This Meatless Monday, we feature a recipe for scalloped potatoes, as well as potato growing, storage and preparation tips from our Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.
Kate Whelley-McCabe, a volunteer cooking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook worked on this one. Her comments are below in italics.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Scalloped Potatoes
Serves 6 (adapted from Ian Knauer: Gourmet, February 2008, and epicurious.com)
Notes from Kate:
This recipe was a keeper! 15 minute prep, $5-$10 price, delicious. I’ve gotten a request to make it next year for Christmas dinner. Really easy.
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 350°F . Place a rack in the upper third of the oven.
- Grease a shallow baking dish, preferably not glass.
- Stir together the nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
- Thinly slice the potatoes (peeling them first if you so choose). Layer them in the baking pan so that they slightly overlap. Sprinkle each layer with some of the spice mixture and some of the cubed butter.
- Pour the cream and milk over the potatoes, pressing down on them gently to make sure they are covered.
- Cover dish with foil and bake until potatoes are tender, about an hour. Then remove foil, turn on the broiler, and broil until the potatoes are slightly browned on top, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Potatoes were first cultivated many thousands of years ago in Chile and Peru and were taken back to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 15th century. Our name for potatoes probably comes from the word “batatas,” the native Caribbean word for sweet potatoes. Potatoes belong to the nightshade family, meaning that almost every part of the plant except their tubers (which we eat) is poisonous.
Until explorers realized that potatoes had a high vitamin C content and therefore helped prevent scurvy, the somewhat bland root was mostly used by Europeans as a feed for livestock. President Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing the now mainstream “French fry” to America when he first served them at a White House dinner. Once potatoes began to spread across the globe, they also became a very important crop.
Because they are easily grown in a variety of climates and store well into the winter months, potatoes became a food staple in many places. Ireland came to depend heavily on the potato and, when potato blight struck in the 1840s and wiped out the crop, the ensuing famine took the lives of approximately a million people. Many countries still depend heavily on the potato for food. In America, we eat an average of well over a hundred pounds of potatoes (in various forms) per person per year.
Potatoes are grown by planting “seed potatoes,” older potatoes that will sprout new plants. You can purchase certified seed potatoes or plant leftover potatoes that you may have around. Large potatoes can be cut, but each pieces needs to have at least 1-2 “eyes” (a dormant bud). Potatoes that have begun to sprout in storage are fine for planting. If you choose to cut them, do so a day early so the flesh can dry. Plant potatoes in late spring a foot apart in a trench about 6 inches deep. Leave at least 3 feet between trenches! Potatoes may rot in very heavy, damp soil. Once plants are several inches tall, hill soil up around them, then do so again about 3 weeks later. Dig up potatoes once tops have begun to die back.
Freshly dug potatoes should be “cured” in a dry, dark place for about a week, then should be stored in a cool, slightly moist area (away from onions). Root cellars are ideal for storing potatoes.
Potatoes are high in Vitamins C and B6 and have significant amounts of niacin, iodine, folic acid, copper, and magnesium. Much of a potato’s nutritional value is in its skin, so avoid peeling when possible or at least try to cook in the skin (like a baked potato).
Cut any blemishes or green spots out of potatoes before using. They may be left unpeeled or peeled depending on the recipe and toughness of the skin. Potatoes are great baked, boiled, sautéed, mashed, and roasted.
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