Sunday, June 27, 2010

Creamy Potato Tart with Fennel, Leeks and Fresh Garlic

I know it's not the "seasonal" thing to be posting potatoes.  In the oven no less.  But as I said here, summer has not quite settled in yet.  Besides, freshly dug potatoes, no matter the season, are not something I can easily ignore...

Especially when paired with fresh spring goodies like fennel, leeks, and still-moist, just dug, pristine white garlic.  All you need then is the cream.  Okay, half n half, but no less.  If you're watching fat, consider this a once-in-a-while treat. Which it is. Believe me.

The success of this dish is dependent on slicing the potatoes and aromatics very thinly, which I achieved by using a mandoline, an essential tool in any cook's kitchen.  The cream poured around and through the layers is taken up by the potatoes, rendering a tender, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth finished dish.  And although I wanted the taste of freshly chopped parsley here, feel free to experiment with other fresh herbs.

Christine's Creamy Potato Tart with Fennel, Leeks and Fresh Garlic
(print recipe)
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes
1 medium fennel bulb
2 leeks, white and light green parts only
4 cloves garlic
3/4 to 1 cup cream or half n half
olive oil, sea salt, black pepper

Using a very sharp knife and your best cutting skills, or a mandoline for ease of the task, slice the peeled potatoes along their length, the cleaned fennel from the bottom of the bulb to where the fronds begin to form, the leeks from the bottom up to the light green parts, and the garlic cloves along their length. Keep everyone in their separate pile.
Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.
Heat a 10-inch cast iron or other heavy skillet to medium, add a few teaspoons olive oil, tilting the pan to coat, then add the fennel, leeks and garlic and sauté until they are softened but not browned, about 5 - 7 minutes, stirring often.  Remove to a plate, scraping out the pan.
Off heat, add another teaspoon or so of olive oil to the pan and tilt until the oil covers the surface.  Layer the potatoes in an overlapping circle, spiraling in toward the center, until the bottom of the pan is covered. Make two layers of potatoes this way.
Sprinkle the potatoes with a pinch or more of sea salt and a few grindings of black pepper, then spread the aromatic sauté over the top, covering the potatoes completely.
Make two more layers of potatoes on top of the sauté, sprinkle with a bit more sea salt, a few more grinding of black pepper, then pour the cream over and around the layers.
Bake, covered, for 1 hour or until the potatoes are very soft and the tart is bubbly.
Remove the cover and bake 10 minutes longer to brown the top.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, sprinkle with chopped parsley, slice and serve.

Another potato dish I've made is similar but not quite the same as this.  The addition of cream or half n half (really, use the cream) makes the potatoes and sautéed aromatics practically melt in the pan, melding their tastes together. The result is a thinner, smoother, more homogenized, if you will, creation.  It seems like it should be akin to scalloped potatoes, but it isn't. In my humble opinion.

Oops!  I forgot to say that the potatoes should be peeled, the leeks washed and outer layer removed, the garlic peeled, and the fennel washed, fronds and bottom stem removed and any blemishes removed with a vegetable peeler.

Bon appétit!

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