Monday, 14 January 2013

Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Gratin

The first snow of the year fell overnight, a half hearted affair before the main event happens in a day or two. I fancied something warming and by the look of the chickens who always look bemused when snow falls, they needed something warming too.

The last of the Jerusalem artichokes, a particularly knobbly lot were crying out for the gratin treatment. I decided adding some potatoes would extend the dish so that I would have food for tomorrow and possibly the day after. I peeled the artichokes and potatoes with the chickens in mind, not being too fastidious about taking off a thin amount of peel and while preparing the dish, I boiled up the peelings for a couple of minutes before straining them and taking them up, hot and steamy for the chickens, were they grateful? well if they were they didn't express it.

You will need:
500g or thereabouts of Jerusalem artichokes
500g of potatoes
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
300ml of double cream
300ml of milk
1 tablespoon of rapeseed or olive oil
100g of grated cheese, I used Comté
2 teaspoons of potato flour.
Salt and Pepper

Peel the Jerusalem artichokes and cut into medium chunks, toss in the oil and place in a shallow oven proof dish in a hot oven, 200C for 10 minutes. Roasting the Jerusalem artichokes in this way gives them an extra edge of flavour. Meanwhile peel the potatoes and cut them also into medium chunks, cut up the onion in a similar way. Take the Jerusalem artichokes out of the oven and add the potatoes and onion, toss them about a bit to distribute evenly. Take the cream, milk, seasoning, potato flour and finely grated garlic and mix well, pour the mixture onto the vegetables. Finally sprinkle on the grated cheese, cover with aluminium foil and bake in the oven, now reduced to 180C, for an hour or until the potatoes are nearly tender. Remove the foil and place back in the oven for a further 12 to 15 minutes to form a golden brown crust.

This dish is of course very rich, the use of half cream and half milk does cut down the fat a little and the addition of the potato flour ensures the liquid doesn't split which is more likely when you use cream and milk and not the customary cream alone. When cold, this cooked gratin can be placed in large spoonfuls inside sheets of filo pastry (no need to brush the filo with melted butter in this case) and rolled up into parcels before baking in a hot oven, 200C for 10 to 12 minutes. These parcels make an easy picnic food, though today of all days, picnics feel a very long way off and I shall enjoy my gratin as it is with a crisp salad and some crusty bread.

Another way of using up left over gratin is to incorporate it in a calzone, using the richness of the filling to create something new without adding the extra fat that pastry would include. Simply make up a basic white bread recipe that you might use for making pizza bases (click here for recipe) then having rolled out a portion of the dough after its final period of proving, fill one side of the flat disc of dough with some of the gratin before folding over the other half of the dough and pinching the edge shut. Bake in a hot oven 220C for 15 minutes until well risen and golden brown.

I do occasionally set to and clean this enamel dish to it's original pristine state, but only when my conscience gets the better of me, I am rather fond of the signatures of delicious dishes left behind and always reluctant to clean them off completely.

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