This cheesy potato casserole can take you home
This time of year, I get homesick for a home that doesn't exist anymore. My mom is in a nursing home in Maine, far from the rambling West Texas house where I grew up (and which we sold last year), and the closest thing I have to her cooking is an old spiral-bound cookbook and the recipe cards stuffed into it.
One of them is for her scalloped potatoes, a simple dish with onions, butter and cream, baked in a 9-by-13-inch Pyrex dish. I loved it, along with every other potato dish she made (including the best potato salad ever -- although doesn't everybody say that about their mother's?).
Would I change her scalloped potatoes if I made them now? Would a modern sensibility take hold? My questions were answered when I flipped through "The Moosewood Restaurant Table" by the Moosewood Collective (St. Martin's Griffin, 2017) and landed on Scalloped Potatoes and Mushrooms, which struck me as just the right amount of modernization. There's mushroom broth instead of butter or cream, and a layer of mushrooms, onion and red bell pepper between the potatoes.
Best of all, Gruyere cheese gives the dish a crusty top, which might make it fit the technical definition of a gratin, although I'd never apply such a fancy name to something this homey.