Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"French potatoes" casserole

I don't really know how French people cook their potatoes. I think that we associate dainty, flavorful dishes with French cuisine. Some Romanian folks concocted this dish and, wanting to make it popular, called it "French potatoes." It could have been "Romanian potatoes," I suppose, but then it wouldn't have had the same appeal. The French, and everything they do, are so impossibly alluring after all.

I eat dairy very seldom. Partly it's because of my own digestive issues, partly because I use Kimberly Snyder's book as my dietary bible and in my own experience I was able to confirm most of her theses. A note on milk, then: we are the only species that consumes milk past the age of infancy. We are also the only species that consumes the milk of another species. Dairy products are hard to digest, allergenic, high in fat, acidic and, contrary to popular belief, not a good source of calcium. To learn more on how dairy = evil, read Kim Snyder's short and sweet article. It's really remarkable how ubiquitous dairy products are, despite the digestive problems and skin issues they cause us.

So I try to stay away from dairy. But I am only human and have my cravings too, and a bad one is cheese. I am crazy about cheese. If you share this addiction, you may want to opt for non-cow cheese (goat or sheep) or raw milk (unpasteurized) cow cheese. The former are easier to digest, while the latter has the benefit of containing precious enzymes that help with digestion (while the pasteurization process kills these enzymes). If you go this route, you'll find these alternatives more costly. That much is true. But on the good side, this way you'll eat less cheese. Plus, you'll notice a big improvement with your digestion.

On the rare occasions when I eat dairy, I make a big experience of it and mix it into an awesome meal like this. "French potatoes" is one of my favorite childhood meals. Romanians make this with salty sheep cheese (telemea) that you get at the market, from quirky peasants who scratch their head by their booths and haggle impishly for the price per kilo. In the US, I try to get the best deal at Whole Foods and end up with a neatly-cut slice of imported cheese safely sealed in plastic. 

But at least there are choices! This time I made an excellent deal with a goat Gouda from Holland with a lot of personality, which worked perfectly. For this dish you need a cheese with oomph. So stay away from cheddar, jack, mozzarella and other insipid varieties. Go with the smelliest cheese you can find. And don't worry, the potatoes will tone it down.

French potatoes
~ serves 4

7 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
7 eggs
2 cups shredded goat cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
another 1/4 cup shredded goat/sheep cheese
1/2 cup chopped green chile (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

Boil the potatoes until done, but not too soft. Also boil 5 of the eggs in water with a little salt (so they don't crack), 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

In the meantime, mix 1/2 of the grated cheese in a bowl with the sour cream. I wish I could find goat sour cream, but no luck. Some things are inevitable. But at least I found this excellent (and steeply-priced too) variety at Whole Foods, which is really, really delicious. If you must have sour cream, at least have the best you can find.

Once cooled, go ahead and peel the eggs, then slice them.

Now we're going to assemble the piece. Take a 9x9 inch (or larger) Pyrex or oven-safe pan and layer potato slices on the bottom. Sprinkle some salt (only if your cheese is not very salty). The next layer is egg slices. Then, the sour cream + cheese mixture. Then potatoes, sprinkle some salt, then eggs, and finish with potatoes.

Take a bowl and beat the remaining 2 eggs. Add 1/4 cup grated cheese and the chopped green chile. Pour this marvelous mixture on top of the whole thing.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Eat this with a natural probiotic like sauerkraut, kimchi or good old pickles. It's a heavy meal and your stomach needs all the help it can get to digest it. If nothing else, at least pair it with a leafy salad. Bon appetit! 

If you have any questions, leave a comment!


  1. this sounds delicious, not french though: throughout my travels through france i never came across this dish. So i think the possibility of it being french are slim (if french at all it should be from the alp region. it reminds me a bit of "gratin dauphinois" a dish made of potatoe slices, a mixture of milk and cream that you've heated with garlic laurel, rosemary thyme,... and (optional onions) and of course grated chease.

  2. 'Gratin dauphinois' sounds awesome, but unfortunately there's no way my body will tolerate that much dairy :(