Lately I’ve been cooking like a boss in the woods.
Just because I live in a cabin doesn’t mean I don’t want to eat well. There’s no plumbing, but I do have an outdoor sink with running water from the neighbor’s pump. There’s a stream with fresh water just down the gully, so rinsing my potatoes is no problem.
There’s a two-burner propane Camp Chef stove and I have both a small electric oven and a small propane oven. The electricity to the cabin is supplied by a rickety piece of romex running across the rickety bridge, but I also have a large generator.
All this adds up to being able to cook effectively on or off the grid. I can make my famous potatoes au gratin with its classic cheese sauce from scratch in the woods.
Since usually the glass dish is scraped clean no matter where I make it, I’ll share my recipe.
Mark’s Twice-Baked Potatoes Au Gratin
5-6 small red potatoes
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (medium or sharp)
2 dashes of white or black pepper
dash of dry mustard powder
- Bake the red potatoes in tin foil at 450 degrees F for 90 minutes. Let them sit in the oven for about 10 minutes after the timer goes off, then take them out and put somewhere where they can cool off without getting condensation on them, like a baker’s cookie rack. I use the oven rack on top of the stove. If you can’t do that, just turn them over once and a while or maybe pat them with a paper towel to keep them dry as they cool.
- Let the potatoes come up to room temperature or even sit in the fridge over night. You can also put them in a metal bowl in ice to hurry the process up, though I always try to plan for that time. The goal is to make them firm and easy to cut.
- When the potatoes are close to being ready, grease a small glass baking dish. I use margarine, though you could use butter or brush it with olive oil. I guess you could even use non-stick spray as long as the potatoes don’t stick to the dish.
- When the potatoes are firm enough to cut, start slicing them and laying the slices into your dish so that they are overlapping. You want to make sure there is plenty of little nooks for the cheese sauce to take up.
- At this point I usually just put a dash of salt and pepper on the naked pan of potatoes.
Instructions: Cheese Sauce
- In a small sauce pan over medium heat, start melting the butter.
- Once the butter is completely melted, whisk in the flour and keep whisking
- Keep whisking just short of it starting to brown and then whisk in the milk.
- Keep whisking until the point where it just starts to thicken. This is the crucial step. Stop too early and you have the consistency of soup. Wait too long and it’s play-doh.
- Turn off the heat and quickly whisk in a couple handfuls (about 2 cups) of shredded cheddar. If you whisked it in too fast, keep whisking. If it’s not melting like you think it should, or you added the cheese too fast, you can always turn the heat back on low.
- The sauce should be nice and smooth if you did it right. Now whisk in a dash of salt, pepper, onion powder and mustard powder. Some people say it tastes better with a dash of garlic powder.
Finishing Up Preparations
|The potatoes seem to soak in the cheese better because they were baked first. Notice the thick slices|
|Ty says “Can I have some, pretty please?”|
It’s rare that there’s any leftovers when I make this, which is why I used to make a double or quadruple batch when I used to entertain large groups of people. The next size up Pyrex baking dish in my little set is just about perfect for a double batch.