There is something about dairy products that enable a cook to turn the humble potato into a luscious, melt-in-your-mouth, OMG-this-is-amazing kind of meal. Even by simply putting butter or sour cream on a plain baked potato, the potato is elevated to another level. So imagine, if you will, what might happen to potatoes if you slice them thinly, layer them with three kinds of cheeses and bake them slowly in cream. And, for good measure, invite some shallots and nutmeg to join the cream.
What you have, gentle readers, is a scalloped potato dish that will outshine whatever meat you were thinking of serving it with. Skip the meat for this meal, and make a fresh salad to accompany all that richness, and open a bottle of crisp white wine.
Scalloped Potatoes with Shallots and Three Cheeses
serves 6 as a side, 4 as a main dish
- 4 med. red potatoes
- 2 med./small purple sweet potatoes
- 2 large shallots
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 1/2 cups half and half (I’m terrible and didn’t actually measure, but I’d guess it couldn’t have been more than 2 cups!)
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- pinch of sea salt
- several grinds fresh black pepper
- about as much freshly grated nutmeg as pepper
- 2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- 2 tbsp. Cambozola cheese (or other strong spreadable cheese)
Preheat oven to 375ºF, and spray an 8″ round casserole (or equivalent volume baking dish) with non-stick cooking spray.
Peel and slice the potatoes into 1/8″ slices. Roughly chop the shallots. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the shallots and let them cook in the butter till translucent. Whisk in the flour and cook a few moments. Add the cream and stock, whisking to keep it smooth. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg (surprising, isn’t it?*). Bring to a simmer, and turn off the heat (but you can keep it on the burner while you assemble the dish).
Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish, scattering the sweet potatoes throughout the red (though, now that you’ve peeled them, they’re white) potatoes. Add 1/4 of the cheese. Add enough of the cream mixture to just wet the cheese and potatoes. Continue building potato, cheese, and cream layers, finishing with the last of the cream and reserving about a 1/4 cup of the cheddar and pecorino cheeses.
Bake, covered (tin foil works well here), for one hour or until the potatoes are fork-tender and the cream is bubbling. Uncover, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the scalloped potatoes. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is beginning to brown on top. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
*Nutmeg adds a depth of flavor to creamy dishes that is subtile and homey. It isn’t something that you’ll notice and think, “Oh, that has nutmeg in it.” It is more of a “Hmm, that tastes really rich and good. I wonder why mine are never quite like that?” sort of thing. Try it in your mac & cheese next time!