One of Hubby’s favorite dishes has got to be my Medley of Meatloaf American Style. He likes his meatloaf served up with cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes and a big helping of steamed green beans. Hubby likes “fancy” foods sometimes, but deep down he’s a meat and potatoes guy all the way. Hubby grew up in a small town in the mid-west. Fancy foods weren’t a part of his childhood. His German-Russian Mid-Western up-bringing was a no-nonsense childhood. While his grandparents were successful in their own right and his Grandmother hosted the garden parties and social events, these were for the ladies. The boys did “manly” things.
I was raised in a blue-collar working-class neighborhood in central California, with a Filipino mother and an Irish-Okie father. We were exposed to so many things – far beyond those of our working-class neighborhood. A love for simple country life is what Dad instilled in his children. Hard work and honest ways. Mom’s family was large, she the second to the youngest of sixteen children. Mom use to describe her family as the Kennedys of the Philippines, and rightly so. Her family had money, were well-educated and held positions of political power in the Philippines as well as abroad. Mom was especially close to her older sister, Cova. She was a doctor and successful in her own right. Although Cova was much older, a grown woman by the time Mom came into the world, the closeness between them remained strong throughout their lives. Mom was a rebel, and I suspect her sister saw a lot of herself in the defiant, rebel-rousing young girl.
Tita Cove and her doctor-husband, Tito Bert traveled frequently between New York and Manila, with a long stop over in San Francisco. I loved those stop overs. It meant Mom and Dad would pile their children into the family station wagon and make the long trip from our little hamlet of Florin in the central valley to the San Francisco coast. Today that same drive, with wide freeways and quick speeds takes about 90 minutes. Back then, we are talking country roads and narrow highways that meandered through sprawling orchards, rich farmlands and finally up over the coastal hills and down into the magical metropolitan city by the bay. I loved looking out the window as mile after mile clicked by, knowing that we would soon be in the city – and we would be treated to a five-star restaurant with real linens on the tables, crystal stemware and more forks than I cared to count. Courses. Meals were always served in courses at these fancy dining establishments. Each course unique, and oh so elegant. I remember one meal in particular. We had just settled into our table with a beautiful view of the shimmering waters of San Francisco Bay when a man in a tuxedo went past our table pushing a dessert cart. Can you imagine? A cart dedicated to desserts! There were all sorts of wonderful pastries and different cheesecakes on his cart that looked divine. I asked Mom if I could try them all. The moment my request left my lips, I knew it was a mistake. Mom was suddenly uncomfortable and embarrassed. I was crushed. The exchange between mother and daughter and the awkwardness that followed was not missed by Tito Bert. (He was a very rigid man with a booming voice who scared the pants off me). From across the table I could feel his scowl. When it came time to order, he surprised me, instructing our waiter to bring the dessert cart by the table for each course. He gave me a wink and said I would be ordering “Ala cart”. I didn’t get the joke at the time, but I do now. More to the point, I learned a valuable lesson. You cannot always judge a book by its cover. But you can judge an Au Gratin Potato by its cheese.
Tonight I’m making Hubby’s favorite Meatloaf. But I wanted to elevate the supper just a bit. I make an awesome Creamy-Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes dish. It’s one of Hubby’s favorites. Often I’ve had requests to prepare my potatoes for Easter Pot Luck Suppers and Hubby swears mine are the best around. While I could have made them again tonight to the delight of everyone, we recently went to the cheese market. Kiddo and I adore different cheeses. Right this moment there is a big block of wonderful Smoked Gouda cheese in the deli drawer crying out to be used for more than just omelettes and cheese platters. So tonight I’m serving up a new Potatoes Gratin dish – one that utilized that wonderful cheese. It should pair beautifully with the red potatoes.
Garlic-Onion Smoked Gouda Gratin Red Potatoes
3 pounds red potatoes, sliced (about 10 potatoes)
2 cups smoked Gouda cheese, shredded, divided
3 tablespoons butter
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Onion Powder (I use McCormick Organic California Onion Powder)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Set dish aside until ready to use.
Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When butter begins to foam, add garlic and saute until fragrant and golden brown, about 30 seconds or so. Set aside.
Wash and slice potatoes into thin rounds using a mandoline or food processor fitted with slicing disk. By leaving the skin of the red potato intact, it adds fiber to your diet. If potato skin bothers you, by all means peel away before slicing.
In the prepared dish layer 1/2 of the potatoes topped with 1/2 of the cheese. Pour garlic butter over potatoes and spread evenly. Layer remaining potatoes over garlic butter.
In a two cup measuring cup, pour 1 1/2 cups of cream. Add salt, onion powder and pepper to the cream. Whisk to blend. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Pour cream mixture evenly over potatoes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
Bake gratin in the preheated over for about 60 to 75 minutes or until potatoes are soft and cooked through.
Serve while still piping hot and enjoy the smokey, creamy flavors.
Note: If cooking with meatloaf, heat oven to 325. Place potatoes and meatloaf into the oven at the same time and cook meatloaf an additional 15 minutes longer than the recipe calls for. Check both dishes after about 50 minutes.