Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You Say Potato, I Say "Yes Please!"

I recently joined what I like to call an online ‘food networking’ site- Food 52. Food 52 is the brainchild of 2 food writers who decided to create an online network of talented home cooks- a place to share recipes, network, and learn from each other. Each week, there are 2 recipe contests (winners go into a cookbook!). I’ve decided to jump whole heartedly into these challenges… my own little Iron Chef going on the kitchen. Not only does creating recipes for the contests give me new exciting ideas to play around with in the kitchen, but it also forces me to actually WRITE IT DOWN! As you’ve seen so far, I’m way more of a ‘method’ than ‘recipe’ type a’gal (hence baking being second to cooking in my book). I’m just so spontaneous with cooking- a splash here, a dash there, some more of this, and a drop of that. I come up with some pretty effing good meals, but I’m rarely able to recreate them exactly how they were, or to tell you exactly how to recreate them yourselves. Sometimes even I’m stumped by the secret ingredient in my dishes. Well, thanks to Food 52’s recipe contest, hopefully that will be a thing of the past… at least once or twice a week.

The first contest felt like a sign. Of course this site was meant for me… ‘Your Best Potato Gratin!’ Well, they apparently didn’t realize I had been devouring and making au gratin potatoes for years, and that Mel is a master potato chef. I came up with about 8 concepts, all sharing the basic method I learned for Mel’s Au Gratin Potatoes- layer potatoes, flour, salt, pepper, cheese, repeat. Cover with milk. Bake. Done. I considered a bacon and green chili with cheddar. A mushroom and potato with Swiss. An ultra creamy. A not so creamy. A blue cheese. A roasted garlic. I finally decided there was no way Evan and I would still love each other if I made 6 dishes of cheesy, ooey, gooey gratin in one night, so I combined a few ideas and settled on one dish- Bacon, Blue, and Roasted Garlic Gratin.

I gratined my little heart out. Carefully measuring, writing things down, taking pictures along the way. I was pretty damn proud of the results. A deep, rich gratin, with smoky caramelized roasted garlic and melty blue cheese, little bits of salty bacon nestled amongst the gooey potato layers and crispy, crunchy top… a sure winner.

I checked back daily for the result, sure that my recipe and mouth watering picture caught someone’s eye. I didn’t make it in the final 2. I didn’t even get an honorable mention! The competition out there apparently is a lot tougher than I thought, with a sweet potato/bacon tied up with a basic potato/leek. Well, I’m going to keep trying. With 2 contests weekly, I’m sure to at least get a nod in my direction, right? Even if I don’t, hopefully you’ll enjoy the recipes! As long as I get your mouths watering, I’ll consider myself a winner...and if I ever make it to the final two, send your votes my way!

Roasted Garlic, Blue Cheese, and Bacon Gratin

1 head garlic
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 slices bacon
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
3 russet potatoes
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter

For Garlic:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Peel off outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, while still leaving the head of garlic intact and whole. Cut off the top of cloves.
3. Place garlic head in a ramekin or small baking dish, allowing it to stand upright
4. Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil over garlic, Cover with aluminum foil.
5. Bake at 400°F for 35 minute
6. Cool to room temperature, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins, mash with a fork.

For the Potatoes:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Fry bacon, cool, and dice
3. Peel potatoes, and slice thinly
4. Butter gratin dish (8x8 glass baking dish will work)
5. In baking dish, place one layer of potato slices, sprinkle with 1/3rd blue cheese, 1/3rd bacon, 1/3rd mashed garlic, 1 tbsp flour, dot with 1/3rd butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper
6. Repeat with remaining potatoes, cheese, bacon, flour, butter, and garlic.
7. Pour 1 ½ cups half n half over top
8. Cover with foil
9. Bake at 400°F for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 20-30 more minutes.
10. Let gratin set for 10 minutes before eating.
11. Enjoy!
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