Au Gratin Potatoes (white sauce)
For this recipe, you make a white sauce for the filling from the flour and cream. Once the white sauce is made, add the cheese to make a cheese sauce. This makes a creamy casserole. It is important that you use starchy, Russet-type potatoes.
This can be made without the cheese for scalloped potatoes.
This is a basic recipe. Other ingredients may be added as desired though this is a good dish in its basic form. You may add any of the following ingredients:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, finely diced
1 small can diced green chilies
1/2 pound bacon, crisply cooked and snipped into pieces
1 1/2 cups ham cut into small cubes
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup cream
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 to 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
7 to 8 cups of sliced potatoes, 1/8-inch thick
1/2 cup grated cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Make a white sauce with the milk and flour: Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Place the flour in a cup. Add just enough milk to make a paste. Gradually add more milk, stirring to thin the paste into a sauce-like consistency. Stir the flour and milk mixture into the milk with a whisk. Add the cream and heat, stirring with a whisk, until the sauce is thickened and starts to bubble.
Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cheese while still hot and stir in. The cheese should melt and form a medium-thick cheese sauce. Keep the sauce hot while you prepare the potatoes.
Peel and slice the potatoes to 1/8-inch thick. Use a mandolin or other cutting tool so that the potatoes are of uniform thickness.
Place a layer of potatoes in the pan. Pour a portion of the hot cheese sauce over the potato layer. Repeat with additional layers until the potatoes and cheese sauce is used.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the casserole.
Bake for 50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but still firm when poked with a fork.
Baking Tip! About Baking Dishes
We baked these casseroles in three different types of dishes: Dark metal, clear glass, and opaque decorative glass. The type of baking dishes affects baking times. A dark metal dish bakes fastest. A clear glass or off-colored baking dish is next. A light colored, opaque glass dish is the slowest.
Baking times seemed to vary about ten minutes from one type of pan to the next.
As important as baking dishes are, the thickness of the casserole has even more impact. A shallow casserole bakes much faster than one that fills the whole pan.