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Old rotten potatoes

I love au gratin potatoes. Granted, you'd be hard pressed to find a potato dish that I didn't like, but this one is at the top of the list. It's a dish I've never actually made myself, though. I imagine it's probably because there's a sauce and sauce-making kind of scares me. But ... I've finally found an au gratin potato recipe that I'm just going to have to buckle down and try, if only for the sake of history, tradition, and the preservation of silly names for mundane things.

My mom bought the 1950 edition of Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book at a thrift store. (The original 1950 edition. Not the recent reprint. This one's very obviously got some mileage on it.) She got it because it's the same edition of the book that my grandmother had when my mom was a little girl. Mama now has Grandma's actual Betty Crocker cookbook, so the thrift store copy was handed down to me. After admiring the hip two-tone illustrations and marveling at the mystery that is "Chicken-Tomato Aspic," I got to wondering which recipes my mom remembers her mom making. Turns out au gratin potatoes is one of them.

Betty Crocker calls them "Au Gratin Potatoes," but apparently my granddad called them "Old Rotten Potatoes." (He actually liked them, though.) Unfortunately, my granddad died when I was a baby, so I never got to know him. But I like to think that, if nothing else, we have a taste for potatoes and a sense of humor in common.

So, while I work up the nerve to try a sauce, here's how to make Betty Crocker's Old Rotten Potatoes.

Cheese Sauce

2 to 3 tbsp. butter

2 to 3 tbsp. flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

1 cup milk

1/2 cup American cheese (the book specifies "nippy American cheese.")

Melt the butter on low heat in a heavy saucepan. Blend in flour and seasonings. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in milk. Bring to boil; boil 1 min., stirring constantly. Cook until thickened (for best flavor, cook 10 min.) Blend in cheese. Stir until cheese is melted.

Au Gratin Potatoes

Pour hot Cheese Sauce with mustard in it over layers of hot diced boiled potatoes in casserole. Top with grated cheese. Bake in mod. oven 20 min.