Tuesday, 13 May 2008
The YM's favourites 5: Potato and meat sauce gratin
I can't tell you the number of times I've made this yummy "gratin." I use the quotes as gratin is probably not the right word for this, as it is actually closer to a cheese-topped layered shepherd's pie. Anyway, language policing aside, this is a cold-weather standard in our house, and the Young Man is always pleased whenever it makes an appearance on the table.
The original recipe is from this Japanese book on 100 yen side dishes (although you can probably take the 100 yen with a grain of salt; I bought the book a good number of years ago now (g)). This little treasure holds a great many of the YM's favourites, a few of which I will showcase in the next few posts.
Rather unorthodoxly, the potatoes in this recipe are cooked by microwaving them in cling wrap (check to see that yours is microwave-safe; not all are). Do this step in advance, if you can. The jackets come off really easily, but you need to have asbestos fingers! I'm usually in a rush, so I keep a cup or bowl of cold water handy to plunge my fingers in if they get too hot. If that all sounds like too much of a pain (!), just peel and boil them as usual.
Although you're essentially making smashed potatoes, you don't add any butter or milk (good job in these days of empty Japanese butter shelves). Don't worry, though, the meat sauce is moist enough to ensure lovely luscious and moreish potatoes without half the dairy case... Which allows you to up the cheese quotient. How good is that?!
I like to make my own tomato sauce, but you could just as easily use a bought one. Probably 600 ml should do it. If you go that way, you might want to add an extra half onion, chopped, when you cook the mince.
Potato & meat sauce gratin
1 onion, chopped finely
1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic (or to taste), pressed
1 400 g tin of tomatoes in their juice
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp dried Italian herb mix (I use the one here)
3 medium potatoes, scrubbed
1 1/2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
300 g mince
Grated cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, or another favourite)
1 Wrap potatoes in cling wrap and microwave on high until soft. Peel, smash roughly and add Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.
2 Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat oil in medium pot and fry onions until color changes over medium heat. Add garlic and continue to fry until fragrant. Add tomatoes and their juice, salt and herbs. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
3 Heat a large frying pan until hot and cook the mince, stirring frequently, until the fat runs. Blot with kitchen paper, then add the tomato sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
4 In a large ovenproof dish, layer half the potatoes, then half the meat sauce and repeat. Top with cheese and bake at 200 C until the cheese melts.