Don't you just love the glamorous pictures on this blog? I'd love to post a picture of what I made, and I did think of taking one last evening as I was flying out the door, but my camera battery was out of juice. So all I can do is show you the main ingredient and tell you what I made from it. One thing you can always be sure of about this blog is that the pictures of prepared dishes aren't staged. I'm always saying, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I have to take a picture!" There's never a situation when I make something just for a picture and then piddle and fiddle with it. (I am a huge fan of Smitten Kitchen, and while Deb Perelman is a much better photographer than I can ever hope to be, she and I do share the taken-on-the-spot ethic. She documents the process more than I ever do, though. Be sure to check in after Super Bowl Sunday, as I'm planning to make a fabulous item from her website for that party. Orangette also has some nice candid shots of food when she's not trying to be artsy. See my review of her books here and here.)
I've gotten drawn back in to helping with the Wednesday-night dinners at our church, usually for about 50 people. A great couple with experience in running restaurants has been doing it with some help, and I've ended up volunteering to be that help most of the time. This week the woman was out of town, so I was it. What would be something easy and good that I could throw together? Ham is always on that list, and what goes better with ham than scalloped potatoes? And I had seven containers on hand of the wonderful potatoes. Here's what I did:
For each 9 x 12 pan (use disposables, bought in bulk, if you're cooking for a crowd), use two of the 4.2-oz. containers of the potatoes. All you have to do is open up the top, pour in hot tap water to the fill line, and let stand for about 15 minutes. Ta-da! You now have prepped and cooked potatoes, ready to go. The directions say to drain them, but I find that they usually absorb all the water. Dump the potatoes into your pan and spread a nice layer of grated Cheddar cheese on top. I use Tillamook sharp Cheddar since that's what Costco carries. I had also planned to put some Romano along with the Cheddar, but time was pressing and so I didn't. Make a batch of white sauce, using 8 tablespoons of butter and 8 (or 1/2 cup) of flour, melting the butter, whisking in the flour, then whisking in 4 cups of milk and bringing just to the boil. Make sure you get your whisk into the edges/corners of your pan, or you'll end up with sludge there. Taste and add salt, perhaps 2 teaspoons, and pepper to taste. You want to undersalt slightly, as the potatoes and the cheese are already salty. You could use chicken stock base instead of salt if you wanted a meaty taste. I didn't do that this time but may try it when I make it again, as I surely will. Bake at 325 degrees for about half an hour, but more won't hurt. Mine got nice brown spots on the top, and the casserole itself was creamy and semi-solid, not runny as I had feared it might be. This was very much a recipe made up on the fly. People raved about these, and even though our attendance was down a little bit there were very few leftovers. I made three panfuls for about 40 people. You could serve this for breakfast, too. Actually, you're supposed to brown these potatoes in a skillet (they are hash browns, after all), but I've never done that. Maybe one of these days!