Potatoes are considered a wildly delicious meal, and hardly can we go for days without having a bite at restaurants or home. It’s one of the tastiest foods on our menu today. Potatoes are those vegetables that are growing in our kitchen garden, enhancing their availability.
We have been able to make dishes like mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, au gratin, and fries that are flavorful and quick to make from potatoes.
French fries were the initial that opened the journey to more innovation for the potato recipe world.
At dinner, you will be served scalloped potatoes or au gratin, which can be confusing at first sight. They seem so similar but also too different in their diverse characteristics. But the bottom line is that we never grow out of enjoying these dishes.
I will help us understand the different ideas about these potato dishes that lead to our confusion and prepare the two dishes to bring out the unique flavor in each one of them.
What is Au gratin
Gratin involves cooking ingredients by topping brown crust from bread crumbs, eggs, or grated cheese. The cooking or baking is done in shallow dishes to give a brown crust over a grill or a broiler.
So Au gratin potatoes are sliced, then put in a fireproof dish with butter smeared on its walls. Then potatoes are sprinkled with cheese and cooked to brown color over the grill or broiler.
What is scalloped
Scalloped potatoes are a type of casserole with various versions like the Irish and American. They are uniformly thin-sliced, smeared with onion cream sauce for seasoning, added milk and breadcrumbs, then baked. The result is a savory delicacy.
Why the names
Potatoes are consumed worldwide as a rich source of carbohydrates and are believed to be a staple food like wheat, corn, and rice. They originated in Peru. The two names given to these potato dishes result from how the potatoes are sliced for cooking.
For example, when someone hears the name scallop, they will think that it is a type of shellfish called the scallop, but no. They were named so because the English word collop was an old french term, ‘escalope’ that meant slicing; hence sliced potatoes are called scallops.
On the other hand, the gratin is to cook ingredients by boiling, grilling, or baking. Ingredients are tossed together then topped with bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, or butter for a brown crust.
The name is a French word that means gratter, which is to scrape and grate crust or skin. Many other ingredients like vegetables, fish, pasta, and poultry can use the method.
At the end of the day, the nutrition content, satisfaction, and delicious taste that we get from these dishes is what matters,
Ingredients for Au gratin preparation
All-purpose wheat flour and butter are used as thickeners to make sauce thick to avoid an all watery and flowy food with a bad texture.
Sodium or salt and pepper are used to season the potatoes by giving them a rich, spicy taste, while milk is used to make the potatoes creamy.
Cheese gives the dish a creamy, subtle tang flavor that enriches both the taste and the nutritional value of the meal.
Potatoes are the essential ingredients for the dish. Without the potatoes, there is no Au gratin potatoes dish. You should buy potatoes that retain their shape even after cooking.
Onions are used in the dish to season the potatoes for a better flavor, and also, when cooked, they become crunchy hence a rough crispy texture.
Ingredients for Scalloped
If you are going to prepare scalloped potatoes, you should know the ingredients for a perfect dish. They include;
Yukon gold potatoes
They maintain their shape when cooked and have a rich flavor compared to any other potatoes.
Cheese added onto potatoes makes them creamy with a subtle tang flavor that is worthwhile for the recipe. It is smeared between the potato layers.
It has salty and cheesiness characteristics that make it ideal for pairing with goat cheese.
Milk gives the potatoes a creamy and tender texture without even having to add the cream. It could be used as a substitute. Only that the creamy is added to bring on board a different flavor.
Garlic is a vegetable ground to season the scalloped. It enriches the flavor making it tasty and delicious.
Best potatoes for scalloped
The potatoes should be starchy, which helps enhance tenderness and thicken the sauce. The varieties that meet that description are the Yukon gold potatoes and the russets. But between the two types, the Yukon is given an upper hand,
That is because they have a more sharp, distinct flavor and are buttery compared to their counterparts. They also don’t lose their firmness when baked but remain perfectly shaped. You would not want to serve potatoes that bake and become liquid-like porridge.
It is also advisable to avoid waxy red potatoes since they are too starchy and may become too firm after cooking that you can’t eat them with a fork. That is too strenuous.
How to cook au gratin potatoes
Au gratin potatoes are believed to be more nutritious and richer than scalloped potatoes hence a comfort food. The preparation method for the two types of potatoes is similar, only that the sliced potatoes for Au gratin are thinner.
For classic Au gratin potato dishes, you will require cheese, butter, cream, and seasoning ingredients to enhance the taste. For the traditional dish, you will require cloves, thyme, pepper, and salt.
The most important step when cooking an Au gratin dish is to peel and slice your potatoes thin. Then put cream and butter into your cooking dish. Arrange your potato slices on the ingredients and season them with salt, pepper, or garlic.
Then add a layer of cream, then more potatoes, topping with your shredded cheese, then lay the rest of the potatoes on the cheese. Once done baking, season the potatoes further to give them the flavor that you would want.
The layer of cheese added makes the Au gratin thicker than scallops though the sliced potatoes are thinner. If you want your Au gratin to be thicker, you can still add mashed potatoes to the different layers.
Furthermore, filling with mashed potatoes helps cut down on using more cream, which has a high protein level. Fat content is also reduced for those that want gluten-free food.
How to cook scalloped
Scallops are believed to be easier to make than Au gratin potatoes. That is because your sliced potatoes are thicker, which means that less time is spent when cutting and peeling them.
Once done with slicing, you put the potatoes in the cooking dish and add a layer of cream sauce and chopped onions.
The cream sauce consists of ingredients like flour, milk, butter, and broth to make it more watery. Season the mixture with parsley, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and thyme before putting it in the oven. Then sit and wait as it cooks.
Side dishes to serve with Au gratin
You may want to have something fancy served alongside your potatoes to complete the meal. They include;
Roasted pork tenderloin
It is an impressive and quick-fix meal to prepare. It is also tasty and healthy. It is a favorable choice if you want some more protein content level in your dish. The meaty taste will diversify the Au gratin from the mere vegetable taste.
You make significant variations to the side dish by adding onions, garlic, diced red tomatoes, and carrots for a more advanced taste. Though they may make the roasting time longer, the taste benefits they bring to the table are more.
It calls for minimal effort since a few ingredients are used. The chicken is delicious with a tasty flavor; it’s crispy skin and tender on the inside.
The chicken will be an added advantage since you get to have more phosphorus, vitamins, proteins, and niacin nutrients suitable for your immune system.
Roasted beef brings tender and juicy perfection to the side dish as it is also easy to cook. It is roasted through the oven right after seasoning to enrich the flavor.
One doing the preparation, preheat the oven to balance the temperature. Use ingredients like pepper, garlic, olive oil, salt, and herbs such as rosemary and thyme.
Start to roast the chicken at a higher heat level of 375 degrees F and finish off at 275 degrees F. The temperature change allows the chicken to cook evenly on the inside and leave a pink and juicy inside that complements your Au gratin potatoes.
A side dish to serve with scalloped potatoes
Crockpot pork chops is a flavored dish that is considered a hearty meal. They are cooked in a crockpot for them to be tender for easy eating with a fork.
You can ensure that you have that soft pork by buying thick-cut boneless pork chops and cook slowly for two hours to get that tender texture.
You can enhance the pork taste by adding onions that melt into the sauce to give an extra seasoning flavor.
You can also pair the potatoes with chicken dishes like lemon butter chicken,brussels sprouts, and rosemary chicken with apples. These create impressive dinner dishes.
For example, the rosemary chicken thighs with apples have ingredients like an onion which add a sweet and savory taste to the food and also a complimentary texture because of their crispness. Apples add some tart or sweet citric taste to the chicken, which complements the potatoes.
Salmon meuniere is a good choice of food to combine with potatoes. The ingredients for the salmon dish are flour, butter, lemon, and parsley. It is easy to prepare too.
It is a good combination because of the citrusy taste from the lemon and butter that increases the fat content to compliment the gluten-free potatoes. The salmon fish has fatty amino acids that have health benefits to our bodies like reduced inflammation and low blood pressure.
Difference between Au gratin and scalloped
You may not tell the difference between the two dishes because mistakes are often made at the recipe stages. You may get a scalloped dish topped with cheese and bread crumbs making it delicious, but technically, that is not how a traditional scalloped dish is prepared.
You will often confuse the dishes on sight and prepare methods where a recipe for Au gratin is used for scalloped and vice versa. Changing those few ingredients when cooking may present a dish that is not really what it is made to be.
Some of the difference between the two dishes include;
Au gratin sliced potatoes are thinner in size than those of the scalloped dish. They are arranged in layers in a dish, then added cheese, cream, bread crumbs, and seasoning ingredients for a better flavor.
For scalloped potatoes, they are cut thick, cooked in a casserole dish, and baked with milk and more cream.
Au gratin potatoes have cheese smeared between the layers to increase their thickness as they are sliced in small widths, whereas scalloped dishes are not supposed to have cheese on them.
Au gratin often has bread crumbs on the top, whereas scalloped does not. So the Au gratin uses bread crumbs and cheese to increase its size and have a crusty texture, whereas scalloped uses parsley and chives traditionally.
Chopped vegetables like chives work excellently to compliment the potatoes in scalloped, whereas that is not the case for Au gratin.
Potatoes health benefits
Potatoes, like any other foods, have various health benefits that drive us to eat them. These include;
There are minerals and vitamins such as proteins, fiber, vitamin B 6, and vitamin C, phosphorus, and magnesium. These help build our body immunity against illnesses and also build our bodies physically.
They help neutralize harmful entrants to our bodies which could cause chronic illnesses like diabetes and cancer.
Potatoes are known to improve the rate at which your body will control sugar levels by reducing insulin resistance.
Colon bacteria digest undigested starch then convert it to butyrate, aiding inflammation reduction, cancer at the colon, and enhancing colon illnesses defense.
People with celiac illnesses appreciate potatoes due to this factor. They can fight symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, skin rashes, and bloating by not triggering them whenever potatoes are included in their food.
Au gratin and scalloped are one of the best comfort potato foods. They are both nutritious, tasty, and delicious. What would differentiate the two dishes is the ingredients used in one and not the other.
Cheese, bread crumbs, and vegetables being key in what sets apart one from the other. If you want low-fat content in your potatoes, scalloped would be the most favorable. But both of them are to be loved.