Tag Archives: potatoes

Operation Still Too Much Ham: Four-Cheese Potatoes au Gratin with Ham

16 Mar

Slowly but surely, 12 pounds of ham have been whittled down to 3 or 4.  It hasn’t been easy, but damn if it hasn’t been tasty.  I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but that doesn’t mean I’m stuck with sirloin and steak fries – we both know I’m classier than that.  Flush with a pretty decent spread of cheeses in the ice box, I decided that some gooey comfort food was in order following a long weekend that included viewing the region’s best baristas grinding, tamping and pulling at the Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition and putting my body through a gauntlet of court burns and and hipster beer.  Au gratin potatoes sounded like a perfect application and thankfully, my trusty Dean & DeLuca Cookbook provided me with a great starting point for my first attempt at the dish.

Four-cheese Potatoes au Gratin with Ham

(Based on “Gratin Dauphinois” from The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook)

Ingredient rundown:

  • 1 quart milk
  • 3 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • 8 medium low-starch potatoes (I used about 6: half Russet and half Yukon Gold)
  • unsalted butter for buttering the gratin dish
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese (this is where I went with a blend of grated sharp cheddar, provolone, parmesan and ricotta cheeses)
  • 1 1/2 pints heavy cream (I used about a pint due to smaller batch)
  • ~1 cup of cooked ham, sliced thin
  • Breadcrumbs for topping (optional)

How it’s done:

  1. Place the milk and garlic in a large, heavy saucepan. Season with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  3. Peel the potatoes, and slice thinly on a mandoline or plastic vegetable slicer (I had neither and used a nice, sharp santoku. Place potato slices in hot simmering milk, and cook very gently for 10 minutes or so, or just until the potatoes begin to soften.
  4. Immediately drain the potatoes in a colander (reserve milk for another use, if desired). Butter a gratin dish that measures about 12 inch x 10 inch.
  5. Place half the potato slices in the dish, neatly arranged, making sure to sprinkle every single layer of potatoes with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg. When half the potatoes are placed, cover with half of the grated cheese and a layer of  ham. Place the second half of the potato slices, again seasoning with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Top with the remaining ham and other half of the cheese, evenly spread out. Pour the cream over and around the potatoes. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs (again, optional, but I love that extra crunch)
  6. Cover the gratin loosely (with a lid or with aluminum foil). Place in the oven, and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the cream has cooked away. Remove the lid, and place the gratin briefly under the broiler until it’s brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

The simple goodness of ham and cheese with silky sliced potatoes and a bubbly, caramelized, crispy top is pretty hard to beat.  Main dish and/or vegetables entirely optional.  A fork will help.  (ed. note – one night later and the entire dish is gone.  Remember, 43n/89w is a judgement free zone.  At least when it comes to yours truly pigging out.)


Thanksgiving Preamble: Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc w/ (Almost) Famous Bowl

24 Nov

More like a success pile in a happiness bowl.

Thanksgiving is three days away.  The fatness is palpable.  As if I wasn’t already on the way to eating mashed potatoes and turkey for the next two weeks following Thursday’s Glutton Bowl, an aborted pre-Thanksgiving dinner for my roommate and her friends netted us with a fridge full of turkey and mashed potatoes.  You know I had to do my part in chipping away so there will be room for leftovers this weekend.

For any of you out there still unfamiliar with the brilliant Patton Oswalt – get your mind right and rectify that.  One of my favorite bits of his is an inspired exposé of the KFC Famous Bowl.  I’ll let him get you up to speed if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Kind of depressing to think about, but, ultimately, pretty damn tasty for anyone who likes to mix their food together on their plate anyway (guilty as charged).  You, too, can create your  very own failure pile in the sadness bowl of your choosing following (or, heck, during) Thanksgiving by combining your favorite leftovers, topped with a little cheese and gravy in the vessel that suits you best (spork optional).  I went simple with mashed potatoes, diced turkey, turkey gravy, shredded cheese and a secret blend of herbs and spices.  Tonight’s beverage pairing comes from down under in the form of Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine: Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Vitals: Alcohol:13.00%   Acidity:7.10g/L   Residual Sugar:/L   pH:3.42

Vintner’s Notes: “The intensity of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has made this wine style recognizable the world over.  Warm days and cool nights allow us to harvest fruit brimming with aromas and flavors of gooseberry, passion fruit and nectarine.

This dry white wine should be served slightly chilled and can be enjoyed as an aperitif , or partnered with salads and seafood.  It is best drunk while it is young and fresh.”

My take: Pours an extremely pale yellow.  Nose is bright with tropical fruits (I don’t eat enough gooseberries, passion fruit or nectarines to identify them specifically, so I’ll take their word for it).  Tartness hits strong on the palate with a medium mouthfeel that is cut by the lime-like acidity.  The exotic perfume of the nose is somewhat overshadowed by the dominant acidity in the mouth, but this remains a highly drinkable sauvignon blanc that would certainly pair well with seafood that could use the citric acidity.  I might be wrong, but perhaps the winemakers didn’t have the Famous Bowl in mind when they devised this one.

You are what you eat: German(-style) Potato Salad

12 Nov

German Potato Salad

My last name begins with Rein-.  I’m pretty damn German.  Like many American families, however, mine never really embraced its heritage.  Growing up in Wisconsin, things like bratwurst and beer are second nature, but German food in general remains a specialty found at the occasional beer garden or ethnic festival.  It’s something that I want to explore in more detail in the future

I was lucky enough to happen upon a wealth of red and Yukon gold potatoes among other various root vegetables and greens in the form of a CSA box that was left at work (we serve as a pick-up location for an area farm and we get to take home anything that isn’t claimed that day).  After a long day, a hearty serving of potato salad sounded comforting and imminently filling.  I’ve never been a fan of the “old-fashioned” potato salad often found around the upper Midwest that’s doused in mayonnaise and hard-boiled egg so I knew I wanted to do something vinegary and herbaceous.  Some rooting around recipes steered me toward a German-style potato salad with a velvety sauce that is most often served warm.  I was inspired by a recipe in my Dean and Deluca Cookbook that uses a sauce of white vinegar thickened with corn starch for texture.  My MacGyver instincts took over from there.

Dish: German-style Potato Salad

Ingredient Rollcall:

  • red potatoes (small to medium, I used about 8 or 9)
  • vinegar (I used about half a cup, a mix of white and apple cider vinegars)
  • ~1 tbsp sugar
  • ~2 tsp cornstarch, mixed in ~1/4 cup of warm water to make a slurry
  • capers (a couple tablespoons)
  • minced garlic (couple of cloves)
  • bacon drippings (couple tbsp)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • herbes de Provence
  • fresh parsley
  • splash of olive oil

How I do it:

  1. In a large stockpot, boil potatoes in salted water for 12-15 minutes, depending on size, until no longer crispy, but before completely soft.
  2. Drain and let potatoes cool until you can handle them enough to cut into 1/4 inch slices.  I peeled the potatoes, but feel free to leave the skin on.
  3. Toss potatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. In saucepan or skillet, saute garlic in bacon drippings (I would have added diced onion and actual bacon if I had either on hand.  Didn’t feel up to a trip to the store at 12:30am though).
  5. Add vinegar, cornstarch slurry, sugar, herbs and capers and saute until thickened, 5-1o minutes.
  6. Add thickened sauce, along with beaten egg and fresh parsley to potatoes and stir until thick and well-coated.  Reheat if potatoes are no longer warm so egg will thicken.

The sauce should zingy from the vinegar and capers and velvety-smooth as pictured.  This paired well with New Glarus’ Unplugged Old English Porter, itself a soured beer with an acidic kick.  Those with acid refux issues need not apply.  Being German may not be for you.  We love the acid.

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