Friday, March 04, 2005
POTATO CASSEROLE WITH TOMATOES AND MOZZARELLA
Wow, I say. Silly me, I’d been afraid this would be plain and bland. Instead, it tasted as good as or better than the other gratin-type dishes I’ve made, and was twice as easy as any of them. A and I were both impressed. What more do I even need to say? Good old reliable Jack Bishop strikes again to bring us a lovely Sunday night supper (served with green salad on the side).
By the way, you'll probably find that some potatoes stick to the bottom of the baking dish no matter how well you oil it. Don't be alarmed by their brown crustiness! Just gently peel 'em right off with your fingers. They're actually THE BEST PART, like cheesy rosemary potato chips, and in my household at least, it's the prerogative of the cook to secretly munch them as she dishes up the rest of the food.
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 large baking potatoes (about 2 pounds)
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1½ cups)
6 medium plum tomatoes (about 1¼ pounds)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush 1 tablespoon of the oil over a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
2. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil with the rosemary, salt, and plenty of pepper in a small bowl. Scrub the potatoes and slice them into 1/8th-inch-thick rounds (Jack says you can use a mandoline or the slicing blade of a food processor to get them really thin, but I don’t have such fancy-schmancy tools and just did them as thin as I could with a knife), and place them in a big mixing bowl. Drizzle the rosemary-oil mixture over the potatoes and toss them gently (“with your hands,” cautions Jack) to coat them evenly.
3. Line the baking dish with one-third of the potatoes, laying them flat and overlapping the pieces slightly in a pretty tiled pattern. Sprinkle half the mozzarella over the potatoes. Then—whoa, hold on a second, I just now noticed that Jack is asking for the tomatoes to be peeled. I totally skipped this and would recommend you do the same, unless you’re feeling very energetic. We’re leaving the skins on the potatoes already, and so having the skins on the tomatoes will just add to the whole rustic feeling, right? Tomatoes are just such a pain to peel. So anyway, take your my tomatoes and wash them, and peel them or not, and cut them in fourths, and remove the cores and seeds, and dice the flesh. Sprinkle half the tomatoes over the layer of cheese in the casserole, then repeat the layering of potatoes, cheese, and tomatoes one more time. Use the remaining one-third of the potatoes to make a final layer. (Jack notes that at this point the casserole may be covered tightly and refrigerated overnight, but should be brought to room temperature again before being baked.)
4. Bake the casserole for about an hour until the top layer of potatoes is golden brown. Cool it for 5 minutes and serve it hot.
Time: 1½ hours, mostly baking time
POSTSCRIPT, JULY 2007: I added a minced clove of garlic to the rosemary and olive oil mixture in Step 2. Don't know why I never thought of that before, given my adoration for garlic; it was a great addition.