Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. Think crispy French fries, velvety smooth mashed and golden roasted. However, my long-time favourite has to be the classic scalloped, with the golden brown topping and tender, creamy middle. Kids of a certain generation will remember their moms pouring a can of cream of mushroom soup over thinly sliced potatoes and my mom was no different. I still loved them, convenience product and all. Part of my attraction no doubt has to do with the fact that scalloped potatoes are usually served alongside ham. It’s a great marriage. The potatoes are a blank slate; able to handle all the sweet and salty goodness that ham brings to the table.
My version of the classic does not involve soup from a can (I hope you aren’t too disappointed!). Instead, it’s gussied up with double-smoked bacon, smoked Gouda, caramelized onions and some Dijon mustard. I thinly sliced the potatoes by hand, because a mandolin scares the bejeezus out of me, and par-boiled them before they go into the oven, just to help them cook a little faster. Bacon is cooked, and the onions are caramelized in the fat.
The base of the dish is a creamy Bechamel sauce, with the caramelized onions and Dijon mustard stirred in for layers of flavour, along with the smoked Gouda. You could use any hard cheese such as Gruyere, smoked cheddar, Emmental... there really are so many possibilities here! The sauce is then poured over the potatoes layered with cooked bacon and the dish bakes for about 40 minutes. An additional sprinkling of cheese is the final touch on a delicious comforting side dish that will see you through the long winter days and nights.