Thursday, October 2, 2014

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes with Spinach

Scalloped potatoes is one of those ur-comfort dishes: just the name conjures up images of a lipsticked, be-pearled, and manicured mom bustling around in an apron while dad reads the paper in his armchair and Buddy and Sis keep busy with whatever the hell Buddy and Sis do, before they're all called to the impeccably set (on a weeknight!) family table.

Of course, the reality - then as now, in all likelihood, although it wasn't necessarily reflected in popular culture - is that everyone is running in opposite directions, and the dining room table, if it even exists, is more apt to be covered in unopened mail, neglected projects, and random crap than a tablecloth, china, and silverware. In fact, there are days when mealtimes feel (and maybe even look) like this:

(I assume her martini glass is obscured by the smoke.)

But even if our daily lives bear precious little resemblance to those of the Cleavers, the Nelsons, or indeed the Huxtables (who had two careers, five kids, and an improbably tidy house), a dinner featuring scalloped potatoes makes everything seem just as it should be. My updated take on this old-school classic uses pureed cashews for creaminess and protein, with some spinach thrown in for color and a gesture towards "vegetables" without undoing that podgy vibe so important to a dish like this.

Because you know what? It's never too late to have a happy childhood, and there's no better place to start than with a great big pan of golden, bubbling carbohydrates!

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes with Spinach
~ 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water for at least an hour
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 1 small onion, diced
~ 1 fat clove garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 2 tbsp. chopped, fresh sage (1 tsp. dried)
~ ½ tsp. white pepper
~ Dash mace
~ ½ lb. frozen spinach, thawed
~ 2.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
~ 5 large Yukon gold potatoes, sliced very thin (about 1/8” inch)
~ 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or (my recommendation) crushed Ritz crackers 

~ Grease a 9 x 13” baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ In a large, deep skillet, melt the margarine and cook the onions over medium heat until quite soft, about 10 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, sage, salt, white pepper, mace, and spinach. Continue cooking about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted.
~ In a food processor or blender, puree the drained, soaked cashews with the soy milk and the nutritional yeast until smooth.~ Add the pureed mixture to the onions and spinach, combine thoroughly, and cook about 5-7 minutes longer.
~ Ladle about a scant cup of the sauce into the bottom of your greased casserole, and line the pan with half of the potato slices, making sure they overlap without any gaps.
~  Pour half the sauce over the potatoes, and then layer the remaining potatoes over that. Pour on the rest of the sauce, smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle breadcrumbs or crushed crackers over the top.
~ Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil, hit the topping whit a shot of cooking spray, and cook about 15 minutes longer, until browned and bubbly.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

1 comment:

  1. lol...I do remember plenty of nights when mom was too busy to clear off the table so we got to eat on TV tables and watch the sitcoms with yumful eats like cheesy potatoes and casseroles. Many thanks for the reality check and the recipe! :)