“Do-si-do your podna!” (Wait a minute! Yo tellin’ this ole Potato ho what to do?”)
I have taken time out from a busy schedule – organizing and preparing for a trip to New York, pressuring our apartment building’s Management to finally repair the leaks in the basement and apartment hunting, among all the rest – to participate in this month’s Potato Ho Down. A bit of fun in the middle of a hectic and not always amusing period in my life (“J’en ai gros sur la patate!”).
The Potato Ho Down was a fabulous idea thought up by Cathy of Noble Pig to bring food bloggers together around one common food : the noble potato. Each month the adventurous create or recreate a recipe based on or around the potato. What a great way to inspire, to bring like-minded souls together and to have a bit of fun.
March’s Ho Down is hosted by Krysta of Evil Chef Mom and I have decided to participate thanks to a little urging and a very kind invitation from Elra of Elra’s Baking.
My first idea was to offer something that was quintessentially French and I had a wonderful idea for a most elegant dish, but with my trip to the States looming and hopping out to visit apartments, I decided to put that idea off until next month. Instead, I came up with a beautiful albeit more rustic dish, although elegant in it’s own way. It allowed me to combine some very French, including the most local of, ingredients in a very French plat : un Clafoutis de Pommes de Terre Ratte, Asperges et Bleu d’Auvergne servi avec une Salade de Mâche Nantaise et une Vinaigrette d’Orange. In other words : A Potato, Asparagus and Blue Cheese Flan served with a Lamb’s Lettuce Salad with Orange Vinaigrette.
A clafoutis is a milk/cream and egg base flan type dish, thickened with a bit of flour or cornstarch, most familiar to us in its sweet form prepared with cherries. It is similar to a quiche, but without the crust, and is just as versatile. Quite a while ago, I was entranced by the photos in a cookbook by chef Christophe Felder “Les Clafoutis de Christophe”, filled with enticing recipes for all kinds of original clafoutis, both sweet and savory, and brought it home. When I had the idea of creating a dish around potatoes, knowing I wanted to combine them with asparagus and blue cheese, I decided to trust Christophe with the basic flan recipe. Wise choice!
Rattes are a variety of the tiny Grenaille potatoes grown locally on the Island of Noirmoutier near where I live. A small, firm, flavorful potato, it is ideal for this dish. The asparagus come from the Loire Valley, also local. My Frenchman and cheese aficionado confirmed my choice of a strong blue cheese to pair with the vegetables and balance the mild flavor of the flan itself, and of course I decided on my personal favorite, a bleu d’Auvergne, although not local it is delicious, creamy and flavorful without being as salty as Roquefort.
I paired it with a wonderful salad of very local mâche nantaise, lamb’s lettuce grown in Nantes, and dressed with a fabulous Orange Vinaigrette. You will find this recipe on the following post in a couple of days!
CLAFOUTIS OF RATTE POTATOES, ASPARAGUS AND BLEU D’AUVERGNE
10 oz (300 g) small, firm potatoes (Grenailles) or more, as desired
1 bouquet or bunch of slender, green asparagus
7 – 10 oz (200 – 300 g) flavorful blue cheese (bleu d’Auvergne, for example) *
2 whole large eggs + 2 yolks
1 cup (250 ml) milk *
1 cup (250 ml) cream *
1 Tbs (10 g) Maïzena or cornstarch
large pinch salt + fresh black pepper
* I used ½ cup (125 ml) of light cream and 1 ½ cups (375 ml) low-fat milk, mainly because it was the only cream I found in my refrigerator and the only milk I had in the house. It made an incredibly light, smooth and creamy flan once cooked which we all found perfect.
Precook the potatoes, peeled if desired or necessary, until tender but still firm (you do not want mush). Precook the asparagus in gently boiling water until the stalks are just tender; again, do not overcook or the tips will fall apart. Set aside while preparing the rest.
Preheat the oven to 465°F (240°C) hot oven. Generously butter a 10-inch (25 cm) round pan or baking dish with sides at least ¾-inch (2 cm) high. Cover the bottoms and sides with fine breadcrumbs as you would flour a pan for a cake.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and the egg yolks until well blended. Gradually whisk in the cornstarch until completely dissolved into the eggs. Whisk in the milk and cream then pepper generously and mix in a pinch of salt.
Slice the potatoes into coins and layer them on the bottom of the prepared pan.
Crumble or chop up the blue cheese, as much as desired (be careful not to add so much that the strong flavor of the cheese hides the more delicate flavors of the potatoes and asparagus. This also depends on how salty the cheese you choose is) and sprinkle it evenly all over the layer of potatoes.
Slice the cooked asparagus into 1- or 2-inch (2- to 4- cm) pieces and spread evenly over the other ingredients in the pan.
Pour the whisked clafoutis batter over the vegetables and cheese.
Pop in the preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the clafoutis is puffed up and browned.
Remove from oven and serve hot with a salad. I would say that this serves 6 as a first course with salad or 4 as a main course with salad and bread.
BON APPETIT! Et NE LÂCHEZ PAS LA PATATE! (“Don’t give up!”)