Recipe: The Gift of Christmas Potatoes….Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

IMG_1323Mom and Dad on the farm.  We were cleaning up after a tornado the day this picture was taken.  Dad lost over 200 trees.  His new potato patch is in the virgin soil of what used to be our woods. 

This summer my father, who is disabled and well into his eighties, planted almost 100 hills of potatoes in his garden.  Now, this may seem excessive for just two retired people, but each year dad seems to plant more and more hills of potatoes.  He just loves how pretty the plants look growing and dad’s potatoes have always been exceptional. Even with his severely mangled arthritic hands, he still hand hoes his whole garden himself.

This summer’s growing conditions were fantastic and dad certainly harvested a bumper crop of potatoes. So, every time he has come down to visit me, since the potatoes were ready to dig, I have been gifted with a bucket of new potatoes.  I chose the word gift, because potatoes grown in that blue-black, west-central Minnesota soil are a gift.

Dad’s potatoes have always had an amazing flavor.  I have never tasted any other potato like them.  They are earthy and sweet all at the same time.  I think the best way to eat them is to just boil up the little ones and salt and butter them.  I actually prefer them to candy, and I remember that to be true even when I was much younger.

Yesterday, dad and mom came down for a visit and dad brought me his last bucket of potatoes.  He will be heading south for the winter soon, and wanted to know if I wanted them so they would not go to waste.  I immediately responded with a resounding, “YES!”

I look forward to eating the small ones as nature intended with just some good Minnesota manufactured Land O’ Lakes melted butter and sprinkled with salt.  Some of the larger potatoes will saved so that, along with dad’s sweet corn which I froze, he and mom will be present in spirit at my Christmas dinner table in the food their hands and lands provided.

It can snow now, I am ready for winter and the holidays.

Christmas Dinner Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

3  Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

In a medium-sized saucepan while cooking on a low heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir until thick.  Keep stirring as you pour in the cold milk.  Continue to stir constantly with whisk until smooth, boiling and thick.  Add salt and cayenne pepper.  Stir in cheese and let cheese melt.  Continue to stir until sauce is smooth and cheese completely combined.

Thinly slice about 4 cups of potatoes.  (When using new potatoes I leave the skins on.  However, most people would probably peel the potatoes before slicing.) 

Butter the bottom and sides of a one-quart casserole dish.  Place 1/2 of the potatoes into casserole.  Poor 1/2 of the sauce over potatoes.  Add remaining potatoes.  Pour in remaining sauce.  Top with 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered for about 1 hour at 350 degrees.

This recipe is great the day you make it, and like chili and spaghetti it tastes even better the second time around. 




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