Scalloped potatoes, with their creamy, comforting goodness, are a classic side dish that deserves a place at the dinner table. While they may share some similarities with au gratin potatoes, their unique sauce and texture set them apart.
The key difference between scalloped and au gratin potatoes lies in the sauce. Scalloped potatoes are typically prepared with a creamy béchamel sauce, which is a mixture of butter, flour, milk, and seasonings. Au gratin potatoes, on the other hand, incorporate cheese into the sauce, giving them a rich, cheesy flavor.
Au gratin potatoes are known for their crispy, browned cheese topping, which adds a delightful contrast to the creamy interior. Scalloped potatoes, on the other hand, do not have a cheese topping and rely on the creamy sauce to provide the flavor.
Scalloped potatoes tend to have a smoother, creamier texture due to the absence of cheese on top, making them a perfect complement to a wide range of main dishes. Au gratin potatoes have a distinct cheesy, crispy layer that can steal the show.
Helpful Hints for Making Scalloped Potatoes
1. Potato Selection:
Choose starchy potato varieties like Russet or Yukon Gold for the best results. These potatoes have a higher starch content, which helps thicken the sauce and create a creamy texture.
2. Thin Slices:
Slice your potatoes thinly and uniformly, around 1/8-inch thick. This ensures that the potatoes cook evenly and absorb the creamy sauce effectively.
3. Season Well:
Don’t skimp on seasoning. Use salt, black pepper, and other seasonings of your choice to flavor the potatoes and the sauce. Garlic, thyme, and nutmeg are popular choices for adding depth of flavor.
4. Creamy Sauce:
Prepare a velvety béchamel sauce by whisking together equal parts butter and flour to create a roux, then gradually adding warm milk while stirring continuously. Season the sauce generously and consider adding a pinch of grated nutmeg for a subtle warmth.
5. Layer Carefully:
Assemble your scalloped potatoes in layers, starting with a thin layer of sauce at the bottom of the baking dish. Alternate between potato slices and sauce, making sure the top layer is well-covered with sauce.
6. Cover & Bake
To ensure your scalloped potatoes cook evenly and don’t dry out, cover them with foil for the first part of the baking process. Remove the foil for the last 15-20 minutes of baking to allow the top layer to turn golden brown.
7. Rest Before Serving:
Let your scalloped potatoes rest for a few minutes after removing them from the oven. This allows the sauce to thicken slightly and the flavors to meld together.
8. Freezing Scalloped Potatoes:
Scalloped potatoes are ideal for meal planning, as they freeze easily. For best results, freeze individual portions for easy reheating. For larger portions, it is best to reheat on a low temperature (300-325 °F) for about 60-90 minutes to prevent the cream from separating.