Sunday, April 17, 2011

Potatoes Ugh Rotten

Late last year I won a cheese recipe calendar from the wonderfully cheesy people at the site formerly known as We Work For Cauliflower, hosted by Nicky, Mike and - occasionally - Jepeto and in honour of such honour, I declared I would make the recipe that correlated with each month and write a review of same.

It’s April and this month's cheese calendar recipe is "Potatoes Au Gratin" (for those of you who are not familiar with the French language, it is pronounced - more or less - "potatoes aw-grat-eh" and not as indicated in the title of this post). And I’m so proud that I have beaten the end-of-the-month review publishing deadline that I had imposed upon myself.

Yay me!

I had a few little problems with this recipe.  First and foremost was the cheese – no such animal exists on this rock – but the substitute (as suggested by Nicky) is just as good.  Secondly, I did not have, nor could I find, the potatoes that were called for in the recipe. No worries – I used a ‘cousin’ spud which worked just fine. Thirdly, the size of the casserole dish seemed a little large and I thought there might have been a typo. I was so wrong.  I now have a bowl full of potato slices wallowing in water in my fridge, awaiting their fate to one of my many other torturous cooking methods.

The most fretful part of this recipe is – at least for me – that it calls for “thinly sliced” ingredients. Since no one here personally knows me, I love to cook but I am an absolute klutz when it comes sharp objects, particularly knives. So to avoid possible future visits to the E.R. (which I have done quarterly on several occasions in Canada - something one would wish to avoid here), I previously purchased a mandolin – and no, it is not the stringed instrument so don’t even try to play Going to California on one.  It was definitely worth the price (an upper end model), even though I once almost sliced off the entire end of one of my pinkie fingers.

Moving on.

This is a very simple recipe, very tasty and would make a great side for any main entrée. So, without further adieu, I present:

Potatoes Au Gratin
Ingredients:
  • 3 tblsp butter
  • 2 leeks (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced *
  • 8 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced **
  • 7 oz. Oka cheese ***
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a skillet, sauté leeks in butter with salt and pepper, stirring occasionally until softened – about 12 minutes. Scrape into bowl and set aside (yeah, right, like I need another dish to clean – just get it off the heat and leave it in the pan until you need it).
  • Generously butter (or grease) the bottom of a 10-cup casserole dish. Layer ¼ of the potatoes along the bottom, then spread ¼ of the leek mixture on top. Repeat layering 3 times. Cover with foil.
  • Bake on bottom rack of oven until potatoes are tender (about 1 and ½ hours).
  • Remove (cut) rind off cheese and slice into thin pieces.
  • When potatoes are tender, remove from oven, increase temperature to 450 degrees, cover potatoes with cheese.
  • When the oven has reached the higher temperature, bake potatoes (uncovered) until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes.

*Sometimes leeks collect soil or sand in between their shoots (or leaves) as they grow. It has been suggested that you wash them before cooking: cut the shaft lengthwise to loosen the leaves and rinse in water. For this recipe, I used three leeks instead of two – even though they taste like onions, they aren’t nearly as strong but I liked the extra ‘oomph’.

**Since I could not find the Yukon golds, I just used red potatoes. And as for peeling them, forget about it (unless you don’t like the skins) – the skins are full of vitamin C, so just scrub your potatoes well if you don’t want to peel them.

***As I indicated, we do not get Oka cheese here but I found that Gruyere is an excellent substitute.

If you use all the potatoes called for in the recipe, you will need that larger casserole dish.  Personally, I like a crispy top on such dishes and used a rectangular vessel and tried to toast the potatoes before I added the cheese.  Unfortunately the visualisation électroniques foutues (pardonnez mon francais) on my oven heated up and I was unable to read the temp, resulting in slightly overcooked cheese and a overly crisp bottom (not top).  I really gots to gets me a gas range.  Next time I'll just use the broiler.

I vowed to myself that I would cook each recipe of the calendar as it is written (other than necessary substitutions) and so far each recipe is quite good on its own, but there is always room for tweaking if you should feel the need.  I normally use onions in my potato casseroles.  The leeks, though, have a milder flavour and I will probably use them more often.

Next month:  Bacon Quiche  (Does anyone remember, "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche"?  Yeah, right.  If there's bacon involved, they'll eat it!)

;-)

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30 comments:

  1. Good job, 00dozo!

    I would be in the ER.

    I have a mandolin and boy, oh boy, you definitely have to be careful unless you want to served severed digits in your meal.

    Ew.

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  2. Nicely done Dozo!! Like you, I don't dirty another dish for nothing - good call on keeping the leeks in the pan until needed, I do the same thing! :-) Actually, your substitutions sound delish, and I think I'm going to have to try it that way next time.

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  3. That sounds really yummy. I'd have to make it without the leeks, the man of the house won't eat anything that even thinks it's related to onions. I could make it for a potluck tho.

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  4. Reffie: Thanks.

    Having had stitches in all of my digits - mostly from knives - I bought the mandolin thinking it would be "safer". Duh. I took a nice chunk out of my finger but it grew back fine. And since I was slicing a white onion at the time, the digit (or part thereof) was easy to locate and remove.
    ;-)

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  5. Nicky: Thank you, too! I used to watch a lot of cooking shows and they always use the 'other bowl'. WTF? Then again, the person using that bowl isn't necessarily washing it.
    ;-)

    We do get Yukons here but all of the stores were out of them and they can be rather expensive. I think they have a sweeter flavour than the reds, but either will do. I'll have to see if I can get "Murphy" or his mother to bring me some Oka the next time either of them come down.

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  6. Madge: If your hubby likes garlic, he might like this dish - you could always add some garlic to the leeks. I've made variations scalloped potatoes, usually with sauteed brussel sprouts or curly cabbage and chopped cooked bacon. Pot luck works, too!
    ;-)

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  7. I have such a hard time slicing things too, without cutting off my own hand! Maybe I should invest in a mandolin?

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  8. meleah: If you do a lot of slicing, it's worth it. Mine has different blades for different types of cuts (i.e. julienne). I think it also has one for grating, but I haven't used them all yet. Check them out. I'm sure you can find one that will meet your needs and save you a finger (or a hand?).
    ;-)

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  9. I'm okay with thinly slicing potatoes, but grating potatoes? Not if you don't want shredded fingers in the recipe!

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  10. I bow to anyone who cooks from scratch. If it doesn't come with directions on the side of the box it doesn't find its way into this house.

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  11. Boom Boom: I guess you could use it to grate potatoes for latkes and one could use it to shred cabbage and carrots for coleslaw (gah! say that three times fast after a few merlots!)
    ;-)

    The mandolin came with a veggie grabber and glider to keep fingers away from the blades but I wasn't using it when I nipped my finger slicing the onion - I thought the onion was large enough to use my hand. Ooops.

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  12. Jayne: Thanks. I try to keep my meals simple.

    Directions? Like, "Open Other End"?
    ;-)

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  13. I made it as the recipe was written and it was great. I think I like onions more than leeks though. Still, really tasty!

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  14. Linda: If I can get some Oka cheese the next time my friend(s)come down, I will probably repeat this recipe. I prefer onions too, but the leeks were a nice change of pace!

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  15. That sounds very cheesy and very leeky, so I think I'll skip this recipe. Actually, if it were me, I'd probably just make the cheesecake once a month and ignore all the other recipes.

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  16. Great! Thank you. I am definitely getting one!

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  17. Ziva: I'd never had leeks before (as far as I can remember) and rather liked their mild taste. As for the cheesecake, go for it! (But I thought you were trying to lose weight.)
    ;-)

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  18. meleah: Your welcome! Try to get one with the different blades then you can make your own home fries, coleslaw and some other stuff I haven't tried yet.

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  19. I just had lunch and this made me hungry for some second helpings, and/or potatoes. With cheese of course. 'Grats on successful dish!

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  20. CheesyMike: I'm not a huge meat fan and will sometimes cook a veggies dish as a main course. This recipe would be good for that and the leftovers make a great snack or lunch. And thanks! I'm really having fun with the calendar. I'm kinda glad it doesn't include a recipe with blue cheese - still trying to get over that hurdle, though.
    ;-)

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  21. I have never heard of Oka Cheese and "thinly sliced" scares the hell out of me.

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  22. Sue: You probably would not have heard of Oka - nor did I until I met Nicky and the gang at We Work For Cheese, but the Gruyere works. Yeah, I always kinda cringe when "thinly sliced" is mentioned in a recipe.
    ;-)

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  23. I haven't had potatoes au gratin in decades. Now I'm hungry.

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  24. BonyMike: Go forth young man and eat! Get some meat on those bones already. It's an easy recipe. You'll enjoy it, I'm sure.
    ;-)

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  25. Am I guessing right that the mandolin is a kind of manual food processor?

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  26. Alice: Yes, and it's a great gizmo if you have to do a lot of slicing (or if you are clumsy with knives like me).
    ;-)

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  27. Sounds delish!

    MMMM...BACON!

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  28. Jenny: It was quite tasty! And bacon is ALWAYS good! I'm looking forward to a nice Sunday brunch with May's recipe. I might even make mimosas!
    ;-)

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  29. Potatoes are a no-brainer for me -- I will eat them any way they're prepared...the recipe sounded yum.

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  30. IWW: I used to hate potatoes growing up, probably because I only had them prepared one way (boiled) and mashed only on holidays. Then I got old enought to cook and I started to love them. This is a different and tasty recipe. You should try it.
    ;-)

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