Au Gratin Potatoes

Not just for Betty Crocker anymore

I love my boxed potatoes.  Who doesn’t?  But I hate relying on packaged food when I have a perfectly good bag of potatoes out in the garage.  I came up with this recipe one day when I had enough ham leftovers to last a cold war, and I needed a new version of ham and funeral potatoes to help me eat through the Tupperware village cropping up in my fridge.  Is it strange to anyone else that you have three months to eat or freeze a ham?  If I’m not going to eat it this week, I think I’m going to go ahead and freeze it now, but that’s just me.  Anyway, I like my Au Gratin so much that it’s the new staple.

Au Gratin Potatoes
serves 4

½ red onion cut in rings
4 Russet potatoes, thinly sliced in half circles
2 T Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ c white cooking wine
Salt and pepper
1 T butter
1 T flour
3/4 C milk
1 C cheddar cheese, grated

To double recipe, see note.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat oil on med high heat in a large non-stick skillet.  Add potatoes, onions, salt, and pepper.  Don’t move the potatoes around in the pan for three minutes, or until the potatoes start to brown.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté for seven or eight minutes, or until the onions soften. 

Meanwhile, in oven-proof cookware*, cook butter and flour together to make a rue and add milk. Whisk milk into the rue, and continue to cook until the sauce begins to thicken.  

When the onions are ready, deglaze the frying pan with cooking wine, about 1 minute, and add the entire mixture to the milk sauce.  Stir in the cheese and transfer to the oven.  Bake, uncovered, for 15-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender and the top is nicely browned.  (Oven time is dependent on how much frying you do first).

* If you do not have cookware that can go into the oven, it’s not crucial that the sauce thicken on the stovetop before transferring the pan to the oven.  Just mix the sauce together and pour over potatoes before putting it into a crock or other Pyrex type dish that is oven-proof. 

Note:  Make sure that the potatoes are not crowded in the skillet.  If you want to double the recipe, fry the potatoes in two batches rather than stack them up in the pan.  They will not brown if they are crowded.  A double recipe will also require a wider pan, such as a 9x13 Pyrex so the potatoes can brown in the oven and not get soggy in the milk.

1. Too much milk.  If there is too much liquid in the pan, it will not absorb into the potatoes while cooking in the oven, and the resulting dish is runny. 

2. Not frying the potatoes long enough during the first stage of cooking.  The potatoes should be almost tender before going into the oven, or it will take too long to finish baking, making the dish dry.

3.  Not enough cheese.  Need I say more?  You’ll know when you eat it if the cheese to potato ratio is lacking.  But don’t put a thick layer of cheese all on top.  This isn’t a casserole people.


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