"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." Marthe Troly-Curtin

Friday, April 30, 2010

Potato and Sheep's Cheese Casserole

Region: Balkans
Category: Vegetables
Season: Winter
Difficulty: Easy

After its arrival in Spain, the potato made its move east, where, along the Dalmatian coast, the culinary influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire met the influence of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and cooking was tempered by a long association with Venice. We can see the meshing of these culinary influences in local preparations such as this potato casserole which uses smoked bacon, an Austro-Hungarian influence, with sheep's cheese, a Turkic influence, for flavoring the basic potato. This Bosnian-style musaka is influenced by the Greek preparation of the same name; it's a substantial dish and quite appropriate in the winter. For fresh sheep's cheese you can use a young pecorino; it doesn't have to be actually fresh like mozzarella, or you can use soft goat cheese too. This recipe is adapted from Inge Kramarz's The Balkan Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 6 servingsPreparation Time: 1 hour

2 pounds potatoes
1/4 pound smoked slab bacon, cut into small dice
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 pound fresh sheep?s cheese (preferably), crumbled, or kashkaval cheese, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by a few inches, and lightly salt. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat (this will take about 20 minutes) and cook until the potatoes are easily pierced by a skewer, about another 20 minutes. Drain and, when the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. Cut into 1/4-inch thick slices and set aside.

2. In a small skillet cook the bacon, stirring, until crispy brown. Remove with a slotted ladle to paper towels to drain and set aside.

3. Butter a medium-size baking pan with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the butter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons bread crumbs over the bottom of the buttered dish, shaking them all around to coat evenly. Arrange the sliced potatoes around the dish.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

5. In a medium-size skillet melt the remaining butter and stir together with the sheep's cheese until smooth and bubbling over low heat. Stir the crispy bacon, the remaining 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, and dill into the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Continue to stir until creamy. Pour the contents of the skillet evenly over the potatoes. Bake the potatoes for 20 minutes and serve.

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Posted by leksheat 10:01 PM

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