Why this blog?

"If you are careful," Garp wrote, "if you use good ingredients, and you don't take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day; what you make to eat. With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane."
from John Irving's novel, The World According to Garp

Friday, January 7, 2011

Au Gratin Potatoes

Growing up here in the Beautiful South, my go-to starch has always been rice, either with gravy or in a casserole.  My mom, who was from Virginia, made awesome mashed potatoes, and I've made them myself a few times and considered them almost worth the trouble.  But last night was the first time I had ever tried to make au gratin potatoes that didn't come out of a box.  We were having pork chops cooked in applesauce (another favorite of Max the Aussie that I'd never tried before I started cooking for him), so there was nothing to make gravy from, and we needed a starch.  I looked in the pantry and saw I still had half a bag of potatoes left over from making potato salad, and we always have cheese in the fridge.  So I decided to give it a try.  (To give you an idea of how rarely we cook potatoes, my niece is five years old and watches her mommy cook almost every night, but last night watching me was the first time she had ever seen a raw, peeled potato.  She was so impressed she had to take one out to the living room to show her uncle.) 

I set the oven to preheat to 350 degrees and sprayed a one-quart casserole dish with Pam (I actually used a 9 inch square cake pan because all my casserole dishes were too big, and it worked just fine).  Then I peeled four medium potatoes and sliced them thin (pausing to rinse the one the princess took to marvel over). 

The sauce is basically the same cheese sauce I use for macaroni and cheese.  I sauteed 1/4 cup of onion in 2 tablespoons of butter, then added 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of flour and whisked it together, then added 1& 1/4 cups of milk and whisked it over medium high heat until it thickened and bubbled.  Then I added 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and stirred it until it was smooth.

I put down a layer of potato slices in the casserole dish, overlapping them slightly, and covered them with cheese sauce, then added another layer and the rest of the sauce.  Then I sprinkled another 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar over the top.  I covered it all with aluminum foil and put it in the preheated oven to bake for 35 minutes.  Then I took the foil off and baked it 30 minutes longer, until the cheese on top was browned slightly at the edges and the potatoes were cooked through. 

It made four generous side dish servings.  This will never replace rice or mac & cheese for me, but it was a good, hot comfort food that went well with the pork chops.  I'll definitely make it again.


  1. Nothing like "Ol' Rotten Potatoes!" Since when did you start blogging about food?

  2. Potatoes + cheese = joy.

    (And I love that Garp quote. So true!)

  3. LMAO Lexxx - yes! As for blogging about food, cooking has become one of the few things I know I'm going to do at least a little of every day, so I thought maybe it would be easier to keep blogging about that.

    Amanda, Garp is one of my all-time favorite novels, and every time I have a crap day writing where I have to throw everything out, that passage is the first thing I think about. So if we have a fabulous dinner, Max can be pretty well assured I got nothing done on the novel that day. ;)