Your Thanksgiving guests are tired of mashed potatoes. Wow them with beautiful stacks of indulgent scalloped potatoes.

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A mainstay on most holiday tables, potatoes play a huge role on Thanksgiving.

While mashed potatoes are often the traditional choice, I’d like to suggest something different: scalloped potato stacks.

These scalloped stacks are perfect for smaller gatherings or one where you want to impress with individual servings. Here’s the thing about scalloped potatoes: They can be the ultimate indulgence. The dish has layers of thinly sliced potatoes that cook in a bath of cream and cheese. And because of its rich flavor, the dish befits most special occasions, not just holidays.

Using the right potatoes and slicing them to the correct thickness are key to creating a dish that holds together and isn’t a soupy mess.

It’s best to use a waxy potato like Yukon Gold or really any yellow-fleshed potato for scalloped potatoes. Russets and baking potatoes are too mealy and would fall apart. Yukon Golds not only have a terrific almost buttery flavor, but they have a medium starch content, which means they won’t crumble when cooked.

When slicing the Yukon Golds, slice them about 1/8-inch thick and uniformly. (It’s OK to leave the skin on, but scrub it first. A mandoline or food processor with the slicing blade works best. Make sure you do a sample slice first. If the potato slices are too thin, they will fall apart. If they’re too thick, they slip and slide when you serve them, even if you let them sit before serving. They also don’t hold together in a firm shape if you want to cut them into neat little stacks as I did in today’s recipe.

Some sources recommend using full-fat ingredients with scalloped potatoes. It’s all a matter of taste and preference. Today’s recipe cuts back on the fat, using cider for a slightly sweet flavor and fat-free and less-sodium chicken broth mixed with low-fat milk.

When it comes to the cheeses, pick ones that melt well. Using a high-flavor cheese such as smoked Gouda means you can use less. Pair that high-flavor cheese with one that is low-fat, but has a little tanginess. Swiss is a good match and balances all the ingredients out. For the reduced-fat Swiss, one that’s 2 percent fat is perfectly fine.

You can serve these scalloped potatoes straight from the dish. But for a impressive presentation, let them firm up some and cut into individual servings.

Cider Scalloped Potatoes

Serves: 12

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 1 percent low-fat milk
  • 1 cup fresh apple cider
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat baby Swiss cheese
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk until blended. Stir in the cider, chicken broth, salt, pepper and nutmeg; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.

Combine the cheeses in a small bowl.

Arrange half of the potato slices in a shallow casserole dish or 11-by-7-inch dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture. Arrange remaining potato slices on top. Pour the cider mixture over the potatoes and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and press the potatoes with a spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2-cup cheese mixture and bake an additional 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Cut into individual stacks or use a biscuit cutter to cut into circles

Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, October 1998. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

Nutrition info: 168 calories (15 percent from fat), 3 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 30 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 202 mg sodium, 11 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber.

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