cheesy potato loveliness. . . oh my still beating heart!

This indulgent gratin of creamy potatoes layered with mushrooms, Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses is the perfect antidote to a grey winter's day. This is adapted from Nigel Slater's Real Food, of which he says that it is better described as "garlic mushrooms and melting cheese in a Parmesan mashed potato crust" . . . and who am I to disagree?

This is a perfect vegetarian main course, served with a green salad or Nigel's suggestion of buttered spinach. It also makes a very satisfying accompaniment to a Sunday roast. 



Serves 4
Skill level: Easy

ingredients:
1.5kg floury potatoes (such as King Edwards et al)
50g butter
100ml hot milk (might as well go for full fat as this is potato heaven)
2 x eggs, beaten
75g fresh Parmesan, grated
350g chestnut mushrooms (also known as brown mushrooms. You don't want the basic white sort as they really don't have much flavour, although I suppose go for them in a pinch but you would need to add mushroom ketchup, which as a traditional condiment much like Worcestershire sauce but without anchovies)
2 x garlic cloves, peeled and sliced paper-thin
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (optional)
200g Gruyere or Fontina

directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas Mark 5 (it is always a good idea to do this as it means that the food is being cooked from the moment it goes in and you get a better crust). 
  2. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. You can either peel them first or boil them in their skins and the skin should tear off quite easily . . . although I would say you need asbestos hands to do this! Well tough hands and a clean t-towel anyway. If you do boil them having peeled them first, you will need to drain them (doh!) and then put back in the pan and put on a really, really low heat to shake off any excess moisture.  
  3. When ready, mash with butter and the hot milk. Stir in the eggs and two thirds of the Parmesan. Don't try to mash the potato in a liquidiser as this does something vile to the texture and the mash becomes really gelatinous! 
  4. While the potatoes are cooking, cut the mushrooms into thick slices or quarters and fry in the butter and garlic until golden and sweet. Don't worry if there is lots of liquid left as you can add this as well. I like to lightly salt mushrooms as they excrete more liquid and you seem (although this could be my imagination) to get more of a mushroom taste and it seems to firm up the texture of the mushrooms. Season with parsley (or herb of choice) and a little salt and pepper. 
  5. Lightly butter a 23cm cake tin or a round baking dish (like those old pate dishes we always seemed to have when we were students!) 
  6. Smooth half the potato mixture over the bottom of the dish, then cube the Gruyere (or other melting cheese) and put this on top of the potato layer. 
  7. Scatter the mushrooms and any of the remaining cooking juices over the cheese layer and then smooth over the remaining potato mixture. Rough up the top surface with a fork and sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan.  
  8. Put into the preheated oven for 30 minutes until the crust is golden. 

tips:
  • Do not buy the awful dried Parmesan that comes in packets or plastic tubs; it is quite vile. Not only does it smell unpleasant it doesn't do much either as far taste is concerned or in texture.
  • Use Pecorino, a sheep's milk cheese, instead of Parmesan. It is very similar in flavour and texture.
 

    3 comments:

    Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

    heavenly!... lovely photo too (and I love your new background!)

    Patricia said...

    So good to see you back !

    Incidentally, I made a similar dish yesterday. I added two bulbs of forence fennel(finely sliced) smoked lardons and roquefort cheese.
    We did eat it on it's own - two plate-fulls, each. whoa !

    Marmaduke Scarlet said...

    It's so nice to back; I've really missed posting!

    Dom, thanks for the comments about the photo. Up to now I have either been using my phone to take photos or friends' pics. But I got a digital camera for Christmas and as I type, I am sitting here with a copy of Digital Photography for Dummies . . . so far a lot of luck and good cropping seems to work for me!

    Patricia - the fennel, lardons and roquefort sounds a brilliant combination - although in my world not much can't be improved by bacon and blue cheese!