Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Not your mama's potato casserole!

Sorry about last night -- I went to a photography discussion and it ran way over time.

So, about that title. I had an enjoyable weekend with a couple friends coming over to help sort through some stuff that we are sending off in a couple of weeks. Anyway, that presented a rather interesting conundrum for dinner. One friend is a lactovegetarian and the other is allergic to most grains, including rice. So what do you feed them?

Did I also mention that it was wet and chilly? I wanted to get the oven going to drive off some of that chill.

Potato-Leek Casserole
4 large potatoes
1 leek
1/2 to 3/4 pound crimini mushrooms
30 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
16 oz sliced American cheese
3 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
~1 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon butter

Slice the potatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Parboil them until they are about halfway done.

Slice the leek into coins. Saut&233; leek and garlic until leek is soft.

Slice the mushrooms. I prefer thick and meaty, but others like thin and melt-in-your-mouth.

Put cheese (reserve 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar), spices, and milk in a large microwavable bowl. Microwave in 1 minute increments, stirring after each time period, until somewhat smooth and creamy.

Layer cheese sauce, potatoes, mushrooms, and leeks in a large casserole dish. Sprinkle reserved cheese over the top of the casserole. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for half an hour or until the potatoes are done and the cheese on top has browned.

Let me start by saying, I cheated on the cheese sauce. I use the American cheese to help make the cheese sauce smooth and creamy without spending huge amounts of time over the stove stirring and stirring and stirring.

I will also admit that my measurements of the milk and spices are approximations. I made the casserole by the seat of my pants, adding stuff until I got the spicy scent I wanted and the cheese texture. I started with about 1/2 cup of milk and added more to the cheese sauce until it was creamy. So you may not need as much milk as I said or you may need more. Also, it depends on how hard your cheddar is.

However, the end result is so totally worth it! I believe potatoes, leeks, and cheese are an amazing flavor team, but when I added in the curry-ish spices, I took it so far beyond the next level, it was unbelievable. Serve it with broccoli (you need a veggie, c'mon!) and it's a well-balanced vegetarian meal with a variety of textures.

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