The Cowgirls’ Guide to Cheese and Potato Gratin

Cowgirls gratin

Posted by Lynda Balslev 

I am not going to lie. I am a cheese fanatic. Those of you who know me already know this. I adore cheese, and relish serving it on pretty boards, tumbled into salads and cooked with gratins, pastas, eggs, you name it. I even call it dessert when given the choice. I think I know a little about cheese, gleaning knowledge from my international life, tasting, favoriting and cooking with locally produced cheese from the various countries I’ve called home and traveled to. People ask me about cheese, seek recommendations, and even pay me to create lavish baskets and wooden boards covered with blocks, rounds, wedges, and slabs of mild, creamy, floral, moldy cheese. And then I met this book: Cowgirl Creamery Cooks and realized that while I know about cheese, the gals at Cowgirl live it. And I envy them.

cowgirl book

Sue Conley and Peggy Smith are the Cowgirls behind the Marin creamery, located in Point Reyes, California. They met in college, and have both worked as chefs in Berkeley restaurants before launching Tomales Bay foods, which promoted West Marin’s farms and dairies to Bay area chefs. From there it was a quick leap to producing their own cheese from locally produced milk from Strauss Family Creamery. Nearly 20 years later, the Cowgirls are known throughout the Bay area and beyond, garnering numerous awards, including the induction into the Guilde des Fromagers.

This book is a great read for cheese lovers and organic food aficionados. Not only is it Conley and Smith’s personal story, it’s a how-to on all things cheese – including tasting, buying, storing, and pairing with 75 recipes and photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. It will entertain and enlighten, and most importantly, leave you very hungry. Here is a taster.

Red Hawk Potato Gratin

Red Hawk is a rich triple-crème washed-rind cheese with a strong aroma and mellow flavor. Camembert may be substituted. Serves 6 to 8.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, julienned
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup heavy cream
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
10 ounces Red Hawk cheese, cut into 16 wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat a cast iron skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. When the butter has melted, add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the cream and half of the Parmesan.

2.Transfer half of the onion-cream mixture to a glass 13 by 9-inch baking dish or casserole. Arrange half the potatoes in an overlapping layer on top of the mixture, and then top with 8 of the Red Hawk wedges. Add the remaining potatoes in an even layer, the remaining half of the Red Hawk, and the remaining onion-cream mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let the casserole cool for 10 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. All opinions are my own. 

14 responses to “The Cowgirls’ Guide to Cheese and Potato Gratin

  1. I love their Mt. Tam cheese from whole foods. I must try this!

  2. Such a wonderful cheese filled recipe to comfort those of us who would like to hold onto summer for just a bit longer! And a stellar cookbook recipe is quite the bonus!

  3. Cowgirls Girl Creamery Cookbook sounds interesting, and must be special if the recipes even somehow resemble the Red Hawk Potato Gratin! Looks a perfect hit dish for winter dinners with company. I’ve put the book on my list!
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. I am trying very hard not to get more cookbooks, but you are making my decision very hard to stick with….

    great book, and you picked a winner – reminded me of a tartiflette, which is definitely one of the tastiest concoctions ever!

  5. I have not bought a new cookbook in a long while, but this one has me intrigued!

  6. Hi, this sounds and looks scrumptious (sp)🙂 Anyway, I do not have any Camembert or the Red Hawk cheese on hand…only mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan. Would you suggest moz or ched with this dish?
    Thank-you!

  7. I’ll have to add this cookbook to my list of things to pick up! I, too, love all things cheese, and I am always looking for new ways to experiment with it.

  8. Hi again, not sure if you reply to comments or not…see above and thanks!

  9. Oh my….what’s not to like here. Simply gorgeous!

  10. Ok, I guess it’s off to the market I go! Thank-you!

  11. How could I resist something as tasty as this has to be…yum.

  12. I absolutely adore Red Hawk!!! I’ve got to make this pronto!!! And I’ll look out for this book. It’s right up my alley!