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Leonardi: Easy and delicious scalloped potatoes
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Leonardi: Easy and delicious scalloped potatoes

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I have to begin with an apology. Last month I somehow left out the main ingredient in my recipe! In my defense, my computer often has a mind of its own and just removes items I have written or jumps from one paragraph to another in a random way. So, in the first sentence of the method section where I listed all the ingredients to mix together, in my first draft, I included broccoli, which since it was a recipe for a broccoli casserole, it seemed rather logical to put that in first. However, somehow in my final draft, it was left out. So, please forgive me for not proofreading it one more time.

Now, for this month’s recipe. I love potatoes. It is hard for me to say it is my favorite because, I love most all vegetables, properly prepared and in season. But it definitely is right up there as one of my favorites. I usually bake them crispy or boil them and then dress them with EVOO but when I was a kid, scalloped potatoes were something I got to enjoy when I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Since it is not an Italian dish, my mother did not make them. Now that I am an adult (for an abundance of decades), I like them for a new reason — they are easy to make. Basically, as with many casseroles, you just do some quick prep work, assemble all the ingredients to mix well and then pop them in the oven to do its work. You can make them hours in advance and then all you have to do is keep them warm or re-heat when dinner is ready. And, of course, they are delicious.

One thing about cooking in the oven, is to coat the dish you are baking the food in with EVOO or a good EVOO-based cooking spray to make the Pyrex or other quality baking pan easier to clean baked-on food off before popping it in the dish washer. Usually, it will come right off with a minimum of scrubbing. Sometimes, if there is still some food stuck to the side or bottom, soaking it overnight really helps to loosen the baked-on food and so that it just practically slides off the next morning. So, my friends, Salute and Buon Appetito!

Bob Leonardi and his wife, Veronica

Bob Leonardi and his wife, Veronica

Bob Leonardi and his wife, Veronica

Scalloped potatoes au gratin with mushroom crumb topping

• Garlic salt, 1 tablespoon

• Freshly ground pepper, half teaspoon

• Heavy cream, 5 cups

• Romano cheese grated, 1 cup

• New red potatoes, 5 pounds

Topping:

• Butter, melted, 8 ounces

• Fresh mushrooms, 10 ounces

• Panko bread crumbs, 4 cups

• Garlic salt, 1 teaspoon

• Green onions, diced 3/4 cup

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix cream, garlic salt, pepper and cheese. Whisk until well blended. Then add potatoes and mix until well coated. Spread this combination evenly in a buttered 12-by-15-inch baking dish or pan. Cover with parchment paper and foil. Bake for an hour.

Mix all topping ingredients. Take out of the oven after an hour and remove the covering from the potato mixture. Cover the cooked potatoes with the topping. Return to the oven, uncovered and bake them for about 5 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. This is a large quantity and would make about 20 servings, so for a smaller group, cut in half or less by reducing the ingredients accordingly.

Bob Leonardi was born and raised in Weedsport, but spent summers on Owasco Lake in Auburn. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, where he cooked for other students to earn extra money, he moved to Florida and started a fine wine and gourmet food store. In a matter of a few years he added a restaurant, upscale catering and event planning to his business, which he ran in Fort Lauderdale for 15 years. He bought and restored Green Shutters restaurant in 1999, running it for 12 years in the spring, summer and fall while being an event planner in the winter. During that time, he was also a food critic and wrote a column for a newspaper called the South Florida Social. He has written his column for The Citizen since 2005 and can be reached by contacting The Citizen or via email at raleonardi@roadrunner.com.

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