Ever have a craving for tasty scalloped potatoes, but the thought of all that cream and cheese (and calories) is a turn-off?

This recipe, directly from America's Test Kitchen, comes to the rescue. Featuring caramelized onions, it is amazingly yummy, and can be prepped - or even baked - the day before - or earlier in the day for an evening meal with family or guests.

An additional turn-off to making scalloped potatoes used to be the "potato slicing" but this is now so easy using a mandolin or the slicing tool on a food processor.

Check out Tips (below) for another short-cut.


Getting Ready:

  • Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position

  • heat oven to 400 F. 

  • Grease 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

  • (Time - prep time and 1.5 hours cooking/rest time)

2  onions, halved and sliced thin
salt and pepper
2 TB olive oil
2  garlic cloves, minced  
1/2  tsp minced fresh thyme
1/4  cup chicken broth  (you’ll be using 1 cup in total)

Heat 2 TB oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and 1/2 tsp thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup broth and cook until nearly evaporated, scraping up any browned bits, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside. This can be done ahead. (See Notes for a wee cheat on this step.)

4 - 4.5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
3 TB extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2  tsp minced fresh thyme
3/4  cup chicken broth

2  ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup)  
3 TB extra-virgin olive oil
1/4  cup panko bread crumbs  
1/2 tsp pepper  

Toss potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme together in bowl - ensuring all potatoes are coated. Arrange half of potatoes in prepared (greased) dish, and spread onion mixture in an even layer over potatoes. Then distribute remaining potatoes over onions. Pour broth over potatoes. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour in an oven preheated to 400 F.

While the potatoes are baking, combine Pecorino, olive oil, panko, and pepper in a bowl; set aside for final step.

After baking for 1 hour, remove foil, evenly distribute over the dish the Pecorino mixture, and continue to bake until the top is golden brown and the potatoes are completely tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve.

Notes and Tips...

  • Grease dish - you can use a cooking spray

  • Caramelizing Onions - it doesn't take too long to caramelize the onions and if time is tight, do that the day before you plan to assemble this. This also works with red onions. A sneaky (but more costly) short-cut is to buy already caramelized onions in a jar - one jar pretty much equals the amount that two fresh onions would cook down to

  • Cutting onions - some chefs say that cutting the onions pole to pole keeps them more intact during carameiization rather than cutting them across.

  • Potatoes - the first time I made this, the potatoes I bought were super fresh - thin-skinned, almost like new potatoes. So, i washed them, but did not bother to peel them.

  • Slicing potatoes - with any luck you will have invested in a "mandolin" slicing tool. These range in price, but even the cheapest work well. The worry with this tool is to take care that you don't slice your finger into whatever you are preparing. Some mandolins come with a protective guard to help avoid this. I feel fortunate that my food processor comes with a slicing blade - AND - I can control the thickness of the cut. This makes the job fast - but... I have had encounters with that blade also that result in a race to bandage my finger. Take good care!

  • Amount of potatoes - weigh this in the store as you are buying them or once at home on your portable weigh scale. In my case, the potatoes fit perfectly into my pan - but use your judgment and do not overfill the baking pan.

  • Cheese - this also works with Parmesan

  • Panko - this could work with regular bread crumbs, but the Panko offer nicer appearance and crunch

  • Make-ahead - if your oven is going to be busy just before your meal, you can make this earlier and keep it warm, or let it cool and re-heat it gently in a low oven; ditto if you make it the day before, cool it before refrigerating - warm it slowly in a low oven. You could also assemble it the day before and cook it on the day you are using it.

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