until smooth and consistent. Using cold milk will cause the butter to seize and clump up, which can be corrected by patiently working the sauce until it has all come back up to temperature and smoothed out. Stir in garlic, basil and oregano. Turn heat to low and allow to cook another 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease an 11 x 17 baking dish. Layer potato slices along the bottom, overlapping rows so that there are no empty spaces. Sprinkle with about a third of the salt and pepper, just enough to lightly coat. Pour about a third of the cream sauce over top and use a rubber spatula to gently spread the sauce evenly across the potatoes. Line with ham pieces. Sprinkle with about 1/4 cup of the cheese.

Repeat this process for another layer—potato slices, salt and pepper, cream sauce, ham, cheese. Top with a final layer of potato and cheese. You should have extra cheese left for the top layer, about 1/2 cup total.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for about another 10 minutes, until edges are crispy and cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Serve warm.

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