At Christmas as a child and teenager, I always looked most forward to our Christmas Eve buffet. At the center was always a glistening glazed ham. As I mentioned in a recent post, there was a smorgasbord of side dishes and accompaniments. Dishes such as cabbage rolls, salmon loaf, sausage rolls, macaroni and cheese, some strange tomato casserole I remember tasting very good, but not so much what was in it other than canned tomato soup and soda crackers. Don’t ask, I didn’t. And one other dish that made my heaping plate of food complete was the scalloped potatoes or potato gratin.
For me, this meal was the highlight of my year, every year. Perhaps I remember loving it so much because my grandmother would make us wait until nine in the evening before we could eat. Come to think of it, starvation was in fact the basis of such a fond memory. Even so, I would pack away so much food like there wasn’t going to be a Christmas morning. Then I’d go to bed on a full stomach and dream of drinking gallons of water all night because of the salty ham. It really is a nicer memory then it sounds.
Christmas, for me, is all about reflecting back on those joyous times while embracing the present and looking forward to the future. Food has a spell-binding effect when it comes to those special occasions in our lives, and the memories it imprints. A simple scalloped potato dish that could be enjoyed 364 days, though for only one day did it mean something more …a part of a wonderful Christmas memory. The ham was the star of the show, the potatoes were certainly the best-supporting actor.
- 1.5 – 2kg potatoes
- 1 liter whole milk
- 150g cream cheese
- 1 cup cheddar cheese + extra for topping
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tbsp dried chives
- 1 tsp parsley
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cube chicken or vegetable bouillon
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tsp sea salt
- White pepper, to taste
1. Peel and slice potatoes thinly. Soak in cold water for 20 minutes.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potato slices. After the water returns to a boil, remove from heat and drain. Let potatoes steam as you prepare the sauce.
3. Pour 1 liter of milk in a pot and add the garlic and bouillon. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Let steep for 10 minutes or more.
4. In another large pot melt the butter and flour over medium high heat to make a roux. Toast the flour to a nutty brown color, but not too dark.
5. Remove garlic cloves from the milk before whisking in one cup into the roux. Be sure to whisk out all the lumps.
6. Then add the cream cheese and whisk in to melt. Pour in the rest of the milk. Stir well.
7. Now add the nutmeg, chives, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce up to a boil.
8. Remove sauce from heat and stir in the Parmesan and cheddar cheese.
9. Preheat oven to 180°C. In a greased lasagne pan, place one layer of potato slices. Pour sauce to cover the slices. Then repeat until all the potatoes are used. Pour and remaining sauce over the top.
10. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and cover with a piece of parchment paper to keep cheese from sticking. Then cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.
11. Remove foil and broil until cheese is golden. Let cool 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley.