Under Pressure...

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.

11 comments from you:

glutenfreeforgood said...

Oh, I love that idea -- the Paper Chef food event! And this bacon-rutabaga thingy of yours looks awesome. Rutabagas? Hmmm, I might have to try this.

You wrote 211 pages in 6 weeks?! My gosh, girl, you do thrive under pressure. Wow! I'm impressed.

I just left you a little note on my "seasonal food" post. Check back with me in a day or two. I have a surprise for you. :-)

Have a nice weekend. No pressure!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

That last picture had me wanting to eat this for breakfast.

I work best under pressure too, leaving everything to the last minute and somehow always manage to get things done in time. Apart from, like you, blogging things. However I don't think I could even dream of writing a phd dissertation in six weeks. Much respect!

Ilva said...

oh what a pity...! I like the addition of the tomato-lemon gremolata a lot, well I like it all actually!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

This just looks and sounds so right Michele! Events are really hard for me to. I manage so few. But I have great respect for the folks who are so faithful. My intentions are good . . .

Ann said...

Looks delicious!

PS/ My one and only previous Paper Chef entry was years ago and was also a but of a mess. Plus I was TERRIBLE at photographing food back then. I shudder every time I look at that post. :-)

Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

That looks really yummy. The tomato sauce/side would make it a good celebration-of-summer kind of dish.

Except I don't know if rutabagas are available in the summer. . . .

Michelle said...

Melissa, The rutabagas were great - they added a richness and depth of flavor that pototoes just don't possess. Believe me, if I would have known earlier when I would be defending I would have given myself MUCH more time on my dissertation. I'll come right over and visit your blog to see about this comment then...

Amanda, funny how that works isn't it? I think we can do anything we set our minds too, dear!!

Ilva, I know - I was kind of sad. I had everything done too - just no time to write it up earlier this week. But there were so many other wonderful recipes too, so we all win!

Tanna, well, dear, you ARE a fabulous daring baker too, which I just have not gotten up the guts to do just yet, and THAT is certainly impressive!!

Ann, yeah, I have lots of those types of post in my archives - and pictures - yikes!! But we all learn and learn and get better and better!

Sally, I know - maybe there is some other type of gremolata that would work well with this that would be more seasonally PC...any ideas? Or I might just use it on top of something else...

Eugenia said...

Hi there, from a neighbor (I recently started a food blog called Culinaria Eugenius)! I really like rutabaga and use it to replace carrots in soups and the like. I wonder if you could use diced raw carrot to replace the tomato. Still not seasonally correct, but it would at least not taste like wet cardboard and it would complement the sweetness of the rutabaga.


Eugenia said...

Me again!

Thanks for your comments. Yes, we live in South Eugene and my husband works for the university. I'm happy there's another Eugenius blogging. You'll keep me honest, I hope!

vlb5757 said...

Hey, Michelle-I hate deadlines too. I try my best to be on time but once-in-awhile, I miss them. I blog when I can and cooking has been reduced to that too. Teaching takes up WAY more time than I thought it would. I see why you struggle! The potatoes look really good! They are one of my favorite foods other than bacon. No exactly diet food.

Michelle said...

Eugenia, I'll have to try that next time - sounds good to me!

Vickie dear, Teaching is a full time job even when you're only doing a little. So I hear you! But I bet you're doing a great job. And lucky you - this dish is healthy! So it COULD be diet food!!