Potato Celery Root Skillet Cake
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the new cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works: Meals from the Homemade Pantry (Clarkson Potter), due out in 2014.
There is so much love for the cast iron skillet in cooking. We all love the versatility of those heavy old pans, the inevitable history and future of every pan, and their willingness to be treated well or poorly and cook for you either way. And so today, I have a gift for your cast iron skillet.
This potato cake is for a normal, everyday dinner, when you’ve had the good fortune to put a chicken in the oven to roast and you have a few minutes to make one more thing. It cooks on the stove for a few minutes, then slides on the oven tray just below that chicken. Maybe even the chicken will sputter and drip a few juices on the pan – all the better. And when the chicken is done (that is, if you’re a high heat/ fast time chicken roaster), then the cake is done, too. Done and done.
Potato Celery Root Skillet Cake
1 pound celery root, peeled (cut into rounds, then cut off the outer rough edge) and grated (use a food processor if you’ve got one!)
1 pound potatoes, peeled and grated (again, the food processor!)
1 tablespoon salt, plus more, for sprinkling
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek, all the white and half the green, halved, sliced, and cleaned (soak in water with a bit of white vinegar- magic!)
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Immediately after grating them, combine the celery root, potato, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Fill it with cold water, and let them soak for at least 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in your favorite cast iron frying pan. (Medium to large is good here.) Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, until they are soft and fragrant and you can’t resist eating one right out of the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, and transfer the leeks to a bowl.
3. Line a large colander with a clean dish towel and pour the potatoes and celery root into it. Let the liquid drain, then gather the edges of the towel together (making a tight little bundle) and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
4. Melt another tablespoon of butter in the frying pan over medium heat, spreading it around the sides of the pan as well. Pack 1/2 of the potato mixture into the pan, making sure to pack it down with your hands as you go. Then, spread the leeks over the potato layer. Sprinkle half the cheese over the leeks. Pack the rest of the potato mixture into the pan, again compressing it with your hands. Top with the final half cup of parmesan, and a few little pats of butter. If you like your potatoes salty, sprinkle with a flurry of additional salt. Let the pan sit, untouched, until you see the cheese start to bubble up. This will take a few minutes, but take care not to burn it. If it seems in danger of burning, turn the heat down a bit, or just skip to the next step.
5. Remove the pan from heat and transfer to the oven (on the rack under your chicken!). Bake for 40 minutes, then put under the broiler for a few minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool for at least ten minutes–then turn out of the pan and cut into slices. — Reprinted with permission from Eatingfromthegroundup.com . All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.