Scalloped potatoes, long a family favorite, frequently appear at holiday dinners, much to everyone’s delight. There’s just something comforting about the simplicity and familiarity of homey favorites like this one. The problem is that in order to make them holiday-special, cream is sometimes involved when it doesn’t need to be. The other thing is that people often confuse scalloped potatoes with au gratin potatoes. Scalloped potatoes have a simple milk-based white sauce, while au gratin potatoes have cheese incorporated (and sometimes a bread crumb topping).
The recipe we re-vamped below can be made either way—you’ll see we gave you an option for adding cheese.
- We made a white sauce instead of pouring cream over the top of the potatoes like many recipes call for. We found it just turned out creamier if we started with sauce instead of blobs of butter and milk. We used a small amount of real butter and flour to make a roux, then used skim milk instead of whole milk or cream.
- We nudged down the salt, but bumped up the flavor with a little nutmeg, which is a spice that seems to have fallen out of favor in savory dishes, but does have a traditional place in white sauces (like Bechamel) because it enhances the creamy sauce without being overpowering. It’s one of those spices that people cannot identify, but like anyway.
- If you want an au gratin treatment, we suggest using a small amount of sharp or flavorful cheese instead a larger amount of mild cheese.
- We left the skin on our potatoes for extra fiber and because…well, peeling potatoes is a drag and not really required here (we save that for mashed potatoes). If you prefer to peel your potatoes first, feel free to do so.
- We added sliced onions to our potatoes for more flavor. You could also use thinly sliced leeks or a chopped shallot or two, or skip the onions completely if you’d rather.
- We chose not to use sweet potatoes in our dish because we wanted it to be traditional—what people expect at holiday time. However, you could certainly combine white and sweet potato slices in this dish and it will work just fine. You could also use Yukon Gold potatoes with excellent, golden results.
- Our scalloped potatoes came out coated with creamy goodness. We sliced our potatoes VERY thinly, about 1/8-inch thick. If you like them a little thicker (say, 1/4-inch thick), you may have to cook the dish longer than we call for. Just test them with a fork and you’ll know if they’re done or not.
Here is the Recipe Rehab’d Slimmed-Down Scalloped Potatoes.
Slimmed-Down Scalloped Potatoes
(makes 8 servings)
butter flavored cooking spray (or butter or oil for greasing casserole dish)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons white whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups skim milk
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ – ½ teaspoon nutmeg (if making au gratin version, omit nutmeg and add ½ cup shredded, sharp white cheddar cheese or shredded asiago or gruyere)
2 pounds potatoes, washed (but not peeled) and thinly sliced
½ small onion, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup slices)
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray (or butter/oil); set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Using a whisk, stir in the flour and whisk constantly until mixture thickens and browns slightly, about 1½ minutes. Add the skim milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg, if using and whisk occasionally until sauce thickens and comes to a boil. Turn off heat and whisk in cheese, if making au gratin potatoes. Set sauce aside.
- Layer half the sliced potatoes into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with all of the onion slices. Pour half the sauce over the potato layer. Repeat with remaining potatoes and sauce. All potatoes slices should be covered with sauce—spread it with a spatula or spoon if necessary.
- Bake for 1 hour, uncovered, then test for doneness (potatoes should be fork tender). If not done, bake another 15-30 minutes and re-test for doneness. If potatoes are getting too brown on top for your liking, simply cover them with foil. (Note, if making au gratin potatoes, you can sprinkle the top with a little more shredded cheese when potatoes are completely cooked and just out of the oven—the cheese will melt nicely for serving.)
Recipe Rehab is an Appetite for Health feature brought to you by Kit Broihier, MS, RD, a registered dietitian based in Portland, ME.