June 29, 2010

the perfect summer gratin

Imagine being home alone on a warm summer night, the kitchen all to yourself, and six glorious ounces of fresh, local chevre burning a hole in your pocket. Pour yourself a glass of wine and settle in, folks. You are not going to want to miss this recipe.

My soon-to-be-husband was out for a work happy hour (or five), which meant that the kitchen was mine to do with what I pleased. Which ended up meaning I'd take my time making a dish that I knew I'd love. He's not the world's biggest fan of goat cheese, so I had put this recipe on the "make especially for myself" dockett. And wouldn't you know, I ate every single bite. (Over the course of three meals, that is!)

See this?

This is why I love my mandoline. Don't tell my 11-cup Cuisinart, but I love the mandoline (here's a fancy one) more than my super-charged Cuisinart. It slices and dices into the nicest of pieces, and uses no wattage whatsoever. It can be tucked easily away into a cabinet, no heavy lifting required. Using the mandoline, with its quick back-and-forth motion, lulls me into a near-zen state until I am urgently snapped back into real time as I realize my fingers are getting far too close to that gleaming blade.

So I started off with one fresh squash, picked from my mom's garden the weekend before. I had a good number of purple fingerling potatoes from a local CSA begging to be used, too. While I know their skin is dark purple, I'm always pleasantly surprised to see their vibrant inner patterns.

Enter some fresh, local goat cheese (basic chevre from Pure Luck, worth every penny at about $1 an ounce). Also, notice that beautiful cutting board in the background? My dad made it.
And then, layer it all together with copious amounts of extra-virgin olive oil, and top it off with freshly grated parmesan.

Follow the recipe below, and this is what you get. Don't be fooled; it may look like a mere gratin, but it is So. Much. More. The tang of the goat cheese is balanced nicely by a slight sweetness in the squash; the salty flavor of the parmesan plays off the potatoes just perfectly; the milk melts it all together and you've got a combination of crispy, tender, and smooth. And even though it's a hot dish, it spells out summer. The only thing I'll add next time? A sprig or two of fresh rosemary from the garden.
Potato, Squash, and Goat Cheese Gratin
adapted from the Kitchn

1 medium yellow squash
6 small to medium red potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces goat cheese
salt and pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Use a mandoline or chef's knife to slice the squash and potatoes into very, very thin slices, 1/8-inch or less. Toss the sliced vegetables with the olive oil in a large bowl.

Pour a small drizzle of olive oil in a casserole dish (around 8 or 9 inches square) or pie plate and spread it around the bottom and sides. Place 1/3 of the squash and potato slices in the bottom of the dish—no need to layer them squash-potato-squash-etc.—then season with salt and pepper. Top with half of the goat cheese, scattered evenly in large chunks. Repeat with another 1/3 of the vegetables, seasoning again with salt and pepper and topping with the other 1/2 of the goat cheese. Finish by layering on the final 1/3 of the vegetables and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pour the milk over the entire dish. Top with the parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 15 more minutes, until the top browns.


Elizabeth said...

This sounds amazing! How can you ever go wrong with goat cheese... Mmmmmmm!

Suzanne said...

That looks amazing.

Candace said...

oh. em. gee. so stealing this recipe, nice work Amber! :)

Anonymous said...

farmers cheese would also be a great substitute here.