There is lunch and there is dinner. There are many recipes that can be made indifferently for your midday meal or for your evening meal, they have a wild independent spirit, they suit your family needs and moods, they are welcomed anytime. Then, there is a bunch of recipes that are specifically tailored to suit your dinner, just as the potato cheese gateau. It is one of my family staple dishes, I can remember it on our table since I was a child, constant and reliable, with just a few variations, but just for dinner.
In my family we start making the potato cheese gateau around October, it comes along the first signs of the cold weather. There’s a moment when you realize that summer is over, and it is when your mum tells you: guess what I am making for dinner, it looks like ages since the last time we had it. I’m making the potato cheese gateau. And you welcome the gateau with a strange mixture of melancholy and excitement.
The melancholy you experience is the same you feel every time the good things end, just like when summer is over and you see people shutting down they holiday houses at the sea, the first yellow leaves scattered along the alleys and the warm scarf you wrap yourself in when you go out. The excitement is for the cheese oozing from the gateau and the good smell of the fireplace that soon will welcome you home like a warm hug.
If you can identify a moment when you start making the potato cheese gateau, it’s hard to define precisely when you stop. Usually you keep making it until late April, when it will be replaced by tuna loaf, pasta or farro cold salads. You slowly decrease the frequency, and from one day to the other you boil potatoes just to make a colourful cold salad with anchovies, parsley and onion, no more for the gateau. You rise your eyes from the table where you’re peeling the potatoes, look around you and see summer.
As for many other recipes on this blog – especially bracioline al pomodoro – it’s so rooted in my family traditions that… I’ve never made it before. I mean, it’s one of my mum’s pieces de resistance, so I’ve just eaten it so far, until last Sunday.
Its winning point is the filling: cooked ham and mozzarella, smoked ham and blue cheese such as gorgonzola, basically whatever you have in your fridge. Making it time after time you’ll find your favourite combination. As for me, nothing beats smoked ham and gorgonzola. As a matter of fact, though, the best part is the crisp surface.
- 1 kg (2,2 lb) of waxy potatoes
- 4 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 50 g (3 and ½ tablespoons) of butter
- 2 eggs
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Grated nutmeg
- 100 g (3,5 oz) of sweet gorgonzola or your favourite blue cheese
- 60 g (about 10 slices) of cooked ham or smoked ham
- Bread crumbs
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 cm thick slices. Steam in a pressure cooker for about 6 to 7 minutes. Alternatively you can also boil the potatoes, in this case leave them whole, so they will absorb less water.
- Heat oven to 180°C (350°F - Gas Mark 4)
- Put the butter on the bottom of a bowl and mash the potatoes in the bowl.
- Mix the potatoes when they are still hot with butter, eggs, grated Parmigiano, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Grease a 20 cm round baking dish and spoon half of the mashed potatoes on the bottom. Cover the potatoes with ham and pieces of gorgonzola and top with the mashed potatoes.
- Sprinkle the surface with breadcrumbs, then add slivers of butter and bake for about 40 minutes. Finish with 5 minutes of grill to make a crispy surface. Serve warm.
- It's good also the next day, just warm it in the oven.