05 June 2014

Scalloped Potatoes & Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

My main goal of these food-based Special Projects is to learn how to bake –initially focusing on some of my favourite foods from my childhood– and, having now covered most of them, it was time to start learning some of Krista's faves. I'd made scalloped potatoes before, so most of my learning this time around was still cake-based.


The potato recipe I used last time was fairly basic (potatoes, cheese, seasonings, and a cream sauce), but something like this seems naked without onions...and mushrooms go very well with onions, especially when they cook down together over low heat.


Back in the 90s I worked at The Shopping Channel and actually bought a few items that I still use today, including a mandoline. Every time I use this thing, I'm impressed with how fast, efficient, and easy it is.


Look how thin this is! I sliced up about seven or eight potatoes faster and thinner than I ever could with a knife.

Handy! But sharp!

Make sure to use that safety cowboy hat thing or you might hurt yourself. I know from experience (and three stitches). Please note: that's not blood, that's oxidized potato juice.

First base, part one.

While the onions and mushrooms continued to cook down, I started the assembly.


We had a little bit of zucchini in the fridge, so I added what was left before adding the first cheese layer.


On another layer of potatoes went the onions and mushrooms. Then, on yet another layer of potatoes, I added some cheese of the La vache qui rit variety. I believe it's hard to overdo the cheese on so many dishes and usually feel there isn't enough. There's also parmesan sprinkled throughout.


Here's the addition that Krista's mom made to customize this dish: breakfast sausages. I browned them after the onions were done, but probably should have put them on a lower layer for easier stacking. Maybe next time.

Ready to bake, part one.

One last layer of cheddar on top, sprinkled with some parmesan, bread crumbs, and oregano, and it was ready for the oven.


Just over an hour at 350° later, it was ready, but there was no time to sit around, I had a cake to bake! As soon as the potatoes went in the oven, I started the cake process...

Return of The Specialist.

Until the day my hands give out and I can't sufficiently mix my cake ingredients with that tool, I'll have no need for a mechanical mixer.

First base, part two.

Slices of pineapple decorated with maraschino cherries atop melted butter and brown sugar is one of the easiest and most retro-looking bakery-based things I've ever done.

Let's take a closer look:

It looks like something from a 1970s American cookbook. And I like it.

By hand.

I suppose I could whisk most of the stuff I use The Specialist for, but I like it too much and it gets the job done.

Ready to bake, part two.

Coincidentally, the cake also needed to bake at 350°, and it timed out perfectly after the prep and dish washing; the cake went in as the potatoes came out.


As though baking itself wasn't challenging enough for me, there was a curveball here I had to successfully hit: flip the cake so that the pineapple is on top (something I might have seriously messed up when I was first experimenting with baking as an adolescent and failing horribly at it, which steered me away from the practice for decades).


The flipping worked! We don't yet have an appropriate serving plate for a cake this big, so I just used a cookie sheet to flip and serve. I don't think I'd ever had this before, so it was hard for me to judge its success –other than it was quite tasty– but Krista was happy (with both dishes), so that was good enough for me.

The recipe I used for the cake is from Sally's Baking Addiction. I might try others just for variety down the road.

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