EVENT: Welcome Home Essie Potluck
VENUE: Phoebe’s apartment, obviously
PARTY SIZE: 15
MENU: Root Veggie Gratin (C); Squash and Sprout Orzo Salad (P); Eggplant Parmesan, & Pasta Pomodoro with Ricotta Cream (Jennie); Ginger Salsa (Essie); Tofu (Leora)
MAIN CONTRIBUTOR: Jennie, obviously
We welcomed Essie home from her two year sojourn in Mozambique with a classic rendition of the everybody-contributes dinner party we’ve made a standing tradition in her absence. In this case, we had a little bit more of the socialist mentality than usual. Those of us not coming straight from work brought dishes that were a bit more involved or abundant than those who had had long days. So I spent a couple hours putting together this slightly time-consuming gratin, and Phoebe roasted a garden patch of vegetables to make this Autumn Vegetable Pasta Salad. But it was Jennie who really must have been cooking all afternoon on her day off from the restaurant where she’s a chef–she brought over at least 3 pounds of pasta coated with a slightly creamy tomato sauce and fresh ricotta or sausage for garnish AND an entire pan of Eggplant Parmesan.
This gratin needed to be reheated at Phoebe’s, which doesn’t qualify it as the most ideal contribution to a potluck. But it’s a great side to a dinner party that it doesn’t have to travel to, and I can imagine it as a rich main dish with an interesting salad, or next to some kind of roasted pork or chicken. Either way, it speaks to the season, and it’s now infused not just with the flavors of cream, garlic, and cheese, but also of the sweet taste of dear Essie’s return.
From my kitchen, contributing veggies in cream, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Root Vegetable Gratin
Serves 8 as a side dish
I’ll often make a gratin with a bechamel. Using cream in this case makes the gratin richer but the flavor simultaneously clearer.
1 cup heavy cream
3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 small sweet potato, sliced
1 delicata squash
1 cup sliced small potatoes, such as fingerlings or Yukon Gold
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mixed cheese–I like the combination of gruyere and Parmesan
At least two hours before serving the gratin, combine the cream with the garlic and the thyme in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, watching carefully as cream tends to boil up and over the side of the pot very suddenly. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the flavors steep for 45 minutes or up to 3 hours. Remove the garlic, and, if you have a sieve, strain out the thyme. (If you’ve got any cheesecloth lying about, you can also put the herbs/garlic in a bouquet garni.)
When you’re ready to make the gratin, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Meanwhile, peel the sweet potato and peel and clean out the squash. Cut all the vegetables into very thin slices–you’ll want to halve the sweet potato and the squash lengthwise, but unless the fingerlings are very wide, you can leave them round when you slice.
Toss all the vegetables into the infused ream, using your hands to distribute evenly.
In a 9-inch round pie pan, start to layer them in the pan, moving from the outside in, overlapping each slice with the one before it. This won’t happen very evenly, since you’re working with all different shapes and sizes, but once you’ve got the slices in there, it’ll start to look pretty.
Once you’ve completed a layer, sprinkle it with half the cheese. Repeat the overlapping layering of vegetables, then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover and bake another 25 minutes until the top looks very brown. Serve hot.