Tag Archives: Cheese

Mashed Potato, Ham, and Cheese Bake

Mashed Potato, Ham, and Cheese Bake

When do you find yourself reaching for comfort food?  Is it when you are tired or stressed, when the weather is cold and gray, when you aren’t feeling well?  For us, it is really all of the above.  This past week has been a little stressful and rather tiring.  The weather hasn’t been the greatest and I have been fighting a cold.  Luckily, when all of those unfortunate things converge in the space of one week, there is this casserole to make things seem much brighter.

Simple but good quality ingredients

There is nothing fancy about this dish.  It doesn’t use any fancy ingredients, nothing special in the prep, and it doesn’t really even look all that pretty.  However, it tastes really, really good.  It is warm and hearty fare that is great for any time of day.  It makes a nice brunch dish, since much of it can be prepared ahead of time, great as left overs for lunch, and of course, the best comfort food ever for dinner.

Bake sans parmesan and panko layers

To really make this dish stand out, make sure to use the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on.  Choose really good ham, flavorful cheese, and potatoes as fresh as you can get them.  When the casserole comes out of the oven all brown and crunchy on top, loaded with ham, and dripping with melted cheese, you won’t be sorry.

Golden brown and delicious

Mashed Potato, Ham, and Cheese Bake

Recipe adapted from Marc’s Italian neighbor growing up, Maria Paolucci

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb all purpose potatoes

4 tablespoons butter

1 tbls bacon fat (or butter or cooking oil)

8 oz smoked ham steak

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 small sweet onion, finely diced

8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 oz Gruyère cheese, shredded

1 oz Parmesan cheese, finely shredded

1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

To Make:

Scrub potatoes and quarter them (if you have potatoes with tender skins, leave them on, otherwise peel them).  Place potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover by about an inch and bring to a boil.  Boil until tender when pierced with a knife, about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes.  Meanwhile, heat a large skillet and melt the bacon fat.  Add the ham steak and heat until cooked through.  Remove the ham steak from the pan and transfer to a cutting board to cut into bite size pieces.  Add the onions to the juices left in the pan and cook on low until lightly browned (or turn off the heat in the pan and let the onion brown from the residual heat).

Preheat the oven to 450F.  When the potatoes are ready, strain and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and mash until very smooth.  Fold in the Monterey Jack and Gruyère cheeses, along with the ham, onion, and eggs.  Grease a 2-qt baking dish (lard works well) and spread the mixture evenly in the dish.  Top with bread crumbs in one layer and then parmesan in a second layer.  Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese bubbles up on the sides. 

To Serve:

Serve hot and enjoy.  Serves 3-4 as a main course, 6-8 as a side.

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Filed under Breakfast, Dinner, Eggs, Meat, Recipes, Side Dish

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

The weekend is almost here.  Do you have any big plans?  If you are doing any entertaining and need something that is both easy and impressive, look no further than these delicious appetizers.  

Golden and delicious butter

These cheesy, crispy puffs are French so they add instant panache to your appetizer spread.  Plus, they have bacon and everything is better with bacon.  They are light and airy with fluffy insides and, the best part, they are really easy to pull together.

Dough ball

Boil (yes, boil) some butter and water, stir in flour until you get a dough ball that somewhat resembles a thick roux, and then beat in eggs until you get the most beautiful and glossy batter you have ever seen.  Fold in grated Gruyere cheese and crispy hunks of  bacon and you are nearing appetizer nirvana.

Batter after beating the eggs in

Once these beauties come out of oven, all golden and crispy, do your best to wait until your guests arrive before you devour them.

Unbaked puffs

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

Adapted from The Bacon Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 cup water

8 tbls (1 stick) butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

1/2 pound slab bacon, rind removed, finely diced

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

To Make:

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, butter, and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, add the flour, and beat with a wooden spoon till a ball of dough forms.  Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating with an electric mixer on high speed till the batter is just thick enough to hold soft peaks.  Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill briefly.

In a large skillet, fry the bacon dice over moderate heat till crisp and drain on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Butter a large baking dish.  Fold the cheese and bacon into the prepared batter till well blended, then drop by tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake the puffs for 30 minutes, turn off the heat, and let the stand till they are golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.  Serve the puffs warm.

To Serve:

Makes about 36 puffs.  Serves 8-10 as appetizers (or 2 people who can’t stop eating the bacon-y deliciousness).

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Filed under Appetizers, Baked goods, Recipes

Winter Squash Lasagna

Winter Squash Lasagna

 When we blog, we post recipes that we make that are yummy.  Obviously, we don’t post everything we make, we look for dishes that have something interesting or special about them.  This dish is very, very special.  After dinner tonight, we both agreed that this twist on the classic lasagna is one of the most delicious things we have made in quite a while.

Squash ready for roasting

We got the idea for this dish while browsing through one of our Thanksgiving-themed cookbooks.  The author shared a recipe for a pumpkin and sage lasagna that sounded tasty, but was pretty fussy and complicated.  It called for frying sage leaves and for thickly slicing a seeded and peeled pumpkin and sauteing it before making the lasagna.  With two small children in the house, we don’t really have time for that kind of work.

Mashed squash and ricotta

So we decided to go rogue with the recipe and make it our way.  Our way includes a roasted winter squash whose flesh is folded with whole milk ricotta and flavored with dried sage.  Things get simplified with no-bake lasagna noodles.  It also adds mozzarella cheese to the mix and tops the whole dish with a creamy bechamel sauce that is flavored with bay, thyme, parsley, and black pepper.  Once baked, the lasagna is rich and creamy with balanced sweetness from the squash and savory from the cheeses and herbs. 

Construction

Middle layers

         

Ready for the oven

Fresh out of the oven

         

 

 

 We recommend that you head immediately to your nearest market and purchase one of the many delicious in-season winter squashes currently available and make this dish tonight.  I think I might have to go look for leftovers.

Winter Squash Lasagna

Ingredients:

2lbs winter squash such as pumpkin or butternut (do not use spaghetti squash), cut in half and seeded

1 lb ricotta cheese

2 tsp dried sage

2 tsp kosher salt

3 cups milk

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 1/2 tsp dried parsley

6 whole peppercorns

3 tbls butter

1 large clove of garlic, minced

3 tbls flour

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 package no-boil lasagna noodles

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

To Make:

Roast the winter squash in a 400 degree until tender, about 50-60 minutes (depending on the type of squash).  Remove and let cool.  Meanwhile, pour 3 cups of milk in a saucepan.  Cut a square of cheesecloth (about 8 inches) and place the bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and parsley inside.  Gather up the corners to make a packet and tie tightly with twine.  Add the herb packet to the milk and heat over medium heat until gently simmering.  Simmer for 2 minutes (do not let it boil), remove from heat, and let the milk steep for 30 minutes.

Once the squash is cool, scoop out the flesh and place it in a large bowl.  Mash the squash with a potato masher.  Add the ricotta cheese, sage, 1 tsp of salt, and ground pepper to taste.  Fold the mixture together and set aside. 

To make the bechamel sauce, use a 3-4 quart saucepan and melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic and saute until just beginning to brown (about 2 minutes) stirring constantly.  Whisk in the flour and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the raw flour taste is cooked out, about another 2 minutes.  Remove the herb packet from the milk (discard it).  Slowly pour the milk into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly.  Once all the milk has been added, continue to whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes.  Season with remaining tsp of salt and ground nutmeg.

To Assemble:

In a 9×13 casserole, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Place three lasagna noodles crosswise on top of the sauce.  Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture and 2 ounces of the mozzarella.  Place three more noodles in the dish.  Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture, 2 ounces of the mozzarella, and 1/3 of the bechamel sauce.  Repeat the second layer (noodles, the remaining squash, mozzarella).  Top with remaining three noodles, the rest of the bechamel sauce, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, and the grated parmesan.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes and the top is browned and bubbly.

To Serve:

Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.  Garnish with chopped fresh sage leaves with desired.  Serves 8.

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetarian

Blue Cheese Yogurt Dip

Dip with Chip
A Dip Worthy of a Strong Chip

Alex, I’ll take “Party Food” for $600.

A:  This food is something that every chip needs. 

Q:  What is a delicious dip?

I had the guys over for football this past Sunday.  I contemplated serving your run-of-the-mill sour cream dip, but I am not a run-of-the-mill kind of guy.  After having watched Bobby Flay make this dip on Boy Meets Grill, I decided it was time to try something different. 

Dip Unmixed

Ready to Mix

This dip is simple to make, requires only a few ingredients, and is most excellent.  This is a hearty dip that demands a nice thick potato chip to stand up to it.  Also, there’s no reason why only potato chips should get to swim in this dip.  Serve it alongside of a nice steak, stir it into mashed potatoes, use it for crudite, spread it on a burger – the possibilities are endless.

Blue Cheese Yogurt Dip

Adapted from Bobby Flay

Ingredients:

1 Pint Greek Style Yogurt

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

3 scallions, finely chopped

3/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled 

salt and pepper to taste

To Make:

In a bowl fold together the yogurt, red onion, scallions, and blue cheese.  This dip really did benefit from adding salt and pepper to taste.  It should sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.  We made our dip the night before.  The next day, some of the whey had separated out from the yogurt, but a quick stir reintegrated it nicely.

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Filed under Appetizers, Recipes, Vegetarian