Potatoes Au Gratin always makes me think of my Aunt Joy. She passed away suddenly when I was eleven, but her memory is strong for me. She was always teaching me how to cook and inviting me to her house to work on sewing projects. Sometimes we’d turn on the grill outside and roast marshmallows over the open flames with a couple of clothes hangers. She nicknamed my sister “Kate” and called herself our “favorite aunt.” The name Joy always suited her, since she was endlessly fun.
My family used to have a weekly supper club rotation growing up, and our whole family lived in a one block radius of each other. One of the recipes I remember her making was Scalloped Potatoes. They were the extra cheesy kind from the box, which I still think taste amazing to this day. When you lose someone, their memory grows fuzzy, so maybe we just made scalloped potatoes once and I never forgot it, or maybe that was always something she made. But there’s something about this recipe that makes me miss her. What I love about cooking is keeping with tradition, and honoring the memories of people we’ve lost.
This recipe isn’t from a box like we used to make, but it’s still deliciously cheesy. It’s not just the milky potato kind. It has a cheesy bechamel sauce with a crispy breadcrumb topping. I used waxy potatoes, which I prefer. I think they hold up a little better during baking and aren’t so starchy.
First you peel and slice the potatoes very thinly. Then boil them for about 10 minutes. Once boiled, drain and toss them back in the pot. Then make your cheese sauce and coat all the potatoes.
I wanted to add some texture so I added a layer of crunchy topping. The crunch on top is my favorite thing about Potatoes Au Gratin.
Then it’s ready to bake! Look at the crispy top! See the full recipe below. What recipes do you make to remember someone?
CRISPY POTATOES AU GRATIN
serves 6 as a side
2 LB waxy potatoes like yukon gold, peeled
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup cheddar, grated
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease a casserole dish. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Peel the potatoes. Slice them crosswise into 3 mm slices. Once water is boiling, boil the potato slices for 10 minutes. Drain into a colander. Pour the potatoes back in the boiling pot with no heat. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until a paste is formed. Add the milk and cream, whisking until no lumps remain. Do not boil. Lower heat to medium low. Add the nutmeg, salt and mustard and whisk. Let the mixture thicken slightly for 2 minutes, whisking the entire time. Stir in the cheddar. Remove from heat. Add the sauce to the potatoes in the large pot, mixing together until potatoes are coated. Add the potatoes and sauce to the greased dish. In a small bowl, mix together the panko and parmesan. Sprinkle on top of the potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 30-35 minutes.