Tag Archives: potato

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. 

Holiday Sides: Root Vegetable Gratin

root vegetable gratin tastefood

~ Root Vegetable Gratin with Sweet Potato, Red Potato and Rutabaga ~

My cheese and potato loving family loves a good gratin. I use a simple method of layering thinly sliced potatoes with a rich garlic infused sour cream and shredded Gruyere cheese. Simple and, yes, decadent. I switched up my go-to recipe recently when I wanted something more flavorful and nutrient-rich than white spuds. Thinly sliced rutabaga (also known as Swede) and sweet potato were included in the mix, and I switched out the white potatoes for red, which tend to hold their shape more while cooking. The result was a colorfully striated gratin, flecked with sage and thyme, adding their earthy fragrance to the sweet and nutty root vegetables. This is a wonderful side dish, and makes a rustic and festive addition to any holiday table.

Root Vegetable Gratin

Feel free to mix up the root vegetables to your taste. In all there should be about 3 pounds of vegetables.

Serves 8

16 ounces full fat sour cream
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 medium-large red potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 large sweet potato, peeled, about 3/4 pound
1 medium rutabaga, peeled, about 3/4 pound
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, finely grated
1/3 cup heavy cream, or to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Butter an 8 by 10-inch gratin dish.
Whisk the sour cream, garlic, sage, thyme, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl and mix well.
Thinly slice the potatoes and rutabaga, preferably with a mandoline. Arrange half of the red potatoes, overlapping, in the bottom of the gratin dish (there will be about 2 layers). Spread 1/4 of the sour cream over the potatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 of the Gruyere. Cover with the sweet potatoes, overlapping in about 2 layers. Spread with 1/4 of the sour cream and 1/4 of the gruyere. Repeat with the rutabaga, more sour cream and gruyere. Finish with the remaining red potatoes, sour cream and gruyere. Drizzle some of the cream around the edges and in the corners of the gratin without overfilling.
Bake in oven until vegetables are tender and the top of the gratin is brown and bubbling, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Loosely cover gratin with buttered foil if browning too fast.) Serve hot.

Blue Potato Salad with Fresh Mustard and Baby Fennel

mustard blue potato tastefood

Blue Potatoes, Mustard Leaves, Fennel Fronds, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Yesterday was a farmers’ market day and I purchased with my eyes. Nobby purple potatoes, sumptuous lettuce heads, spiky mustard greens and a bouquet of their brilliant yellow flowers. Baby fennel bulbs with frizzy headdresses and a kaleidescope of golf ball-sized heirloom tomatoes.

mustard

When the produce is this fresh and diverse, I let the ingredients do the talking. I made this potato salad to accompany a grilled garlic and spice rubbed tri-tip. Purple potatoes are beautiful and other worldly, resembling prehistoric stones. Their flavor is remarkably mild and creamy despite their blue tinged flesh. For this salad they were boiled until tender and tossed with handfuls of red and green mustard leaves and the frizzy tops of baby fennel. The heat of the potatoes wilted the mustard just enough to tame its pepperiness and released the anise aroma of the fennel fronds. Yellow mustard leaves added a brilliant accent – after all blue and yellow are complimentary colors.

blue potatoes tastefood

Blue Potato Salad with Fresh Mustard and Baby Fennel

The moral of this post is to embrace what you have. Mix and match aromatic herbs such as dill, parsley, mint and chervil to your taste. Any sturdy green is fair game: the warm potatoes will get to work and wilt it into suppliance.

Serves 4

2 pounds purple potatoes
Salt
2 cups spiky mustard leaves, torn in bite-size pieces
1 cup  chopped fennel fronds with leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender but not mushy. Drain and cool slightly. Cut any large potatoes in large bite-sized chunks. Place in a large bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the mustard flowers. Toss and taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste. Before serving scatter the mustard flowers over the potatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Skillet Pizza with Caramelized Fennel, Onions and Salame

fennel pizza tastefood

~ Skillet Pizza with Caramelized Fennel, Onion and Finocchiona Salame ~

I am a sucker for fennel. I love its licorice notes, which add a depth of flavor to any dish or food product it graces. A while back I was invited to participate in a Sandwich Showdown sponsored by Columbus Salame where the task was to create a sandwich using some of Columbus’ newest artisan products. It was then I discovered their Finocchiona salame, a dry Italian salame fragrant with fennel seed, and it instantly became my favorite. I became obsessed with creating a sandwich which highlighted the anise notes of the salame – even to the point of bartering for a precious vial of fennel pollen to use as an extra ingredient. So, I was not surprised to learn  that Columbus’ Finocchiona was a Good Foods Award winner this year. When they asked me to create another recipe for them with Finocchiona to celebrate, I was more than happy to do so. I even had some fennel pollen.

I often make homemade pizza with my pizza stone and an uber-hot oven or grill. With this recipe, I decided to try something different and used a cast-iron skillet instead. It’s another great way to fire up a pizza, and an easy technique if you don’t have a pizza stone. This recipe may be adapted to use with a pizza stone.

fennel pizza slice

Skillet Pizza with Caramelized Fennel, Onion & Finocchiona Salame

Potatoes are an optional ingredient- add or omit to your taste – they add a hearty and rustic component to the pizza.  Use your favorite prepared pizza dough for this recipe. (A recipe may be found here).

Makes 1 (12-inch) pizza.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 small yukon gold potato, very thinly sliced, 1/8-inch thick (optional)
8 ounces prepared pizza dough
1 mozzarella ball, about 7 ounces, thinly sliced
4 ounces thinly sliced fennel salame
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
Chopped Italian parsley
Fennel pollen (optional)

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil and garlic together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Add fennel and onion. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and  red chili flakes. Saute until fennel brightens in color and edges of fennel and onions begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Optional step: If using using potatoes, add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Arrange potatoes in one layer in skillet. Sprinkle with salt. Cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Transfer to a plate.

Heat oven broiler. Stretch out the dough to a 12-inch round. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and swirl around to coat. Lay dough in skillet. Cook over medium heat until the bottom is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip the dough. While the dough continues to cook, brush cooked side with reserved garlic oil. Sprinkle with a little salt. Lay the mozzarella over the dough. Top with potatoes if using. Scatter fennel and onions all over and then top with salame. Sprinkle parmigiano over the pizza and add extra red pepper flakes if desired. When the bottom of the pizza is golden brown, transfer the skillet to oven. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with parsley and fennel pollen, if using.

Cheesy Cauliflower Potato Soup

Cauliflower Potato Soup TasteFood

~Cheesy Cauliflower Potato Soup ~

Making purée, er, soup doesn’t get simpler than this. It began as a purée. I made a light and fluffy Cauliflower and Potato purée to accompany a stew this week.  However there was so much purée left over, I thinned the remainder with extra chicken stock and renamed it soup. It’s clearly all about the cauliflower, thickened with potato and spiked with a little garlic and piquant Pecorino cheese. Add just a little stock and you’ll have a light and airy side dish. Add more stock and you’ll have a satisfying winter soup. And since it’s the holidays I fancified both purée and soup with a generous pinch of gifted truffle salt sprinkled over the top.

Cheesy Cauliflower Potato Soup
Serves 6

2 yukon gold potatoes, about 1 pound
1 medium head cauliflower
4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 quart chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh thyme leaves
Truffle salt (optional)

Peel the potatoes and cut in 1-inch chunks. Cut the cauliflower florets and core in 1-inch pieces. Peel garlic. Smash 3 of the cloves and mince 1 clove. Place potatoes, cauliflower and smashed garlic cloves in a large pot. Cover with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 25  minutes. Drain. Transfer half of the vegetables and butter to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add remaining vegetables. Puree again. Return vegetables to soup pot. Add minced garlic. Add chicken enough chicken broth to achieve desired consistency (the soup should not be too thick). Bring to a simmer and add cheese, stirring to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional cheese and fresh thyme as a garnish. Optional: Sprinkle with truffle salt.

Scandinavian Potato Salad


I call this a Scandinavian Potato Salad, because I discovered this fresh and light-handed potato salad years ago in Denmark. Most likely it was at a frequent family gathering, in the shadow of a thatched roof farmhouse in the Danish countryside, seated at a long wooden table outdoors with the summer sun hanging, as if caught on the hook of the horizon, refusing to sink as evening set in. I know it was summer, because that’s when the potato is at its peak in new-ness and considered not only a staple but a delicacy to be greedily devoured. I was smitten by the salad’s restraint, simply tossed with oil and vinegar and generously showered with fresh snipped herbs from the garden. As an American, my experience with potato salads to that point had been the heavy-handed mayo-egg sort, tasty for sure, but more of a cloak and disguise to the mild-mannered potato. I would prod a fork through those murky salads swathed in cream, sugar and oil  in an attempt to fish out any morsel of potato, which by then had no flavor except that of the coating with which it was blanketed. The Danish potato salad was delightfully different, and appropriately Scandinavian in its understatement and use of fresh ingredients, celebrating the humble potato with a confetti of the garden’s herbs. Most importantly: I could taste the potato.  And when the season’s newest potatoes are available, delicately sweet and faintly redolent of butter and grass, there is nothing as sublime as the taste of potato.

Scandinavian Potato Salad

I refer to this salad as “potatoes and herbes du jour,”  because the combination of herbs is up to your taste and whatever might be growing in your garden. The chili flakes are my contribution to this salad, since I am hopelessly hooked on a little kick of heat. Serves 6.

3 pounds new potatoes or fingerlings, washed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (optional)
3 cups fresh herbs, chopped, such as parsley, mint, dill, oregano, chervil

Bring a large pot of salted water and the potatoes to a boil. Cook until tender but not mushy. Drain. If using larger potatoes, cool slightly, then cut in 3/4-inch chunks. Toss with oil, vinegar, scallions, garlic, salt, pepper and optional chili flakes. Cool completely. Before serving, add fresh herbs and mix well. If salad is too dry, add additional olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

For more Scandinavian inspiration, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Red Berry Soup
Spiced Meatballs with Cranberry Compote, Yogurt and Dill
Shrimp and Dill Open-Face Sandwich (Smørrebrød)

 

Cauliflower Purée

~ Cauliflower, Celery Root, Garlic, Thyme ~

Looking for a simple side that’s light and fluffy but not mashed potatoes? This Cauliflower Purée is airy and delicate, a blend of cauliflower and celery root. One potato is added to the mix for a touch of heft and a little starch to prevent the purée from becoming a thick soup. The result is a refined side dish that is a wonderful accompaniment to fish, meat and winter stews.

Cauliflower Purée

The celery root, also known as celeriac, is mildly redolent of celery, and nicely balances the nutty and sweet notes of the cauliflower. Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

1 large head of cauliflower, chopped in 1 inch pieces
1 medium celery root, peeled, chopped in 1 inch pieces
1 large russet potato, peeled, chopped in 1 inch pices
Bouquet garni: 3 thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf tied in cheesecloth
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in large pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Thyme sprigs as garnish

Combine cauliflower, celery root, potatoes and bouquet garni together in a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until all of the vegetables are very tender. Drain and discard bouquet garni. Transfer to a food processor. Add garlic and butter and purée until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to blend. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm, garnished with thyme.

Potato Gratins

Yes, that’s potato gratins in the plural – not singular. I made these last weekend. Not only are they very cute in their individual ramekins, they are also elegantly and cleverly portioned. This ensures that you will be less likely to find yourself gobbling up half a baking dish of gratinéed potatoes or wrestling your child for the last crunchy cheesy corner stuck to the rim. Just saying. It happens.

Potato Gratins

A mandoline works best for thinly slicing the potatoes. Keep the skins on for extra nutrients and texture to balance out all of the cheesy goodness. Makes 8.

Unsalted butter
2 cups full-fat sour cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds small white, Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, very thinly sliced – no more than 1/8 inch thick
8 ounces grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 8 3/4-cup ramekins. Whisk sour cream, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper together in a bowl. Arrange 2 layers of potatoes overlapping in ramekins. Top with a heaping teaspoon of sour cream, spreading to cover the potatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat layering process, occasionally sprinkling with additional salt and pepper, until ramekins are full, gently pressing down on each layer. Finish with a layer of sour cream and grated cheeese. Arrange ramekins on a baking tray. Bake until potatoes are tender and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 hour. (If top browns before potatoes are fully cooked, lightly cover with foil to prevent burning.) Serve hot.

Sweet and Red Potato Mash

~ Sweet Potatoes, Red Bliss Potatoes and Celery Root Mash ~

It’s the time of year for soft and fluffy things. This applies to our food as well as our clothes.  As we wrap ourselves in wool and light the fire, we contemplate sating meals to comfort and fill our bellies. This simple side will do just that. Sweet and red potatoes are smashed together with celery root in a rustic rendition of fluffy mashed potatoes. Faintly sweet with potato and redolent of roasted garlic, this savory side is mellow and rich, promising to warm us as much on the inside as our fleece is protecting us on the outside.

Sweet and Red Potato Mash

Whole milk Greek style yogurt adds body and creaminess without excess fat to the potatoes. If you prefer extra richness, substitute sour cream for the yogurt. Serves 4-6.

2 pounds red potatoes with skin, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 pound sweet potato, peeled, cut in 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound celery root (celeriac), peeled, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, divided
Salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Sage leaves for garnish

Combine potatoes and celery root in a large pot. Peel and smash 3 garlic cloves. Add to the pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are very soft. Drain. Return to pot and cool slightly. Mince the remaining garlic and add to the potatoes. Add butter and yogurt. Mash with a potato masher to desired consistency. Stir in cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, garnished with chopped sage leaves.

Simple Sides: Warm Potato and Chive Salad

~ Potatoes, Chives, Garlic, Sea Salt ~

This simple salad is warm and cool at once. Roasted baby potatoes, hot from the oven, are tossed with garlic and fresh chives. The heat of the potatoes releases the aromas of the garlic and herbs, creating a warm yet fresh potato salad, with a minimum of ingredients and little effort. This is a perfect side dish to accompany grilled food. Summer dinners shouldn’t be any more complicated than this.

Warm Potato and Chive Salad
Feel free to mix in other fresh herbs such as mint, parsley or dill to your taste.
Serves 6.

2 pounds new or small potatoes, with skin
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch chives, snipped in 1/2 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Arrange potatoes in one layer on a rimmed baking pan. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the potatoes, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Roast in oven until cooked through, about 1 hour. Transfer potatoes to a serving bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Toss to combine. Scatter the chives over the potatoes. Toss and serve warm or at room temperature.