Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I don’t much go for mushy noodle casseroles that star cans of cream of whatever soups, even if at this point in history, they could actually have been passed down for a few generations. Off the top of my head, I really don’t know how to make any of these, which might just make me a woefully inadequate Midwesterner. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not going to warm up my kitchen (and my tummy) with a hot casserole on these cold January days.

Recently, I tried this one, which was based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine. It is a play on the Rösti, which is usually sort of a big hash brown cake made in a pan on the stove. Typically, it gets flipped over when the bottom gets golden brown to be fried on the other side as well. I’ve made them, and I like them, but they do require a bit of strength and dexterity in the flipping step. I was happy to see that I could cheat by making similar ingredients into a casserole.

I substituted some shredded celeriac (also known as celery root) in the recipe (the original called for some turnip). If you’re not familiar with it, celeriac is a brown, knobby, sort of hairy, dirty-looking thing, perhaps not the kind of vegetable you’d want to meet in a dark alley. Once you peel off its gnarly skin, however, this vegetable redeems itself. It tastes strongly of celery with perhaps a bit of turnip to it. I’ve just started cooking with it myself, and I’m hooked.

The baked eggs nestled into the top of this casserole give it main-dish power. (You could leave them out if you just want a side dish.) I baked mine until the egg whites were firm and opaque and the yolks were just firm as well. It think stopping a bit sooner so that a punctured, still-soft yolk would coat the baked potato-celeriac mixture like a luxurious sauce might be especially fantastic.

This casserole has a great savory and tangy flavor from the yogurt and green onions and a bit of nutty zing from the Gruyere cheese. It gets brown and crunchy on the top and in the corners, just like a proper potato and cheese dish should. I might have gone back to the casserole dish after supper and scavenged a few of the brownest, crunchiest, stuck-on bits without sharing, but I’ll never admit it.

Potato and Celeriac Casserole with Baked Eggs Recipe
based on a recipe in Cooking Light Magazine
In this recipe, regular plain yogurt is drained to make it thicker. You could substitute with Greek-style yogurt and eliminate the draining step.

¾ cup (about 175 ml) plain yogurt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (about 15 ml)
8 ounces (225g) peeled potato
8 ounces (225g) peeled celeriac
¼ cup (about 50ml) finely chopped green onions (scallions), divided
3 ounces (about 90g) shredded Gruyere cheese (about 1 cup, packed)
2 tablespoons (30ml) butter, melted
1 teaspoon (5ml) coarse (Kosher) salt
¼ teaspoon (1ml) ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
¼ teaspoon (1ml) freshly grated nutmeg
Cooking spray, oil or butter to grease the casserole dish
4 large eggs

1. Place the yogurt in a sieve lined with paper towel or several layers of cheesecloth. Place the sieve over a bowl and allow to drain for at least 30 minutes. This will allow the yogurt to thicken as some of its excess liquid drains away. You can skip this step if you use the thicker Greek-style yogurt, or if you’re just not that picky.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Shred the potato and celeriac with the shredding blade of a food processor. You could also grate them by hand on a box grater. If you do, I would recommend shredding the celeriac first, since the potatoes may turn brown quickly.

3. Set aside about 2 tablespoons (30ml) green onions for garnish. In a large bowl, combine the shredded potato, celeriac, cheese, melted butter, remaining green onions, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well.

4. Coat a 2 quart casserole or baking dish with cooking spray (or oil or butter). Spread the potato mixture in the dish. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes.

5. Remove the casserole from the oven. Create 4 evenly spaced indentations in the top with the back of a spoon. Crack and gently pour 1 egg into each indentation.

6. Return to the oven and bake about 10 minutes or until the egg whites are firm and opaque and the yolk is done to your liking. Garnish with reserved green onions and a few grinds of black pepper. To serve, cut into four sections, each containing an egg.

Makes 4 main dish servings.

If there are any leftovers, cover and store in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave and serve. The egg will probably cook to a more firm point upon reheating, but if you’re okay with that (as I am) the leftovers are mighty fine for breakfast the next day, and are probably best not left much longer than that.

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