In a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium low heat. Add onions and cook, covered, until tender. Stir in flour until blended; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Gradually stir in milk, soup base, and pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in cream. Reheat just until broth is boiling. Add salt if desired. Combine with potatoes and pour into a greased 9x13" baking dish.
Bake, covered tightly with foil, at 375 for 45 minutes-1 hour.
Remove foil and bake on speed bake for another 45 minutes, until done. Note: If you don't have speed bake, increase the oven temperature to 400. Add cheese to top, if desired, during the final 15 minutes of baking time.
I used to make this recipe for parties a lot!: http://www.cherylsrecipes.net/recipe/chili-dip/ It was super fast and easy.
However, when I found out that I had wheat and soy allergies, I could no longer make it because every single canned chili I can find has soy (along with a lot of preservatives) in it! I am also not a big fan of Velveeta because it is so processed. So I came up with this recipe as a replacement and it is even better, although obviously not as easy! It is still not too difficult though. I will certainly be making it again!
If you would rather used canned chili for the convenience, just use 3 cans of chili in this recipe. Or, if you have a favorite chili recipe (with or without beans), substitute about 6-7 cups of that for this chili.