Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Creamy Rosemary Potato Gratin

My mom and The New Basics Cookbook are to blame for my addiction to this incredible, easy potato side dish. Mom used to make it in a huge roasting pan for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and just about any other time it made sense. Then I made it as a vegetarian main dish for the lunch special at The Still Life (served with a simple salad and sometimes half potatoes and half sweet potatoes). The hardest part is cutting potatoes thinly, but the whole thing can be made the day before, cooked halfway, then finished on the day of. If I'm making it ahead, I leave off the parm and bread crumbs, cover it with foil, and cook it for about half an hour. Then just pick up at the sprinkle stage in the directions and cook for about 45 minutes more (uncovered).
It comes with a warning - do not try this if you don't want to crave it on almost every chilly, wintry day.

Creamy Rosemary Potato Gratin
serves 6

3 pounds Russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (sub onion if you can't find shallots)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 8oz block of cream cheese
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 t paprika
salt & pepper to taste
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
  • Preheat the oven to 325. Oil the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
  • Peel and very thinly slice the potatoes. To keep them from turning brown as you work, put the slices in a bowl and toss with 3/4 cup of cream.
  • Melt the butter in a large frying pan then add the shallots and garlic. Saute until soft and just starting to get a brown edge or two.
  • Add the bay leaves, rosemary, remaining cream, cream cheese (break it into little chunks), paprika, salt and pepper. Whisk it until the cream cheese melts and the sauce is smooth.
  • Toss the sauce gently with the potatoes.*
  • Dump everything in the 9x13 pan and smooth out any potatoes that are sticking up. You don't need to do a fancy scalloped potato layering job, but you also don't want major air pockets. 
  • Sprinkle with the Parmesan and then the bread crumbs.
  • Bake until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden and bubbly - a little over an hour.
*To make this on a busy work day, I made the sauce the day before (including the 3/4 cup cream that gets tossed on the pots). Then I warmed up the sauce and slid the sliced potatoes into the pan as I cut them. Worked great and split the prep into two little pockets of time that I had.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Roasted Squash and Leek Gratin

I don't usually choose the vegetarian option for my main dish, but when my mother-in-law served this at a family dinner a while ago I fell in love. Yes, I like just about anything with leeks, but I generally don't like butternut squash (it all goes back to this butternut mole soup I had to make every Friday for months...). This dish is really about the combination of flavors - the sweet-but-not-too-sweet roasty squash, the savory perfectness of the cooked leeks, the tang of the goat cheese, and then the toasted nuts and barley to round it out.
When I make this I think of Rachel Ray because you get the first three steps going all at once (and that's what she's all about - how many pots can you get going at once). So you rush around for 20 to 30 minutes getting everything set up, but then you pop it in the oven for the last 30 minutes and you're relaxed by the time it's ready.

Roasted Squash and Leek Gratin
serves 4 for dinner, 6 to 8 as a side

1 cup pearl barley (measured before cooking)
2 to 3 cups stock
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut bite-sized
2 large leeks
2 T butter
5 oz. goat cheese
1 cup cream
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

  • Get the barley going (it cooks pretty much like rice): Rinse the barley, bring the stock to a boil, add the barley to the stock, cover, reduce the heat so it simmers for about 30 minutes. You can also leave the barley out if you want.
  • Get the squash in the oven: Toss the peeled cubes with salt and pepper and olive oil, spread them out over two cookie sheets, roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. They should be mostly cooked and just starting to brown on the edges.
  • Get the leeks on: Remove the tough green parts and the roots, slice longways and then into thin half-moons, rinse well, saute in the butter until super soft - about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Spread the barley in the bottom of a buttered 9x13 pan.
  • Toss the leeks and squash together gently (the squash might want to fall apart here) and layer over the barley.
  • Dot the top of the casserole with pieces of the goat cheese, then drizzle the cream over everything and sprinkle the hazelnuts on top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.
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