Potatoes are an incredibly versatile food. The tuber has a range of varieties to offer, all of which have different levels of starch which create different textures. Some even offer colors. Have you ever eaten a purple potato? They’re similar to my personal favorite, the Yukon Gold Potato. This lovely potato tends to be a bit smaller and more uniform in shape than the classic russet. It also has a slightly lower starch content, which translates to a potato that holds its shape a bit better and that slices into discs that are closer to the same size.
Why is all of this so important? For me, it matters mostly because my personal favorite potato dishes involve discs of potatoes creating a structure that goes in the oven: gratins and cakes. Really, you could argue that a gratin is a cake, though there are some subtle differences. For a gratin to be a gratin, it has to be browned in the oven somehow. This requires the presence of fat and starch in the form of sugar, and is often achieved with butter, eggs, and/or milk. A potato cake, however, is just items layered in a pan that will form something cake-like upon cooking. Yes, my particular potato cake is browned on the top, and thus is technically a gratin.
The most recent potato cake we made involved a ridiculous amount of onions, a couple of pieces of bacon, a bit of butter and garlic, and, of course, potatoes.
What’s your favorite way to eat this starchy tuber?
Onion Potato Cake
- 3 – 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, preferrably of the same size, sliced into 1/4 inch discs
- 3 – 4 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
- 3 – 4 cloves garlic minced or sliced
- 2 – 3 slices bacon chopped
- 2 – 3 tablespoons butter
- salt, pepper, & herbs to taste
Cook the bacon to your liking (I like it chewer while my husband prefers crunch bacon; we often end up compromising), pull out of the pan, and save the grease. Add the onions, a bit of salt, and saute until caramelized You may need butter to extend the bacon grease, depending on how much fat your bacon has. Add the garlic (minced for a spicier flavor, sliced or crushed for a milder, smoother flavor) and herbs just before the onions finish so they cook as well. Too soon though and you’ll burn the garlic and turn it bitter.
Spread the onions in an oven-proof pan (I like to do everything in my 8″ cast iron skillet – one dish goes from stove top to oven). Layer the potatoes on top in concentric circles. You could get really fancy and do a layer of potatoes first, then the onions, then another layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. For a crispier top, drizzle with olive oil (you’ll end up effectively frying the top of the potatoes – yum!). This goes in to a 350 degree F oven for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Serve with a side salad and a homemade dressing.