Sunday, October 30, 2011

Au Gratin Party Potatoes

I have reached a point where there is no more cleaning or research I can do regarding the bedbugs (Since laying down the diatomaceous earth on my mattress, I haven't received a new bite in 4 days—I can almost imagine they're gone), so I am forced to go back to an almost normal mode of living. Almost normal inasmuch as I still choose my daily outfit by whatever I can find near the top of my storage bags, and am continually stymied by simple tasks such as cutting my toenails (can't find the toenail clippers) and washing my hands (the towels are all in bags in the basement). But there is one thing I still have all the supplies for: food preparation!

Today, I decided to make my lunch another Adventure in Cooking! and prepare some au gratin potatoes from scratch. Here's how you do it.
1. Find a recipe for au gratin potatoes on the internet, such as this one. You know you've picked a good recipe for dinner for one, when you see the word "party" in the recipe title. This will enable you to practice your recipe-dividing skills. is kind enough to do the dividing for you, so if you scale your recipe down to use about 2 1-lb. potatoes, you will be presented with nice, easy-to-measure amounts such as 1 Tbsp. + 1¾t tsp (margarine) or 3/8 of a can (evaporated milk), and you won't have to do any math!

2. Scrub and slice your potatoes (2 of them). The recipe may tell you to peel, cube, and cook them, but you are too Galorious for that, so decide not to peel them (the peel is where all the fiber is!). Also decide to slice them (that's the way real au gratin potatoes are done), and not to bother with the pre-cooking (they're thinly sliced; they'll cook just fine during baking, and besides, you're hungry now!).

3. The recipe tells you to mix your ingredients in a mixing bowl. To save on supplies as well as washing time, decide to forgo this as well, and mix all the ingredients in your 9x13 baking pan, which you have not greased, despite the instructions. Spread the potato slices on the bottom of the pan.

4. This would be a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5.  Now for the hard part: 3/8 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk. Honestly, who keeps evaporated milk around the house? You'll have to use powdered milk. Since the powdered milk comes in 1-qt packets, there are no instructions as to how much powder makes 3/8 of  12 ounces. You'll have to guess. 3/8 is almost 1/2, so just assume you'll need one half of 12 ounces, or 6 oz. Six oz. is 2/3 cup. Fill your 1-cup measure up about 2/3 full with milk powder. Then fill it to the same level with water. Add a little more milk powder because it doesn't look thick enough to be "evaporated." Mix with a fork and dump over the potatoes.

6. The recipe calls for 1/4 pound of processed cheese. Since you find processed cheese totally unpalatable, use colby-jack instead. Cube the cheese nicely and distribute it over the potato slices.

7. 1 tablespoon and 1-3/4 teaspoons butter or margarine, cubed. That's what the recipe calls for, but who has time for such finicky measurements? That's just about 1.5 tablespoons, so cut that approximate amount off your stick of margarine and cut it into little pieces over your potatoes. The pieces will stick together, so you'll have to cut them up more later on.

8. The recipe also calls for:
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Paprika
1/2 teaspoon = approximately a few pinches, so go ahead and sprinkle on the salt. Since you don't have pepper, you'll skip that, but you actually do have some paprika left over from when you made deviled eggs for Easter.Sprinkle that on, too. Realize the recipe said to put on the paprika after cooking, but figure it won't make that much difference.

9. Mix your ingredients in the pan. I find that a fork and a knife make delightful little screeching noises when you use them for this purpose. A spoon may also work. Pick up all the cubes of cheese that have fallen off the potatoes and put them back on top of the potatoes. Use your knife to cut the cubes of margarine into smaller cubes of margarine.

9. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until bubbly. Since the oven has only reached about 200 degrees at this point, just set the timer for 53 minutes and go ride your exercise bike. Take a shower, excavate your nail file from the car, and remove the potatoes from the oven with one minute and a few odd seconds left on the timer. Serve hot. 

I suppose if you're an au gratin potatoes connoisseur, these would not go over very well. The cheese pretty much stayed where it was put originally, leading to patches of bald potatoes and other patches of overly cheesy potatoes. The next time I try this recipe, I'll melt the cheese with the milk first for a more even consistency. Still, the potatoes cooked, just as I expected them to, and they were tasty and the cheese was cheesy, and I had a good lunch.