Deadlines. As much as I hate having a deadline, because it means I actually have to get something done (and that, ahem, especially applies to work), I work best under pressure. I pride myself on the fact that if there is something that has got to get done, then I’ll get it done. I wrote my PhD dissertation in six weeks - all two-hundred and eleven pages of it. I will stay up all night finishing a talk or measuring residual sugar samples at the winery. And if I know someone is depending on me getting something done, then by God, I’m going to do it!!
But I’m not so good with food blog deadlines. In fact, I am terrible at keeping up with them unless I know that I absolutely have to do them – like when I am the host... why? I don’t know. Perhaps because I gain so much happiness from the very act of cooking and I am only able to enjoy it a few days a week now, so I like to take my time. Or maybe it is really because I refuse to take pictures when it is dark outside, which pretty much restricts my food blog posts to stuff I can cook on the weekends when the light is at least somewhat acceptable – IF I get to cook on the weekend. And IF I can find time during the workday to write the post and the recipe that goes with it (I must get internet access at home...), which unfortunately for me, has not happened this entire week.
While I don’t have the time to participate in many food events these days, aside from Heart of the Matter, of course (yep=hosting!), I used to do them every once in a while. One of my favorites to read about was Paper Chef...where four ingredients are randomly chosen and bloggers around the world send in their recipes combining those ingredients with others and somehow making them into a delicious amalgam of uniquely crafted yummy-ness. Not to mention, I love seeing what other bloggers have come up with using the same ingredients!
I’ve only participated in Paper Chef once before, and it was a long time ago and almost nearly a disaster, but what I enjoyed most about it was that I got to try ingredients that I hadn’t cooked with and combine them in ways that I hadn’t really thought of before (and maybe would never combine them in that way again...). And I was late for that one too.
This month, Ilva from Lucullian Delights has taken over hosting responsibilities for this fabulous event, and the four ingredients chosen were: rutabagas, potatoes, plum tomatoes and bacon. While I missed the deadline and the round-up, this recipe turned out so well that I had to post it anyway. The first thing I thought of when I saw the “final four” was a potato gratin. I adapted the ingredients a bit by using Canadian bacon instead of just plain old bacon (it's healthier!) and used regular on-the-vine tomatoes because I couldn’t find plum tomatoes at the grocery store. While the tomatoes right now are positively appalling (good Lord – they’re mealy pale pink hockey pucks!) and I won’t use anything but cherry tomatoes for the rest of the winter, this recipe was really fairly healthy and delicious and I will definitely be making it again. You could certainly leave off the “pseudo-gremolata” too – I added it in trying to keep with the Paper Chef theme - but it was kind of refreshing atop the richness of the rest of the dish, and both LB and I decided we liked the combination.
Potato-Rutabaga Gratin with Tomato-Lemon Gremolata, serves 6
1 clove garlic, whole
3 tsp. olive oil, divided
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced into rounds
1 large rutabaga, thinly sliced into rounds (see how big in the picture?!)
2 slices of canadian bacon, finely chopped (practically minced, but not quite)
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1/8 tsp of nutmeg
1 ½ cups non-fat milk
1 slice of whole-grain bread
3 tomatoes, chopped (preferably not mealy pale pink hockey pucks)
2 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
1 meyer lemon (or regular lemon), zested
2 tsp. olive oil
a little salt, and a little sugar if you’ve got mealy pale pink hockey pucks
Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub it all along the inside of a casserole dish (I don’t know how big mine was – a medium-sized square that made ~6 side-dish servings!), and reserve it. Add 1 tsp of olive oil, then layer the Yukon golds until they cover the bottom of the dish, slightly overlapping them. Do the same with half of the rutabaga slices. Drizzle the melted butter over the top of the rutabaga and add a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper to the top. Sprinkle on about half of the canadian bacon.
Next, repeat the layers of potatoes and rutabaga. Then salt and pepper the top layer. Heat the milk and nutmeg to boiling over medium-low heat, stirring often. As soon as it boils, pour it over the layers of root veggies. Add the rest of the canadian bacon. Next, pulse the slice of bread in a food processor (I took off the crusts and used a middle slice from a round of seeded whole-wheat sourdough from a local bakery). Once it looks like crumbs, add the remaining 2 tsp. of olive oil and pulse again a few times. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the dish. Place it in the oven and cook for 45 to 50 minutes or until the potatoes and rutabaga are tender and the crumbs are lightly browned.
Meanwhile, mix up the gremolata. Add the chopped tomatoes, parsley, meyer lemon zest and juice from half of the lemon, and olive oil together and mix. Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Serve the potatoes with the gremolata sprinkled over the top or off to the side so that it can be scooted in as desired with every bite.