In Honor Of The First Zombie

Easter = Ham. Right?

Turkey at Thanksgiving, meatballs at Christmas, ham at Easter. Ham, that is, and scalloped potatoes.

There isn’t much to cooking a ham. You can do a glaze of orange, cranberry, brown sugar and apple, or, if you’re Paula Deen, peanut butter.

They’re all good. I really do like the peanut butter version, but that might only be for the mildly weird factor. And, it’s a little more savory than its fruity counterparts, what with the inclusion of soy sauce and all. Because ham isn’t salty enough on its own. Nothing says HAPPY EASTER!! like a salt lick.

So because you’re getting off so easy on your meat/main course at Easter, it’s really time for the side dishes to show off.

This means you have to make perfect cheesy potatoes, because you can’t have ham without a cheesy tater. I have many versions of the cheesy tater, all of which meet varying culinary requirements. At Christmas, when I’m extra fancy, I do one with goat cheese and basil. For tailgate season, it’s the old favorite party potato where you dump frozen hash browns in a sea of really good goo and top it with cereal. There’s crock pot cheesy taters which are easy peasy and way delish, and there’s Elise’s magnificent gruyere scalloped taters, which make me want to lie in a bed of them for all eternity.

But at Easter, I feel strongly about a traditional and perfect scalloped potato. Once you have them, I think you’ll agree.

Step 1: Boil you some taters. For this, russets will do. Just throw em in the water whole, skins on. You don’t have to quite cook them all the way through, and it’s probably better if you don’t get them all the way done. More on that later.

Step 2: Make a white sauce. You know the drill. Melt butter, put in flour until it all clumps together, then start adding milk or half and half (I love half and half) until you think you have enough sauce to cover your taters. I usually do a half a stick of butter, and start with 2 T of flour and keep adding until I get the proper clumping. Then it will probably take a several pints of half and half to get the right amount of sauce. Keep stirring, ya’ll, you don’t want lumps. Once you get the desired thickness, start adding cheese. For cheese, you can do whatever heats your griddle, but I usually go with cheddar for this one. Tradition, and all. That, and, you have heard about my husband. Mama sometimes uses Velveeta, and I have nooo problems with that. I do recommend that you grate your own cheddar instead of using the pre-grated bag stuff. It melts into your white sauce a lot more nicely. You need at least 2 cups, but put in as much as your little heart desires.

I also add a tsp or 2 of cayenne pepper here, but you can skip it if you can’t handle it. Salt and pepper to taste, and it will probably take more salt than you think. Remember it’s going over a pile of potatoes which require salt, and the white sauce itself is pretty lackluster without the proper seasoning. You can also use a hint of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt instead of kosher if that blends your margarita.

Step 3: Back to the taters. You’ve taken them off the heat and drained them before they got too done. At this point, you need to skin them. The skins should basically just slip off of the taters, easy – peasy - lemon -squeezy. Then you need to slice them up into the baking dish. I try to get them as thin as I can, but if you go too thin they’ll just crumble into mush. This is why it’s important not to cook them all the way through. They retain a little rigidity and hold up better to the slicing.

Give the taters a quick salt and pepper, and pour your cheese sauce over the whole mess. Bake it in a 325 degree oven until it’s just a little brown and bubbly on top.

The Loose (and short!) Shopping List:

8 or so russet potatoes. Yukon golds are good too, but you need more because they're smaller.

1/2 (or more) stick of butter

3 T flour

2 cups shredded cheddar, the good stuff - hand shredded

4 pints half and half, or half a gallon of milk (you might not need quite this much)

Salt, seasoned salt, black pepper, cayenne to taste

I know you’re tired of hearing about the million ways to dress up a potato. But really, how does one go wrong with the potato?

Soon, very soon, I’ll bring you a very good surprise. Something that your family will hate you if you don’t make for them tomorrow (Good Friday, although I don't know what is so good about it) morning. Or Easter morning, or next Wednesday. We don't have to follow no stinkin' rules.


ilovelucy 13 years, 10 months ago

Mmmmmmmmmm. The sauce turned out perfectly! Thanks---

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