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Cooking Fool, Part III: Jalapeño Potatoes Au Gratin

If you are a regular reader, you know about Mr. Smith and I going to the Salt Creek Grille for our big date.

One of the items on their menu is Jalapeño Potatoes Au Gratin. I have never been a huge fan of Potatoes Au Gratin, or Scalloped Potatoes. They just never really did it for me.

That is, until I tasted this version. This version with the added kick of jalapeño. 

Oh my, what a difference that little spicy pepper can make. In one little green move, it takes this from a boring side dish to something you will crave.

Almost immediately, I decided to try to recreate it at home.

Well, as in all things, the intarwebs held the answer.

I was pretty proud of myself for using one of the other sides of my box grater! I do have a mandoline, given to me over a year ago by my father-in-law, but I am terrified of the thing. I have it in the back of the cupboard. I am scared to even touch the thing to move it!

Here is the one I have (left). I absolutely LOVE it. The bonus, one side slides out so you can clean it very easily. It is also dishwasher safe, has rubber grippy feet and a nice hearty handle.

Note: If you have never handled jalapeño peppers, you need to proceed with caution. The inside membranes and the seeds are the fiery parts, so be careful when you are handling them. I can't emphasize this enough, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES! 

I used to medium-sized peppers, which yielded less than the 1/4 cup the recipe called for, but that was the perfect amount of zip for us. If you are into the spicier food, go for it. We aren't that tough.

We had these with a couple of nice steaks, but it would be just as good with some grilled chicken or even pork chops. Throw in a nice salad and you got yourself a lovely Sunday dinner.

Here is the recipe. Feel free to adjust to your taste. I did.

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup leeks, cleaned and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup half & half
4 ozs. cheddar cheese, grated
4 ozs. Monterey Jack, grated

4 large Russet potatoes, peeled, sliced very thin

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in medium pan (I used a medium frying pan). Add jalapeños, leeks, garlic, salt and pepper and saute until tender.

Add cream and half & half and bring to a simmer.

Remove pan from heat and stir in cheddar and monterey jack cheeses, stir to blend thoroughly.

In a large mixing bowl, carefully blend cheese mixture with potatoes. Make sure all the potatoes get good and covered.

Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish (I used an oval dish) with non-stick spray.

Pour potato mixture into baking dish.

Cover tightly with foil and bake 45 minutes.

Remove foil and bake and additional 15 minutes to brown the top.

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