On my site already is a recipe for Scalloped Potatoes Like Your Grandma Made. I love those and they are def a go-to at my house, especially after any holiday with ham (when I often sprinkle in both cheese and ham between the layers). But if you look at that post and get down to the comments and discussion, you’ll see that these Old Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes also hit a nostalgic note, too. I know this recipe actually predates my “Grandma” potatoes, maybe by decades. Deb asked about these the other day, so I hope you’re following! Thanks to you, I was “forced” to eat two big helpings of this last night, lol!
The ingredients for both recipes are almost identical, it’s the method that differs. The flavors are classic in both recipes. Potatoes, milk, and butter, flavored with just a little onion and salt and pepper. The “Grandma” recipe relies on a white sauce and is silkier than this recipe. This one is still super creamy tasting but isn’t quite as “saucy.” And both recipes are good home cooking, or what these days we might think of as “plain cooking.” There’s something to be said about letting the flavors of good food shine for what they are.
About Old Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes:
So if you want a good old fashioned scalloped potato, maybe to serve with the classic pairing of ham, some kind of sausage (hot dogs come to mind) or a pork chop, this is THE recipe. The one that’s going to take you home. To Mom, to Grandma, maybe sitting around that old Formica or white wooden table, maybe to the country.
And maybe “home” is 50 years ago like it is for me, or maybe longer for others. It makes no matter; when these creamy potatoes, delicate with just a bit of onion to the flavor and buttery richness throughout hit the table, home is right here, right now.
That being said, these days so many of us are used to so many flavors available to us today, and I know classic down-home cooking doesn’t do it for everyone. I’ll give you a few ideas to jazz these potatoes up…if you wish. Some are classic Midwest Americana cooking (although this has the same Germanic roots as so many Midwesterners, although it’s likely originally French) and some that are a little more “today.” And some of those ideas include cheese!
Scalloped vs. au Gratin:
If you’re curious about the different baked potato dishes out there, scalloped potatoes (or scalloped anything) means the dish is either cooked with milk or cream or the design of the dish shows “scallops” or a kind of shingled look. Think of a lacy dress trim that is scalloped. So in this case, the potatoes are both shingled and cooked in milk or cream. There are all kinds of scalloped dishes, including scallops (which is where some think the names come from), tomatoes, and even meat dishes.
The name Au gratin Potatoes comes from the term of topping a dish and then allowing the topping to brown, Gratin. Usually, au Gratin Potatoes are topped with cheese. Items can be topped with bread crumbs, too and you’ll sometimes see the term used for desserts, often topped with sugar and browned or “grantineed.” The name comes from the dish, which is traditionally a shallow, oval dish that allows maximum browning.
These days, when cheese is so often used with wild abandon, you’ll find Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, sometimes topped with cheese and au Gratin Potatoes (check out my Ruth Chris’ Copycat Recipe) that use cheese throughout and/or are made with cream and then topped with cheese, and either can sometimes be topped with bread crumbs, too. Or breadcrumbs and cheese. These “hybrid” dishes are really more of a new American tradition some based on classic French dishes, some not. Even the definitions of scalloped and au gratin are changing these days!
Varying Old Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes:
You’ll want to be careful about adding too much to these potatoes and especially go easy with any cheese. The method of cooking, sprinkling each layer with a little flour and butter and then pouring milk over all won’t support a lot of melty cheese without it breaking. I’d advise using just a little melty cheese on top if you wish, or else using a bit of a harder cheese (like a little grated Parmesan) in the layers, maybe 1/4 cup in each layer and 1/4 cup to the top.
As far as flavor, I used to just sprinkle a little salt and pepper on each layer, but you do want to be a bit generous. Over the years I’ve increased the amount to a teaspoon from a half, but honestly, even a little more won’t hurt it your diet and tastes agree. Be careful with the amount of butter, too. It might seem that more is better, but it can break, too, separating and oozing. It’s pretty normal for this dish to look a little clumpy, but even so, it should still be creamy throughout.
Great additions for flavor include a little garlic powder, maybe a 1/2 to a teaspoon total, some people like the faintest whisper of grated nutmeg (be especially careful if using freshly grated) maybe just a pinch or two. A touch of cayenne is nice, again just a little, maybe a quarter teaspoon – the idea is to enhance the flavor without necessarily knowing it is there. A lot of people will take this to the German side and add a little dried mustard and or celery or caraway seed. I can’t really get behind it, myself. I find it too far away from my love of these potatoes as is. Using a seasoning salt is pretty common.
Make it a Meal:
As far as meat options, this is a dish classically paired with some kind of pork. You can add in ham, cooked sausages (great way to use up any leftover bratwurst, Italian sausages, and so on), or sliced hot dogs in the layers. Nothing too bulky and if slicing, slice thinly.
A classic dish is to add pork chops to the top and bake the whole dish together. Back in the day, no one really browned the chops before cooking, but I do, while the potatoes are in the oven for the first 20 minutes. Use thinner pork chops, like the kind that often comes in family packs, bone-in is better and nothing too lean. Just salt and pepper them, brown them quickly w/o actually cooking them, and add them to the top when the potatoes are uncovered. Turn the chops halfway through the remaining hour.
Making Old Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes:
These are fast and easy to assemble and pop in the oven. Use a food processor if you can or maybe a mandolin because the only difficult part is slicing the potatoes!
You’ll want about two to two and a half pounds of potatoes. That’s going to be about six to seven medium potatoes. If you can’t weigh, it’s probably easiest to guestimate by looking at the amount of potatoes in a package and removing an appropriate amount.
I used two pounds here in the photos; they’re pretty rich and creamy, but I have used up to 2 1/2 pounds. Using a few more gives the dish a more solid appearance and they aren’t quite as saucy. Using more doesn’t allow the milk to boil and bubble as much around the edges, and that is a fave part of the potatoes for some people. It’s your choice. Good either way with fewer or with more.
I do love the onion in these potatoes and some recipes dice it. I was taught to use half-moons, and the advantage is that the onions stay solid long enough for the milk to seep in the spaces they provide, and that helps the milk meld with the flour. It’s a great idea after the milk is gently poured over the casserole to use a knife to nudge the layers ever so slightly to help that milk along, too. Of course, over the long cooking time, everything, including the onions melds and mingles together but the slices are still visible. If you have an onion hater, you might want to dice the onions finely so they pretty much disappear.
The key to getting this recipe right is to use hot milk and a high temperature at first to kick start the process. That’s going to make sure there is no residual “flour” taste. I like to cover for the first 20 minutes (I think it helps give the potatoes a head start) and then I uncover and place that foil on the shelf below the pan. If it’s not too messed up, I just use the same foil to cover any leftovers. Not every recipe I’ve seen uses foil to cover, but be aware that even with room at the top, this casserole often spills over in the oven. You’ll want something under it.
Make sure to know your oven…baking these potatoes at too high of a temperature can cause a curdled appearance. If your oven runs hot, adjust the temperature. This is not an uncommon issue, but to save, you might pour in a little more milk, nudge it around and bake for another 10 minutes or so. If you have cream, that would be even better. Using a richer dairy, maybe subbing in half and half or a little cream for part of the milk helps to keep curdling from happening, and the starch in the potatoes helps, too, so don’t sub in a waxy potato for the russets. If you read the notes below, a reader recently gave a hint to use cake flour rather than all-purpose to keep “clumping” to a minimum.
Saving Money on Old Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes:
Buy your potatoes in larger bags, pick out the smaller, misshaped potatoes for mashing or for recipes like this where size doesn’t really matter and save the more regular-sized ones for baked. Store in a loosely closed paper bag away from onions.
Onions keep well, so try to buy on sale. Aldi is a good place to find reasonably priced onions. If you’ve bought too many onions to use, don’t let them go bad. Slice or dice them, saute, and portion into Ziplocs labeled “onions” and freeze. You’ve just saved yourself a step for next time you make a dish. Store the other half of your onion in the door where you’ll see it when you’re cooking next.
Milk is about three bucks a gallon in my area on sale, the cost for this recipe runs about 60 cents. Watch for sales – unopened it keeps a week to 10 days past it’s “sell by” date – then you can pick up one for the beginning of the week, and another at the end of the week for the week following. Be careful with your milk, and even opened it will last a lot longer – pour, lid and put away on the bottom shelf, not the door, don’t bring it to the table or leave it on the counter while you eat dinner or down your cereal and you’ll notice it stay fresh last MUCH longer.
Butter can seem like a bit of a splurge, cost, and calorie-wise – but for taste and health, I’d rather use real butter than trans fat laden margarine or oils. Yes – they do have trans fat, even if the label says they don’t. Buy on deep specials, often around the holidays with store coupons or pick up at Aldi or your buyer’s club and freeze; it will stay fresh for months.Print
Old Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes
- Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings 1x
- Category: Side
- Cuisine: German
2 to 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced into circles
1/2 small onion, sliced in half, then into thin half-moons
3 tablespoons flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (optional), divided
3 tablespoons butter (about 1/2 tablespoon for pan), the remainder divided
3 cups milk, preferably whole, heated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter a 2-quart casserole (use about 1/2 a tablespoon of butter.)
Add about 1/3 of the potatoes to the bottom of the dish, sprinkle with 1/2 the onion, a tablespoon of flour, then with a little of the salt and pepper. Dot the layer with small bits of butter totalling about a tablespoon. Repeat the layer. For the top layer, shingle in the potatoes, sprinkle with flour, salt, and pepper and dot with butter.
Gently pour milk over the top layer in a light stream; aim to pour some milk over each potato slice on the top layer without washing off the flour mixture. If needed, take a thin knife and nudge the potatoes around so the milk can flow through.
Cover with foil and place in preheated oven. Set timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, working quickly so as not to lose heat, remove foil (foil may be placed on the rack under the potatoes to catch any drips if desired), turn oven down to 350 degrees F. Continue to cook for another 50 to 60 minutes until potatoes are tender throughout when poked with the tip of a knife and top is browned to your liking.
After removing from oven, run a knife around the edge of the potatoes to loosen them from the pan; it will prevent the browned crusty bits from staying behind as you serve. This is best if allowed to cool for several minutes before serving to allow to set up.
- Measure the butter out first, butter the pan, then divide the remaining into approximate thirds so you’ll know how much goes on each layer.
- It is easiest to get even coverage on the flour, salt, and pepper by mixing them together in a small bowl and then sprinkling each layer. You’ll need a little more than a tablespoon per layer if you mix.
Keywords: German, milk, Pork, pork chops, Potatoes, Scalloped Potatoes