Karin Calloway

Food columnist for The Augusta Chronicle.

Potatoes on the side

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When it comes to Easter dinner, you don't mess with tradition. When I was growing up, my family's Easter menu centered on a large baked ham and scalloped potatoes.

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Scalloped Potatoes  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Scalloped Potatoes

If my mother had served anything else, there would have been a serious family uprising.

My mother and grandmother are known for their scalloped potatoes. The potatoes are deliciously creamy, with just the right amount of cheese and the perfect not-quite-burnt browned bits around the edges of the pan.

The sauce for the dish is a simple white sauce, or béchamel sauce, that with the addition of cheese becomes a Mornay sauce. I'm not sure my grandmother, who just turned 96, knew she was creating a Mornay sauce, but adding this sauce to your culinary repertoire is a great idea.

My mother likes to melt all of the cheese into the sauce, but I reserve some of the cheese to sprinkle on top. Mom also layers thinly sliced onions in the dish along with the potatoes, and you can make that addition if you like.

I serve this dish as an entree throughout the year. You can add layers of diced ham or sautéed mushrooms and serve it with sides of steamed broccoli and sliced tomatoes.

Reach Karin Calloway at karin.calloway@comcast.net. See her prepare the recipe at noon Tuesday on television station WJBF (Channel 6). Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karincalloway.

Potato recipes

Scalloped Potatoes

* 3 tablespoons butter
* 3 tablespoons flour
* 3 cups milk
* 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 5-6 medium baking potatoes

Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set it aside.
Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk, a little at a time. Cook until thickened, whisking occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. Spoon a little of the sauce into the bottom of the prepared dish and add one layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then spread with half of the sauce.

Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Use the remaining potatoes to make a second potato layer.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake for 1 hour, until a paring knife inserted into the center easily goes through the potatoes. Edges should be browned and the sauce bubbly.

Makes 6-8 side-dish servings.

Potato Gratin with Four Cheeses and Ham

(Omit the ham when serving as a side dish)

  • 2 cups diced cooked ham
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk (I mixed half 1 percent and half 2 percent milk)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces blue or Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 6 small-medium baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Set oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high and add the ham. Cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and simmer on medium until thickened, about 8-10 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent sticking.

When thick, whisk in 1/3 of the Gruyere and blue cheeses and all of the Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheeses. Whisk in the cayenne and nutmeg. Taste and then add salt and pepper as needed.

Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or grease with butter. Spread a few spoonfuls of the sauce over the bottom of the dish and cover with a layer of sliced potatoes. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spread half of the remaining sauce over the potatoes. Spread all of the sauteed ham over the sauce and then sprinkle with half of the remaining gruyere and blue cheeses.

Top with another layer potatoes and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread the remaining sauce over the potatoes and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses. Bake for 1 hour, until the potatoes are cooked and the edges of the gratin are browned and bubbly.

Makes 6 main dish or 8 side dish servings.

Potato Casserole

  • 1 2-pound bag frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted
  • 2 cups regular or reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 10 3/4-ounce can regular or reduced-fat condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine melted
  • 2 cups corn flakes, crushed

Set oven to 350 degrees. Combine sour cream, cream of chicken soup, salt, pepper and cheese in a large bowl. Fold in the hash browns and pour into a 3-quart casserole that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine melted butter or margarine with the crushed corn flakes and sprinkle over top. Bake for 45 minutes.

Makes 10 servings.

Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes

  • 4 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 10 3/4-ounce can condensed cheddar cheese soup
  • 1 10 3/4-ounce can condensed cream of potato soup
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic or onion powder
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Cover the inside of slow cooker insert with nonstick spray. Combine the soups, milk and garlic or onion powder in medium bowl. Layer half the potatoes on the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle with black pepper, spread with half of the soup mixture and sprinkle with half of the shredded cheese. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Makes 8 servings.

Cooking 101

Béchamel and Mornay sauces

Béchamel sauce is a basic white sauce made by combining a roux with milk or cream. A roux is a mixture of flour with butter or another fat such as oil. The milk or cream is whisked into the roux and simmered until thickened.

The addition of cheese transforms the sauce into a Mornay sauce, which is used in scalloped potatoes or macaroni and cheese. The sauce, when made with Parmesan or Romano cheese, is used in traditional Italian lasagna in place of the ricotta cheese in the Americanized version.

Mornay sauce also can be served as a cheesy sauce for seafood or steamed vegetables such as broccoli. It's a component in Kentucky Hot Browns, which are hot open-faced turkey and bacon sandwiches.

Small bites

TODAY

Acoustic jam sessions: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Manuel's Bread Cafe, 505 Railroad Ave., in Hammond's Ferry, North Augusta; (803) 380-1323

APRIL 24

Sweet Celebrations: 6-10 p.m., North Augusta Community Center, 495 Brookside Ave.; desserts, beverages, silent auction of theme baskets; benefits The RECing Crew; (803) 279-8820, www.therecingcrew.com

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