Saturday, January 1, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes with Bacon

I love parties when the host asks guests to participate in the evening's fare and bring a dish.  By doing this, the host doesn't spend most of the day in the kitchen preparing the party food and it also provides a challenge for foodie guests to find that "just right" recipe for the prescribed dish.

For a late December soiree, my friend Sue was asked to bring scalloped potatoes and I would bring dessert.  With Christmas cookies still in the house, my contribution was easy.  But Sue had to work on party day and her husband's broken arm was casted from a fall.  "Can we switch?" she asks.  "Scalloped potatoes are easy to make.  Just add some wine and sage."  I'm thinking to myself: wine and sage in scalloped potatoes?  Before I can ask for her recipe, Sue says "But you don't have to add sage. You can use something else."

No, this recipe isn't Sue's scalloped potatoes; that's for another post. 
However, one of the best tried and true scalloped potatoes recipes is a family treasure I learned to make from Barbara Pierceall.  It's a classic dish - butter a 9" x 13" Pyrex pan, spread a layer of sliced potatoes, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle on a little bit of flour, top with shredded cheese and repeat 2 more times.  Add milk to barely cover and pop into the oven at 350 degrees F for 60-90 minutes.

No, this post isn't about Barbara's mom's recipe neither.

I needed flavors in the casserole that would stand up to the menu's other two items - BBQ sauce-smothered pork baby back ribs and braised Brussels sprouts (okay, don't laugh, Candy's brussel sprouts were delish!). In adapting one of Emeril's recipe's to include bacon and onions, these scalloped potatoes were "kicked it up a notch" and stood their ground!

Fry bacon, remove excess oil and saute chopped onions.  Ham is a flavorful substitute for bacon in this dish.
Peel and slice potatoes 1/8" thick.  Use firm potatoes (red, Yukon, or Idaho) as they don't fall apart like baking potatoes (Russet) do.
Place sliced potatoes into saucepan of steaming cream and milk that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Potatoes submerge a bit as they cook.

Par-cooking the potatoes reduces the oven baking time and ensures that all of the potatoes are evenly cooked.
To create the bottom layer, use one-third of each of the following ingredients in this order: potatoes with some of the cream mixture; bacon and onions; and then shredded cheese.
After making 3 layers, pour in remaining cream mixture to cover and top with finely grated Asiago cheese.  Carefully transport to a center rack in the oven to bake.

Scalloped Potatoes with Bacon

2-3     slices thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
1         medium yellow or white onion, chopped
3-4      large potatoes, Idaho, white or Yukon Gold
1         cup heavy or whipping cream
2         cups light cream (half and half)
1+       cup whole milk
2 1/2   cups shredded cheese (any combination of Swiss, Cheddar, Jack, Madrigal)
1/2      cup finely grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1         tsp. sea salt
 Black pepper

In a medium skillet, fry bacon until crisp.  Drain fat, leaving 1 tsp.; add onions, and sauté until onions are translucent.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Peel potatoes and slice into 1/8" slices.  In a large saucepan or high-sided skillet, add creams, milk, seasonings, stir gently and warm on medium heat until steamy.  Add sliced potatoes. Add more milk if required to barely cover potatoes. Simmer on medium-low heat, cooking potatoes until fork tender, 15-30 minutes.  Carefully watch and reduce heat, if necessary, to prevent scorching.

Adjust oven rack to center and preheat oven to 400º F. Butter bottom and sides of a 2 ½ to 3 quart casserole dish.  With a large spoon, layer 1/3 of potatoes into bottom of buttered dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 of bacon and onion mixture and top with 1/3 of shredded cheese.  Repeat, creating 2 additional layers.  When finished, add the rest of the milk mixture and top with grated Asiago cheese.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until top is brown and bubbly.  If the dish is particularly full, place a cookie sheet on a rack below the dish to catch spills.  Let casserole sit for 5 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

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