Dream date.

I don’t know about yours, but my 2012 Valentine’s Day was a dream date for four.

There was beef, and incredible potatoes, and a dream-cake for sure — along with candles and flowers and gifts and cards and everything a mother could think of to make her peeps feel special on Cupid’s special day.

Take a peek:

When I get a chance, I’m going to devote an entire post to that cake, that dream-of-a-dessert I’ve spent a long time perfecting. But today’s post is not about cake. It’s about potatoes. Potatoes that make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

But first, take a look at my Valentine’s Day table setting. I’m not always perfectly pleased with my tablescapes, but this one hit a home run.

Simple, but sweet . . . just the way I like my Valentine’s Day. See the heart-shaped ramekin above? Those are new. I purchased them at Home Goods in December in anticipation of this meal. The best part, though, is not the ramekin, but the filling.

Is that not the yummiest looking thing you’ve ever seen?

It’s called “Potato Cake with Tart Apple and Jarlsberg Cheese.” I served it for our Valentine’s Supper along with a classic roast beef (with mushroom gravy) and a simple green salad. It was a traditional but delicious meal to celebrate my love for my four favorite people.

So let’s dig in, shall we?

Potato Cake with Tart Apple and Jarlsberg Cheese

(from Country Living)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 medium (about 3 pounds) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup finely grated Jarlsberg cheese
  • Butter, for greasing foil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Coat inside of a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with olive oil; set aside.
If at all possible, use a mandolin to slice your ingredients as thinly as possible. I invested in an OXO Good Grip’s model a couple of years ago and it makes all the difference in the world.
In a large bowl, toss together potatoes, apples, onion, parsley, salt, and pepper. Layer in this order: 1/3 the potato mixture, 1/2 cheese, 1/3 the potato mixture, 1/2 the cheese, 1/3 the potato mixture. Here’s what it should look like:
Cover with a piece of lightly buttered foil and bake for 40 minutes.
Remove foil and continue to bake until potatoes are tender and top is lightly browned, about 20 more minutes. Increase oven to broil and cook until top begins to crisp, about 2 minutes.
Then prepare to behold the miracle that comes out of your oven:
Preparation and Tasting Notes: This recipe is not for the faint of heart. It takes about half an hour to prep the ingredients but, trust me, your time will be richly rewarded.

And I’ll go ahead and mention that I’m a bit OCD, so while “tossing” the ingredients, many of my paper thin slices folded and rolled. So I took a little extra care spreading the layers because — I’ll admit it — I wanted my dish to look pretty and organized.

I also have to admit that I developed some serious doubts about this recipe the first time I prepared it. I worried it was too much work and it wouldn’t pay off. I worried that so few ingredients couldn’t create much flavor. I worried that lacking butter and cream, the recipe couldn’t possibly be any good. Finally, I worried there was too much liquid in the bottom of the bowl and would probably create a soggy mess in the skillet.

Oh me of little faith! I barely have words to describe how good this dish is. Who knew such simple ingredients could meld into such a complex layering of flavor? It’s the perfect balance of sweet (from the onions) and tart (from the apples) and cream (from the cheese). The paper thin layers, soft in the center and crispy on top, create a texture that is comfort food at its best. And this dish is so satisfying on the tongue, you’d swear it’s chock full of butter. Best of all, it works as both an entree and a side.

But word to the wise — don’t substitute the cheese. Don’t make this dish until you can lay your hands on Jarlsberg. I made it once with Swiss (considered by many to be an acceptable substitute), and it wasn’t the same.

Obviously, you can bake this in a skillet or individual ramekins. The ramekins were kind of a pain in the butt (and small), but they sure made for a pretty and thoughtful table. My son, Parker,  ate the contents of his ramekin in about two bites, then went back to the kitchen for a hearty second serving from the skillet. Mr. Mom ate his ramekin and two more servings from the skillet. Still, we had leftovers and they were wonderful reheated in the microwave the next day.

By the way, here’s a photo of my daughter holding one of the Valentine’s gifts I gave her:

It’s worth saying that I also love Potato Cake with Tart Apple and Jarlsberg Cheese more than cupcakes.

You will too. I promise.


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