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Creamy Scalloped potatoes is a layered potato bake of thinly sliced russet potatoes, kale, and leeks. From start to finish this creamy potato bake takes only an hour and the result is a rich, decadent scalloped potatoes in thick perfectly seasoned cream sauce.
I love potatoes. All varieties, all the ways to eat them, they’re versatile and delicious! But, one of my all time favorite ways to have potatoes is in a super creamy scalloped potato dish. Cooked until tender in cream and salt, this creamy potato bake is a highlight of the meal whenever I make it. This particular version was first inspired by a popular Irish potato dish colcannon around St. Patrick’s day, but now we enjoy it all year, especially during the holiday season (Thanksgiving side dish winner here guys!). Colcannon is typically a mashed potato dish with kale or cabbage and onion or leek, I thought I’d mix it up a bit throw the flavors in a layered potato bake instead.
Scalloped potatoes or Potato Gratin?
Let me shoot straight with you guys, whatever the original difference is between scalloped potatoes and potato gratin, or potatoes cooked au gratin, it barely exists anymore.
You can literally find twenty different resources claiming they have the difference defined for you..and they often contradict.
Here’s the gist:
Scalloped potatoes are
- thinly sliced potatoes
- cooked in cream sauce
- may or may not contain breadcrumbs
Potato Gratin is
- thinly sliced potatoes
- cooked in a cream sauce
- may or may not contain breadcrumbs
- may contain cheese.
So…yea BIG difference right? No, not really. Here’s the deal, I learned the technique for this dish from a cookbook called Think like a Chef by Tom Colicchio. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a reputable resource trust me. HE called it potato gratin, no cheese, no breadcrumbs. I’ve always called these kind of potatoes scalloped potatoes.
Sooo basically call it whatever you want, scalloped potatoes, potato gratin, scalloped potatoes gratin, delicious layered potato baked in crack sauce, all that matters is that you make it and enjoy it!
Fun fact, you can cook almost any vegetable ‘au gratin’. It’s a cooking technique consisting of thinly sliced layered vegetables with cream, breadcrumbs, or cheese (or all of them) and baked until browned on top.
The Ingredients for Creamy SCalloped Potatoes
Since this was inspired by colcannon, I thought I’d keep the ingredient list fairly similar and simple to that style of mashed potato. You’ll need potatoes, kale, leeks, butter, heavy cream, salt and pepper. That’s really it.
Unless you’re going to be a stickler about the breadcrumbs/cheese thing, then you’ll need those too. 😉
- Potatoes – I use russet, which are a high starch potato that are delicious with cream, and particularly economical. It takes about 2 medium to large potatoes. You absolutely can use red or white waxy potatoes, I’ve made it with all three. Just choose your favorite!
- Heavy Cream – You truly cannot make this dish without it. It’s the flavor, the creaminess, the binding power that keeps it in casserole form.
- Kale – A hearty green that stands up to the cream and the oven without turning into a soggy mess. You can use any type of kale you like.
- Leeks – A member of the onion family, but milder, and fabulous when sauteed, they add a lovely pop of flavor to a very cream heavy dish. Look for a leek with a high proportion of white to dark green.
- Salt & Pepper – These are certainly necessary in an otherwise simple dish to make it taste good!
How to MAke Scalloped Potatoes in Cream
Once you get everything prepped this dish takes about an hour to get on the table. This is a big creamy potato bake, easily serving a group of 6 to 8, possibly more! You can also half it easily if you’d like. It’s definitely a dish you can make ahead, and then pop in the oven the next day to serve.
Step 1 – Prep Ingredients
Before you get cooking, clean, chop and measure all your ingredients.
- Wash and chop kale. I do a rough chop here, since it all gets sauteed and baked. A whole bunch of kale will appear to be a lot, it cooks down, so trust me!
- Wash a slice leeks. Best method is to cut either end off of the leeks, keeping only the white and light green parts. (Save the scraps for homemade stock!). Slice in half lengthwise, then shop into quarter inch half moons. THEN wash and drain off excess water.
- Use a mandoline slicer for the easiest slicing of your potatoes. Peeling is not necessary, but if you prefer no skins go for it.
Bonus tip: To wash leeks most easily, slice first then add to a bowl and fill with water. Gently swish, the dirt will sink to the bottom. Then scoop leeks from the top of the water (they float), and discard the water. Using a salad spinner is the easiest way to rid both the leeks and the kale of excess water.
Step 2 – Cook
Once you’re prepped it’s a simple 2 part cooking process.
Cooking Part 1…
- Add sliced potatoes, salt, and cream to a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a rapid simmer until potatoes are just fork tender. Don’t cook to the point of them falling apart as they continue to get tender in the oven.
- Meanwhile, saute the leeks in a bit of oil or butter (your choice), when they get tender, add in kale and saute until they’ve cooked down and are tender. Be sure to season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for layering later.
- When potatoes are tender, strain through a colander over a bowl, reserving the cream. Set potatoes aside to cool (spreading on a baking sheet helps), and return the cream to the pot. Boil until reduced by half, taste and add more salt if needed.
- Preheat oven to 375°, then layer!
Cooking Part 2…
- Begin with a 9×13 baking dish, no need to butter or prep it in any way.
- Layer half the potatoes on the bottom of the dish, then top with all of the kale and leek mixture. Spread evenly.
- Pour half the cream mixture over the kale and leeks.
- Layer the remaining potatoes on top and pour over the rest of the cream.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly on top.
- Top with parsley, or fresh chives, if you have it and feel like it! Then serve!!
To reheat simple place in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes.
Generally I don’t recommend freezing cream based dishes, the cream tends to separate when thawed and while safe to eat, looks rather unpleasant. If you’d like to, freeze, well covered, for up to three months then allow to thaw in fridge before reheating as directed above.
The use of high fat cream, like heavy cream, is the key to a thickened final dish. As it reduces in the pot before baking it will get really thick and then as it bakes it will thicken further to a dense sauce.
Because the thickening needed I do not recommend simply substituting a low fat, or non-dairy milk. Instead, try this Vegan Scalloped Potatoes from Nora Cooks, designed for those types of milks.
A common cause of a curdled dairy based sauce is too high of a heat. Using heavy cream, due to the high fat content, in this recipe should prevent that. Avoid the highest setting on your burners, and the temptation to crank the oven up for quicker cooking.
Recipes to serve with Creamy Scalloped Potatoes
Here are a few delicious mains from my fellow awesome bloggers to serve with your creamy potatoes..
- Balsamic-Basted Herbed Butter Roast Turkey from Renee at Kudos Kitchen
- Whole Roasted Chicken with Dijon Herb Butter from Alisa at The Delicious Spoon
- Garlic Lemon and Thyme Crusted Rack of Lamb from Nicky at Kitchen Sanctuary
If you’re looking for a side or two to add to the table, check these out!
- Sauteed Green Beans with Bacon and Mushrooms
- Homemade Garlic Bread Rolls
- Rainbow Carrot Blossoms with Garlic and Herbs from Jenni over at Whip & Wander
Whatever you choose to serve this with and whoever you decide to share this, you’ll be more than happy! I sincerely hope you enjoy this recipe, until next time, Happy Eating!
- 2 large russet potatoes or 3 lbs potatoes
- 2 C leeks about 1 leek
- 1 bunch kale
- 4 C heavy cream
- 2 Tbs butter or oil
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 2 Tbs parsley optional
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Peel and thinly slice potatoes on mandoline, or by hand carefully to ensure consistent thickness.
- Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with heavy cream. Add a good couple pinches of salt. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat until just barely fork tender.
- While potatoes are cooking, cut the dark green tops from the leeks. Discard or set aside for stock making. Slice leek lengthwise then slice into half moons, about 1/4" thick. Rinse and pat dry.
- Wash and dry kale, then remove leaves from the thick stalks. Roughly chop.
- Heat butter in large saute pan over medium low heat. When butter is melted add leeks and a pinch of salt. Saute gently until softened, stirring occasionally to prevent charring.
- When potatoes are mostly soft, pour into a colander placed over a bowl to catch the cream.
- Spread the potatoes out on platter or sheet pan to cool and return cream to pan. Simmer on low until reduced by half, season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add chopped kale to the leeks and stir to coat kale with the oil. Cover with lid to steam.
- Once kale as softened, remove lid and saute until tender. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
- When cream has reduced, layer half the potatoes in an 9×13 pan. Top with kale and leek mixture. Pour over half the cream. Layer remaining potatoes and top with the rest of the cream.
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbly. Add chopped parsley if desired and serve.
Original post 3/10/2019, Updated 10/4/2019
Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.