Move over mashed potatoes, there’s a new Thanksgiving side in town – Scalloped Potatoes. I live for Thanksgiving sides, and I think that every single one should be crafted with care and attention to detail. Forget simple! I’m lookin’ at you, mashed potatoes. Actually, I do enjoy mashed potatoes (especially with roasted garlic, chives, and lots of vegan butter & cream), but sometimes, you want something a little more fancy, and by goddess, this is it!
There are two components to this dish: the caramelized onions , and then the thinly sliced potatoes with bechamel sauce.
For this dish, you first want to start with caramelizing the onions, because they’re going into the build of the scalloped potatoes, so they must be finished before you start in with the potatoes. The key to good caramelized onions is patience. A couple facts:
It Takes Time
Caramelized onions take time; at least 30 minutes. Medium-Low heat, for a slow cook, and a good amount of fat helps keep the onions from searing too much.
Always make more onions than you think you’ll need. They cook down much like spinach when you caramelize them. For this recipe, I used two medium-to-large yellow onions. Before cooking, they clocked in at 5 cups, and in the end they reduced down to about 3/4 cup of sweet deliciousness. Stir fairly frequently – this keeps the onions from searing, and gets you that uniform golden color.
Salt in the beginning of the cook, but judiciously. Near the end, taste, and adjust the salt level accordingly. A cooks secret to sweet caramelized onions is to add just a little bit of sugar too – it helps develop the natural sugars of the onion.
Once the onions are done caramelizing, you can add in a liquid to enhance the flavor and take the onions more towards the direction of your dish. For instance, I wanted to go for a smoky, bacon-y flavor, which can be achieved with a smoked paprika, and either balsamic or soy sauce. If you were going in a beer-brat direction, add some good beer! Wine would also add a fruity touch to these.
Bechamel is the classic French white sauce that has been around since the 17th century, and is the base for many sauces. Chances are you have everything you need to make this: butter, flour, and milk. It starts with melting equal parts fat and flour. You let it bubble just a bit to cook the flour, and then slowly whisk in the milk. Turn the heat down to low, add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk at a time, whisking vigorously until the mixture is smooth after each addition. Turn the heat back up to medium, and continue whisking until it thickens. From there you can dress it up as we have here. I love adding nutmeg, and for a cheesy profile, some nutritional yeast.
The Home Stretch – Scalloped Potatoes Assembly
I always like using my knife to cut the potatoes into planks, but that’s just me – I love practicing my knife skills. Sometimes our time is limited, so using a mandolin would be very beneficial in that case. You also achieve uniformity this way.
We are finally at the build phase for this decadent dish! I know it seems like a lot of work, but I promise you, it’s worth it. Everyone loves scalloped potatoes, and with the added caramelized onion, it sends the dish over the top. You can make the onions 3 days before, to streamline cooking on the big day. You can also finish the build, and store for up to 2 days before you bake this baby.
At this point, you can cover the dish with plastic wrap, and put in the refrigerator up to 2 days before your fancy dinner. When you go to bake it, make sure to put a sheet pan underneath to catch spills. If you’re going straight to the oven from the refrigerator, tack on an extra 15 minutes of baking time before you take the lid off to finish the dish.
Scalloped Potatoes with Caramelized Onions
For The Onions
- 5 Cups Sliced Yellow Onion
- ¼ Cup Vegan Butter
- ½ Teaspoon Salt
- ½ Teaspoon Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
- 1½ Teaspoons Bourbon Smoked Paprika
For The Potatoes
- 2 Pounds Russet Potatoes
- ¼ Cup Vegan Butter
- ¼ Cup Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- ½ Teaspoon White Pepper
- ½ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- 2 Cups Oat Milk
- ¼ Cup Nutritional Yeast
- ¼ Cup Italian Parsley Roughly chopped, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Grease a two-quart casserole dish with vegan butter or olive oil, and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the butter. Allow it to melt, then add the onions. Stir once every minute, preventing any sear marks on the onions. Do this for at least 30 minutes, or until a uniform golden brown.
While the onions are caramelizing, cut the potatoes into thin chips, about 1/8th of an inch thick. A mandolin will not only make uniform cuts, but will also speed up the process.
Next, make the bechamel sauce by heating a saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, and allow to melt completely. Add in the flour, and whisk, allowing the flour to bubble gently, but not turn brown. Turn heat to low, add in the oat milk slowly, while continuing to whisk vigorously.
Turn the heat back up to medium-low, and continue whisking until the sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Then, add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and nutritional yeast. Whisk to fully combine.
By this time, your onions should be caramelized, and nice golden brown. Add the balsamic vinegar, and stir until it reduces completely, about 2-3 minutes.
In the buttered casserole dish, layer the potato slices on the bottom. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the layer, and add another layer of potato, seasoning with salt and pepper again. Repeat one more time, for a total of 3 layers of potato.
Pour half of the cream sauce over the potatoes, and then top with all of the balsamic onions. Add another layer of potato, season, and continue layering until you’ve used all the potatoes. Pour the rest of the cream sauce over the top.
Place the casserole dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour, covered, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove the lid, and cook for 15 more minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbling. Let cool slightly for 10 minutes before serving. Just before serving, top with parsley.