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So, I was following a recipe in an Amish cookbook that was pretty minimal on details:

Baked Pork Chops

Put a layer of thinly sliced potatoes into a baking dish, and cover them with shredded onions, salt and pepper. Lay over this as many pork chops as needed, seasoned well on both sides. Add enough milk to moisten the ingredients, then bake them at 400° until done.

(note, the rest of the most of the other recipes have ingredient amounts, baking time, etc ... but this is kinda like one of those assembled church / military wives club / etc cookbooks where there's lots of different recipes and some are of a different style)

Now, I admit, I didn't realize until after the pork was cooked that I had set the oven to 350°F and not 400°F ... but as I had remembered problems in the past with cooking potato au gratin before, and it taking a really long time, I opted to use two dishes, so the layered potatoes weren't more than 2 cm (~3/4 inch) thick, and the second dish was au gratin, without the pork, and with cheese added between layers. (I broke out the mandolin, and had maybe 1mm thick slices).

Now, it might've been that because I cut the potatoes so thin that testing for doneness with a knife just didn't work ... so I went and looked up recipes online to see if I could find a pattern between time/temperature/thickness of the potato slices/thickness of the assembled layer ... and I'm at a loss, as there are a lot of recipes that don't even mention what size baking dish to use, so they'd end up with different layered thicknesses, and some don't mention the thicknes of the slices to use.

Is there some formula to use? If there isn't, and I just have to go by sticking a knife in it 'til it comes out easily (or is that a bad test?), are there any tips so it doesn't take almost 2 hrs to cook?

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My guess is that recipes are so hazy on details because different types of potatoes take different amounts of time to cook, the thinness of the slice makes a huge difference, and some people prefer them softer than others. Personally, I just steam them first, then throw 'em in for a half hour to get all the ingredients blended. With meat (pork chops) I'd probably steam them a little less and raise the time to 1 hour, and use a thermometer. –  Aaronut Feb 21 '11 at 16:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Microwave the potatoes before putting them in the oven for about 7 minutes(start with 5 minutes, add 30 seconds every time till done), covered with a little water (very little, couple of spoons full)(potatoes whole or sliced)

Make sure you're not using a 'heavy' oven dish, glass ones can taka a long time to heat up. Place the oven dish into the oven while heating and add a drop of oil. When you put in the potatoes you should hear a little 'hiss' indicating the termperature is right.

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I was hoping for a way to estimate the cooking time, but the pre-cooking would take the guess work out of it, and keep me from lengthening the time every time I pull it out to check it. –  Joe Mar 14 '11 at 2:53
    
Done when the cheese looks the way you like it :D. I usually keep a big slice around to check for doneness. –  Barfieldmv Mar 14 '11 at 7:46

I cut slices of about 0.5 - 0.75 cm and I put them in the oven (with sauce of course) for about 45 - 60 min. If your slices are 2 cm I would try at 1.5 hour, but I have no notice of any formula.

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I find that soaking my sliced potato with the cream or milk or stock depending on the richness you desire with seasoning,melted butter helps. The pregnated potato seems to cook a lot quicker and I will generally cover with foil as the steaming process seems to help as well with time. I still think the knife test is still generally the best as hot spots in the oven may undercook a section in your dish. I don't think slice thickness matters except that thinner creates a better texture and finish appeal on the plate.

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