Sunday, October 16, 2005

Spanish Potato-Chorizo Gratin

Baked and yummy! Posted by Picasa

I love reading about food almost as much as cooking and eating it. Recently our chef lent me a book about regional foods of Spain, a large book with lots of pictures. I've been reading it bits at a time.

It brings to mind the trip I took a few years back with two friends. We spent about a week in Madrid, and then did what I like to do best when traveling. We rented a car and just took off in the general direction we wanted to go. We would look for a hotel in whatever town we found ourselves when we decided to stop, staying as long as we wanted.

I like to stay off the superhighways; you meet people and often find better places to eat in small towns or along the side of the road.

One day we were ready for lunch. It was sort of an understood rule that the driver got to choose the lunch spot and I was driving this particular day. Passing what was quite obviously a truck stop, I made a U-turn and went back. Three women entering among all those truckers might have been unusual, but three American women (or more precisely, two American and one English) had to have been a first. We seated ourselves, as the sign directed, but were escorted to a separate dining room, the larger being reserved for truckers only. We had a charming waiter and a great meal. In my journal I noted a potato-chorizo gratin.

Recently I invited friends to give it a try. I am not going to swear that this is the exact same dish, but golly, it sure is tasty.

I used Yukon Gold potatoes, but red potatoes would be equally successful. Baking potatoes get too soft and mealy in a gratin for my taste. Be sure to wash the leeks well; they are good at hiding bits of sand between their layers. If you can find sweet Spanish chorizo (which bears NO resemblance to the hot, fresh Mexican kind). use it. I used slicing pepperoni, which is similar in taste and texture. Manchego is a wonderful mild sheep's milk cheese from Spain, available in cheese and gourmet shops. You could substitute any semi soft sheep cheese, or in a pinch, Danish Havarti. This can be assembled in advance and baked just before serving. Add crusty bread, a glass of wine and a Flamenco CD and you're set for a rustic Spanish dinner.


1-1/2 lb potatoes
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 bunch (3 large) leeks
1/2 lb young Manchego in one wedge
6 oz Spanish chorizo or pepperoni, not too thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 20 minutes, or until just barely tender. Drain and let cool. Cut the root ends off the leeks and cut in half lengthwise. Rinse well and drain. Cut crosswise into 1Ó slices, up to and including the light green part. Discard the tough top dark green leaves. In a skillet cook the leeks in the butter until soft and translucent. Spread on the bottom of a gratin dish or shallow baking pan. Arrange the chorizo or pepperoni on top.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange over the sausage and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the wedge of Manchego on its side (so it is resting on a cut side) and cut off the thin brown top slice. Cut into thin pie-shaped wedges, discarding the bottom brown slice. You can leave the outside brown on the wedges, it is olive oil that was rubbed on during the curing process.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve immediately. Serves 6.


Livi of the Mountain said...

Looks good Alyce, I have a question though, Manchego cheese, I'm not familiar with it and since I live in a small town up in the mountains, I may not be able to find it. What would be a good substitute?


Alyce said...

Livi, you should be able to find havarti in your supermarket, even in a small town. Let me know how it turns out!