Simple Potatoes Au Gratin with Sharp Cheddar

For as far back as I can remember, Easter was special in my family.

I grew up overseas in nine different countries, so our traditions had to be flexible and adapt to what was available locally. For example, one year, we lived in Sudan and we dyed Ostrich eggs and then my mom tied bows around the eggs and used them as centerpiece decorations for the Easter table. That’s one of my favorite Easter memories.

My mother would go all out each year and set a beautiful table; she’d carve grapefruits into baskets and fill them with fruit to start each Easter meal. It was a lot of work, but so beautiful to behold.

A pretty Easter table is a must, in my opinion. It’s spring and flowers are blooming and colors are vibrant, so it doesn’t take much to add some sparkle to your tables. If you need some ideas, here are a few:

Dye Easter eggs and once the eggs are dry, use a glitter pen to write the name of each guest or family member on the egg. Then go to a dollar store and buy candle holders to display the egg and use those as place settings. You can buy candle holders of varying heights for a more dramatic look.

A dollar store is a great place to buy festive ribbon and tie it around a napkin with cutlery. If you’re fortunate enough to have daffodils (or another flower) in your yard, tuck a flower under the ribbon.

Try mason jars filled with candy eggs or jelly beans and chocolate bunnies on top; or mason jars filled with jelly beans and daffodils.

If you have a big Easter celebration and use plastic cutlery, I saw an adorable idea on Pinterest: buy green plastic cutlery, use orange napkins to wrap around the cutlery, and tie it all together with green ribbon, so it looked like a carrot. This is an easy idea and a fun job for kids.

Now, on to the food.  In our house, the ham is the centerpiece, but here’s a wonderful side dish to accompany the ham.

My potatoes au gratin are simple to make, there’s no peeling the potatoes. I make them with extra sharp cheddar cheese. If you like cream, cheddar cheese and potatoes, I think you will enjoy these. This dish goes well with beef or lamb, too.

It’s simply layers of thinly sliced potatoes, cooked in heavy cream that is lightly infused with bay leaves and thyme and loaded with cheese. Does that sound heavenly or what?

I hope you enjoy them.

Simple Potatoes Au Gratin with Sharp Cheddar

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 bay leaves

½ teaspoon thyme leaves

4 large Russet potatoes

2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a heavy bottom pot, add butter, heavy cream, bay leaves and thyme leaves. Heat over medium-low heat. Do not use high heat or your cream will curdle. Bring to a light simmer and stir. Reduce to low.

Wash potatoes and thinly slice them. You want potatoes to be as uniform as possible, so if you have a tool, like a mandolin or cheese grater that has a slicer on it, use those.

Grease a 9-inch deep dish pie pan or baking dish with butter.

Place the first layer of potatoes down and add salt and pepper to the tops. Then sprinkle about 1/3 cup of the cheese over potatoes.

Add the next layer or potatoes being sure to add salt and pepper directly on the potatoes. Add about 1/3 cup of cheese on that layer. Repeat this process until you have four layers. Then pour the cream mixture into the baking dish.

Top with remaining cheddar cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Remove foil and bake 5-10 minutes more (test potatoes to be sure they are done. You can insert a toothpick to determine if they are cooked).

Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.

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