Thursday, April 29, 2010

CSA week 20 - Beet, dandelion and potato gratin

I think this is officially the last of the CSA dishes for this year. Well, I've got some turnips left, but two weeks after the last delivery is probably a good place to stop counting. I think I'll do a full wrap-up post for the year some time this weekend after I've thought it over for a bit.

I was hoping to do something with the dandelion greens separately--a Sephardic soup--but I wasn't able to find the Spanish-style corned beef or kosher chorizo to do it up right.

I think the dandelion greens will have a good home here. I found a few beet gratin recipes that used mustard greens and dandelion is a fair approximation.

I'm using potatoes as well in emulation of a recipe by Chef Lance Barto from the restaurant Strings in Denver. When I found his recipe I liked how he layered the two separately for a two-tone effect. And since I've got a few extra potatoes in the pantry to get rid of, why not give it a try?

As isn't unusual with semi-improvised recipes, this didn't work out perfectly and there are lots of possibilities for improvements. I'm just going to tell you what I did instead of writing up some imaginary version; you can adjust as you see fit.

1 bunch dandelion greens
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 handful parsley, cleaned and chopped
3 medium beets, peeled and thinly sliced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups cream
1 cup milk
6 ounces goat cheese
3 ounces Parmesan cheese
salt, pepper and fines herbes to taste (or tarragon and chervil if you don't have a fines herbes blend)
good quality mild red wine vinegar

Step zero, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

I blanched the dandelion greens in boiling water for 3 minutes. Let them cool, then chopped roughly. Then I heated the oil in a medium pan over medium high heat, added the garlic and greens and cooked until aromatic and tender. Moved them to a bowl, let cool and mixed with the parsley.

Nex I heated up the cream and milk in the same medium pot I blanched the greens in. While it was heating I added the goat cheese, forcing it through a slotted spoon to break it up. And I used my microplane to finely grate in 2 ounces of Parmesan cheese. I also added the salt, pepper and herbs at this point. Vigorous stirring and a couple minutes of simmering dissolved most of the cheese but it was still a bit lumpy.

Then I layered the beets on the bottom of the baking dish. My slices were very thin so I got five layers or so out of it.

The dandelion mixture went on next. And the potatoes over that.

I poured the cheese mixture over top, shook and tapped to get out air bubbles and lifted up the edges a bit to get it to seep down through the strata.

45 minutes at 350 degrees with foil over top then I removed the foil, forgot to check the potato for doneness, grated on more Parmesan and topped with a layer of panko bread crumbs. Then back into the oven for another 8 minutes to get it browned and crispy on top. That didn't do the trick but 2-3 more minutes under the broil did.

After 10 minutes of resting, it was time to slice out a piece. The potatoes and beets were a little underdone so back into the oven for 15 minutes. No real change so back for another 20. I'd recommend baking at 400 degrees to try to speed things up if you make this.

OK, after all that baking, I'm really hungry and it's finally ready.
The sauce didn't thicken up much, though. Not enough cheese dissolved in it and nothing absorbant in the solids. I should have added a few eggs in there. The liquid sauce carries the red tint around too so that screws up the cool presentation I was hoping for. Well, it's sort of there. A smaller, deeper pan would have emphasized it more.

Visual aesthetics aside, it tastes great. The potato is pretty much filler, but the combination of the softly sweet beets and salty creamy cheese sauce accented by the garlicy greens and toasty crisp topping is pretty fabulous. A few drops of vinegar adds a tang that brings out the beets flavor and cuts through the fattiness. I can see why so many beet and goat cheese recipes use it. It's a very nice added touch.

The flavors were best a bit before the potato got to the texture I wanted so, if you're going to try making it, best to leave it a little al dente. Also beware the dreaded pink drips of irrevocable staining.

This needs a little more work, but it's definitely in the right neighborhood and good enough to be worth perfecting. I wonder how replacing the potatoes with turnips or radishes would work.


kat said...

So Im wondering if I can cook with the dandelion greens from my own yard or better yet the neighbors yard which is full of them.

Karen said...

This sounds like a good start! Maybe partially pre-roast or boil the potatoes and beets? Separately of course. (I'd suggest yellow or white beets, but then you lose the red-white-green Italian effect). And really try the mustard greens - they're bigger leaves that wilt quickly and don't need all the pre-fussing, so you could probably layer them fresh, which might contain some of the red spread. And perhaps sprinkle some flour between the layers, like in scalloped potatoes? I'd like to try this!

Anonymous said...

I did a chocolate beet cake with my beets. It came out pretty good!

billjac said...

Kat's not coming back to read this, but if anyone else stumbles across this I should mention that backyard dandelions and the Italian red-stem dandelions we got in the CSA are different species. backyard dandelions are probably a bit nastier and given how nasty the Italian sort is, you may not want to bother with them. Also, backyards usually have some chemicals on them that you don't want to eat. So be wary.

Karen, a slightly more tender and less bitter green could have gone in fresh, but if I'm pre-cooking the potatoes and beets then how much extra effort is it to pre-cook the greens too? Then again, both would be tough to slice after partial cooking and would fall right apart if sliced first. Best just to leave them in the oven for a long while probably. Sprinkling flour's a great idea. That will thicken the sauce up nicely without eggs that would really change the character of the dish.

And Anonymous, I've made chocolate beet cake with canned beets (and it was really great). How different was it with fresh beets? Did much beet flavor come through?

Cintia said...

I've never made it with canned beets so I cannot compare. If you do not know its beets, then I don't think you would figure out the secret ingredient...but I could make out a slight beet flavor. I got the recipe from a blog called eggs on sunday.

billjac said...

I took a look at the recipe. I think after simmering beets for 50 minutes, they're pretty hard to distinguish from the canned sort so working about the same in cake make sense. If anyone's still reading, it's an amazingly moist, tasty and arguably relatively not all that bad for you cake. Well worth a try.

Lance Barto said...

Hey all,

Lance from strings here....stumbled upon this....This recipe has one nasty negative effect. Pink gratin. The Best solution I've found yet, is unfortunately a solution for the patient. If you knock down the temp of the oven to around 200*-250* and cook the gratin in a water bath, you can greatly reduce the bleeding, while greatly increasing the cook time. LOVE the addition of dandelion greens. Much love to Aaron for the beet/potato gratin layering technique.


P.S. - We've also added egg yolks tempered into the bechamel before mixing

billjac said...

Personally, I don't mind the pink gratin if it could be made to stay in place near the beets and not bubble up to stain the potatoes. It might work to pour half of a thicker bechamel over the beets, lay down a tight layer of greens, then top with potatoes and the rest of the sauce. It might slide apart on the plate, but the whites should stay white.