Cooking: Janssen’s Temptation

This is one of my favorite family recipes to make. We call it scalloped potatoes, but it’s closer to Janssen’s Temptation — a fish of thinly sliced potatoes and onions, heavily peppered and strongly coated with heavy cream, Gruyere and Reggiano cheese, and a little bit of salt.

It’s amazing. I could eat so much of this myself without trouble at all, and skip most of the rest of the holiday meal of ham and green beans and what have you without difficulty.

When it comes out of the oven, it looks something like this — a browned and crusted casserole dish filled with potatoes sliced and simmering a mix of cream and melted cheese. There’s nothing like it. I’m glad that I learned to make it from my grandmother and mother.

Make a mixture of about 3 cups of heavy cream, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and lots of pepper— maybe a tablespoon or more.

Wash about three pounds of russet potatoes. Peel and slice thinly. Do the same with a large, sweet onion. Grease a baking dish roughly 9×11″. Set the oven for 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Layer potatoes and onions on the sides and bottom of the dish. Add fresh-ground black pepper, thickly grated gruyere cheese and finely-grated reggiano. Layer in more pepper.

Add more layers of pepper, potatoes, onion, and the two kinds of cheese until the dish is full. Pour in the cream-pepper mix. Cook for an hour, set aside and cover while you prepare the rest of the meal. Put the casserole back in the oven to warm up and cook for an additional 20-45 minutes before dinner time alongside the ham, turkey or what-have-you.

Takes almost as long to prepare as to cook. Feeds eight to ten, with some leftovers some of the time. People are either really into this dish or they hate it.

I don’t care. It’s the food of my ancestors, and it’s been a holiday dish since my great-grandmother tried to recreate her Scandinavian village life in America. Grandmother was a little girl speaking Swedish at home and English at school in Brooklyn — and this was the dish she remembered far more than any others.

Happy Easter, oh my ancestors, back to the beginning. May you celebrate and feast in this season, and remember your living descendants.

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