Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Dream Dish

Just to clarify, while this dish is definitely good comfort food, it is nothing that screams "exciting." It is new, and the reason for the "Dream Dish" title is that I first tasted it in a dream I had. Yes, you read that right - I tasted this in a dream, and then wanted to try and make it. Which I did, and both my husband and I liked it a lot. 
Cheese & Tomato Scalloped Potatoes
Cheese & Tomato Scalloped Potatoes

This has never happened to me before, dreaming about a particular food I'd never eaten before. I have dreamed about food before. When as a 20 year old I moved to Guatemala with my (then) new husband, I was homesick. None of the food was familiar. I did like a lot of the food, and came to love most of it as well as learning to make it. But in that first year, I was homesick, and desperately craving all those things I ate when I lived with Mom and Dad. At that time there were no Fast Food restaurants of any kind in Guatemala. I dreamed of fast food burgers, smelling them and tasting them, and then waking to the reality that I wouldn't be having them any time soon. I dreamed of some of Mom's dishes I particularly missed. For those at least, I got recipes and made them, eventually. 

But in all the time since returning to the States in the early 1980s, I do not believe I have ever dreamed of food. So this dream was just so interesting that I just had to see if I could recreate the dish I ate. 

Cheese & Tomato Scalloped Potatoes
Cheese & Tomato Scalloped Potatoes
My memory of the "dream dish" was that it was a potato casserole. The potatoes were sliced thinly, as for scalloped potatoes. It had a sauce that was quite cheesy, and it also had a tomato sauce of some sort mixed in. It was baked in a casserole dish.  

To recreate it, I opted to cook some potatoes whole, peel them (as my husband will not eat potato skins), and slice them thinly. I used my recipe for Decadent Mac and Cheese as a basis for the sauce, since I had all those ingredients. I also had a partially used bottle of spaghetti sauce (yes, even I use store bought at times!) opened in the fridge. All set!

Ultimately, the dish came together easily enough. It tasted very much as my dream memory said it tasted like, and my husband liked it a lot which makes a difference to whether I make it again or not. Just plain comfort food, but there's nothing wrong with that.

Cheese & Tomato Scalloped Potatoes

Serves about 8
Cheese & Tomato Scalloped Potatoes
Cheese & Tomato Scalloped Potatoes

2 1/4 pounds russet or Idaho potatoes
1 tablespoon salt for the cooking water
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 ounce (1/2 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese (not the green cans!)
2 cups prepared spaghetti / marinara sauce, divided

Scrub the whole potatoes and cover them with water in a saucepan. Bring to boil and add in the tablespoon of salt. Cook the potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a thin skewer or knife. Timing will depend on how large the potatoes are. Once cooked through, remove them from water; discard the water. Set the potatoes aside to cool, then peel them.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil and saute the onion slowly, until lightly browned. Add in the garlic and cook for about 3 more minutes to remove the raw garlic taste. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and garlic, stirring until the flour disappears. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Continue to stir, while the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Once thick, reduce heat to low. 

Remove and set aside 1/2 cup of the cheddar and 1/2 cup of the spaghetti / marinara sauce. To the sauce in the pan, add the 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cream cheese, remaining cheddar cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine, and then stir occasionally until the cheeses are all melted and well incorporated. Stir in the 1 1/2 cups of spaghetti / marinara sauce. 

Slice the cooled potatoes and return them to the (empty) pan they were cooked in. Pour the cheese and tomato sauce into the potatoes and stir. (If your skillet is large enough, just put the potatoes into the sauce and mix.) Now pour the contents of the pan into the prepared baking dish. Top with the reserved spaghetti / marinara sauce. Bake the casserole for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is just bubbling. Sprinkle the reserved cheddar over top and bake for another 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (AHOFpin). I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies