My family members are traditionalists – especially the men and especially when it comes to holiday dinners. There is a set menu that corresponds to each – Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter – with little to no room for creative flare. Oh sure… the cranberries might be done with Port one year and orange zest the next. There might be croissants or pull-apart dinner rolls. The most leeway definitely being granted to dessert.
And being an Idaho family, you can bet that each holiday has a corresponding requisite potato dish. Mashed to support the turkey gravy, baked with butter and sour cream to play lead support to the prime rib and in our family, scalloped sits next to the ham.
But for some reason, Easter doesn’t pull the rank that the other two do. It gets the least amount of fanfare. Is it that the first few days of nice weather lures people away to fish or play golf? Is it that it seems like it’s usually tacked on to one end of spring break and families are either headed out fresh on adventure or are on the last leg of the return trip with tired kids and suitcases of dirty laundry? Is it because Thanksgiving and Christmas team up to form weeks of almost nonstop celebrating marked with decorating and baking and carols and presents? Yeah… Easter never had a chance against that.
And while those late year holidays are all party, party, party, with Easter, if you’re Catholic, it means you’re coming off a long stretch of actually giving up something for Lent. In fact, often it’s giving up a bit of the party – possibly candy if you’re a kid, and commonly alcohol for the adults. You’d think Easter would be a big hoopla of once again being able to imbibe in little vices but maybe after 40 days, people are just out of sync.
But a holiday that allows this more lackadaisical approach also gives me seemingly more permission to mess with the menu and the potatoes seemed to be the perfect target.
Don’t get me wrong… I hadn’t completely lost my mind. At least I knew there still needed to be potatoes. There is a favorite family story – one that gets told whenever there might be a visitor at a holiday dinner. Or sometimes just to remind ourselves that it really happened and isn’t just family folklore. You see it was a crisp November day. Table set with china and crystal and our nicest linens. Candles lit. We all sat down to dinner and as eyes surveyed the table admiring the spread, you could see the alarm start to build. Eyes that were softly gazing a minute ago now were flickering about the table gaining speed with building frenzy. Someone finally got up the nerve to say, “Mom, where are the mashed potatoes?”, sure that somehow they had just been forgotten when things were dished up. I’m certain the world stopped rotating for one moment when she replied, “I didn’t make any.” Her reasoning was that we had sweet potatoes – did we really need mashed potatoes too? As this date almost went down in history as the Thanksgiving Day mutiny, she and every member of our clan now knows the answer to that question. Surely it is an exclusion never to be repeated.
So while cruising around on the Idaho Potato Commission’s web site, I found this recipe that seemed like maybe it could be a first cousin to the traditional scalloped potato – close enough to keep my family happy while giving Easter just a touch of flair to make it the belle of the spring time ball after all.
Mushroom and Idaho® Potato Pavé
Adapted from a recipe on IdahoPotato.com
6 Idaho® Russet potatoes, washed
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup butter, unsalted, divided
1.5 lb mushrooms of your choice (I used a mix of oyster and cremini), stemmed, finely chopped
¼ cup parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
- Using a mandolin, slice potatoes as thinly as possible lengthwise.
- Place in large bowl and pour cream over potato slices; toss to coat evenly to prevent oxidation.
- In large skillet heat ¼ cup butter over medium-high heat until bubbling; stir in chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until all moisture evaporates and mushroom mixture starts to caramelize.
- Remove from heat and cool slightly; stir in parsley and salt and pepper, to taste. Cool completely.
- Preheat oven to 375°F convection.
- Line two 8×5-inch loaf pans with foil, allowing extra foil to wrap over top edges. Coat with cooking spray.
- Remove potato slices from bowl and shake off any extra cream. Line bottom of each foil-lined pan with a double, shingled layer of potato slices. Spread ¼ cup of mushroom mixture evenly over potatoes. Repeat 2 more times, ending with a final potato layer on top (there will be 4 layers of potatoes and 3 mushroom layers in each pan).
- Fold the ends of the foil over the stack and place a brick or other heavy, oven-proof object on top.
- Bake for 1½ hours. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.
- Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, with weights still in place.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Remove from the pan and discard the foil. Cut each loaf into 6 pieces.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in large skillet; place cut pieces of pavé in the pan and sauté each side until golden brown. Finish in the oven for 10 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.
Note: Leftovers are also wonderful warmed up for breakfast!