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Lumpy Gravy, Scalloped Potatoes That Will Not Cook? The Secrets of Starch Revealed

Photo credit: Eva Baughman
Shirley Corriher

Shirley Corriher

Shirley is an instructor, syndicated columnist and author of two award winning cookbooks.

Through the years, I have had many calls about lumpy gravy and an amazing number of “Why wouldn’t my scalloped potatoes cook? The potatoes are rock-hard after two hours.” So, how do potatoes cook? As the potatoes heat, the starch granules in them take in liquid to swell and soften to “cook.” With both lumps and non-cooking potatoes, we are dealing with starch.

Golden Brown Puffed Cheesy Rice Spoon Bread

Golden Brown Puffed Cheesy Rice Spoon Bread Photo credit: Eva Baughman

This is a slightly sophisticated, true comfort food. It is an easy do-ahead casserole that is a gorgeous puffed, golden brown, rice version of macaroni and cheese. This great recipe is a corruption of Damon Lee Fowler’s “Savannah Rice Puff” in his book Damon Lee Fowler’s New Southern Baking.

The cayenne and nutmeg are added to the butter mixture because fats are great flavor carriers. The rice is soft, well puffed, and not rinsed after cooking so that there is enough starch in the mixture to prevent the eggs from curdling. I elected to use Gruyère instead of the traditional cheddar because I wanted a milder flavor from the cheese.

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) and arrange a shelf just below the center of the oven.

2. Spray a 1.9 liter (2-quart) heat-proof casserole with nonstick cooking spray.

3. In a large skillet, melt butter and sauté shallots over medium-low heat until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in scallions and cook another 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in cayenne and nutmeg.

4. In a large mixing bowl, stir the eggs briefly to blend whites and yolks, and then stir in the milk, a little at a time, the cream, rice and cornstarch, 75 grams (1 cup) of the cheese, salt, pepper, and the shallot mixture. Pour into the prepared casserole and sprinkle the remaining 38 grams (1/ 2 cup) cheese on top. Place on the arranged shelf and bake until a rich golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

From Bakewise, by Shirley O. Corriher (Scribner 2008)