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We were once in Paris on a very cold March day, and we craved comfort food. To some, comfort food means mac and cheese. But to us, comfort food revolves around potatoes. We were walking along Rue de Rivoli, near the Hotel de Ville (city hall), wind-blown and cold, and we saw a line of people at a place called Paul’s. We paused to admire a window of beautiful breads and pastries, and noted that there was also a lunch menu. The dining room was lively, cozy, and the wait staff young and friendly. We both decided on Pommes de Terre (potatoes) Forestiere, which was accompanied by a small green salad and baguette.
The Potatoes Forestiere was a perfect, comforting dish and arrived at the table screaming hot in a lovely oval casserole. It is one of our favorite food memories of Paris among many. Paul’s, we learned is actually a small chain of bakeries and cafes, and they have now established two in Washington, D.C., which we visited in April when we were there for cherry blossom season. So, Paul’s and a cold day in Paris were my initial inspirations for learning to make this rich potato casserole, and then the Idaho Potato Commission Recipe Contest for the Annual Food and Wine Conference gave me the impetus to adapt my recipe for a breakfast entrée.
Follow the Idaho Potato Commission on social media–twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram– for great recipes. Follow the Food and Wine Conference activities on their website, http://www.foodandwineconference.com. Follow the Conference on social media, #FWCon.
You can make this dish in 10 inch tart pan, or a 2 quart oven to table casserole, but for a special breakfast for a group of friends, I decided to make individual portions in a non-stick muffin pan with large cups. The following recipe serves 6, and it is quite easy to prepare if you prep your ingredients and have them at the ready to assemble.
Idaho Russets are perfect for this dish–and I have tried others, including Yukon Gold. Idaho Russets are meaty and have plenty of pronounced potato flavor amongst the flavors of mushrooms, leeks, herbs and cheese in this recipe. They also have low moisture content, so they become tender with this cooking method, but brown beautifully around the edges and on top.
- 4 very large Idaho Russet Potatoes, scrubbed clean and dried, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
- 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, cut into a large dice
- 1/2 medium size leek, cleaned and sliced thinly
- 1 and 1/2 cups finely grated aged cheese (Gruyere, Comte, Manchego or Parmesan are good choices. I used Manchego today)
- 12 tablespoons heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 6 large eggs
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Generously butter the muffin cups.
Slice the potatoes. It is essential that the slices be uniform in thickness, so you can make easy work of this by using your food processor or mandolin. When you use a food processor, you have to trim the potatoes to fit the feed tube, and the shapes will be odd, but the shape really does not matter.
Grate the cheese and set it aside. Strip the fresh thyme leaves from the stems. Clean and chop the mushrooms and leek.
Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter, and when they begin to brown, add the leeks and continue sautéing until the mushrooms are brown and the leeks softened. Remove from the heat.
Assemble by arranging a layer of potato slices in the bottom of each muffin cup. Cover the bottom well. Add a spoonful of mushroom-leek mixture, a pinch of salt, a grind of black pepper, and sprinkle with a heaping tablespoon of grated cheese and a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves. Repeat the layers, compressing the layers as you go. When each cup is full, pour 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of chicken stock over each cup. Top each cup with a tablespoon of grated cheese and a small piece of butter. The butter aids browning.
Cover the muffin pan with foil and bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove he foil. The potatoes are now tender. Place the pan back into the oven and bake for an additional 35 minutes until the tops are deep golden brown. Allow the pan to sit for 10 minutes. This allows them to set up a bit, but they will still be quite hot when served. During those 10 minutes, you can compose your plates–maybe a bit of fresh fruit, a few sprigs of thyme, a slice of good bread.
A few minutes before serving, cook 6 eggs sunny side-up. Run a butter knife around the edges of each muffin cup. Use an off-set spatula to remove the potatoes from each cup and place browned side up on the plate. Top with an egg, and serve.
The potato slices absorb the cream and stock, and there is rich, pronounced potato flavor along with the savory flavors of mushrooms, leeks, herbs and a bit of cheese. It is really luscious once you pierce the egg yolk, and the yolk cloaks the potatoes.