Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Crockpot Au Gratin Potatoes

It's Christmas Day. I'm up early, not to open presents, as I have no little ones at home anymore, but to get started on my potatoes to take along to my son's house later today as we get together to celebrate all that we have to be thankful for, enjoy the kids and all their new toys and goodies, and share our annual Christmas Dinner. The Chef is still snoozing away and I have the television quietly playing A Christmas Story. I always watch it at least once or twice and since it's just me and the fur kids up and around, this is the perfect time. I love the story of the movie but I especially love the kitchen. How awesome would it be to cook in a kitchen like that with that fantastic old gas stove? It also does not escape my keen eye that the mom goes down to the cellar to get jars of home canned vegetables for meals prepared during the movie. Simpler times, indeed, but surely there was a lot of hard work involved.

For my contribution to out holiday meal this year, I am going to be taking advantage of one of the most handy convenience appliances ever invented- the crockpot. I remember my dad buying a crockpot back in the 70s and it changed the way my dad cooked meals. As you might remember, my dad, back in the 70s, was what we today would call a foodie- very interested in cooking and cookbooks and fine dining. I inherited every one of those genes. My dad sought out crockpot recipes to try every week. Short ribs with onion gravy, chicken cacciatore, all kinds of roasts and stews and soups, even bread pudding and desserts. We even had overnight crockpot oatmeal, and believe me, if you ever have a crowd overnight like the holidays and need a breakfast idea- toss together some oats, raisins or craisins, chopped apples or pears and some brown sugar and cook that on low overnight. Breakfast is ready and holds at serving temp as the family wakes up. Delicious! Anyway, the crockpot is a veritable savior for busy cooks and families on the go. Assemble your meal ahead of time, pop it in the crockpot, turn it on and out the door you go, returning home to a perfectly cooked meal. Tender roasts, slow simmered sauces, even desserts, and these days the internet and Pinterest are goldmines of slow cooker recipes. 

Many times for the holidays I'll make a family favorite, Fat Ass Potatoes. This year however I wanted to try something new. I've made au gratin potatoes in the oven dozens of times, and it's easy enough to put together, but when you have a large group all juggling dishes for oven time, why not try making some adjustments and making these cheesy delights in the crockpot? Saves time, saves oven space, and can be served right from the crock. This truly is one of the easiest potato dishes ever. Unlike traditional au gratin recipes, there is no need to pre-cook the potatoes or make a pot of bechamel before assembling. Instead, the slow cooker does all that for you, cooking the potatoes evenly and turning the evaporated milk and cheese into a cream sauce. If you like, you can briefly saute the onions to get a little color in them but I just used them fresh and loved the flavor. Most of the ingredients you might even hand on hand. This dish comes together quickly and you can get it all assembled, pop it in the crock and head back to bed for a snooze before the big get together. I used a big oval crockpot but you can use a smaller one if you need to feed a smaller crowd- just adjust down the milk and use a little less.

This recipe is so easy you'll never go back to the mix junk again. It's better for you too- you know exactly what goes in the pot, you can choose the variety of potato you like best (I used russets) and you can use whatever cheese you have on hand and your family loves. For my recipe I also used Signature Seasoning from Sinful Food and I highly recommend it. You can use whatever seasoning mixture you have but Sinful Foods mixture is so savory without being too salty.

Easiest Ever Au Gratin Potatoes in the Crockpot

4-5 lbs of potatoes, scrubbed, skin on
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup butter
Sinful Food Signature Seasoning
handful chopped chives
3 cups half and half or light cream
3/4 cup flour

Scrub the potatoes thoroughly. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into half circles. Cut the onion the same way and separate the slices into half rings.

Ready to go in the crockpot
Using a large slow cooker layer about 1/4 of the potatoes and onions. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, some chives and season with the Sinful Food seasoning. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, pressing down on the potatoes if necessary. Top with remaining cheese, the last of the chives and Parm, and seasoning.

Check the potatoes often once you've hit the two hour mark.
In a medium bowl whisk the flour with about a cup of the cream until smooth. Whisk in the remaining cream. Pour the cream mixture over all. Slice the butter into pats and place all over the top to the potatoes. Pop the lid on and cook at High for about 2-3 hours until tender. Check your potatoes at two hours- some crockpots vary in temp, and you may need to go as long as 3 or 4 hours.

If you like them extra cheesy, toss another handful of cheese
on top at the end of cooking, cover and let melt.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free as part of a random drawing. There was no requirement of using the products and then providing written promotion. This post is entirely of my own writing. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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