Potato-Mushroom Cake with Braised Lentils
I loved the idea of this recipe when I read it in Lidia’s cookbook, it looked and was laborious, but I gave it a try, just to try something new. I hate to admit it, but it wasn’t really worth all of the trouble and I wouldn’t be posting about it, but with all of the trouble that I went through, well it had to be posted.
As two separate dishes I can see it, but I didn’t really understand the relationship of flavors between the mushroom and potato cake and the lentils. It was all very earthy, yes, and though they weren’t gross together, the flavors didn’t jump out at me as one of those unexpected matches made in heaven. I did end up making a frittata out of the leftover potatoes and mushrooms and fed the leftover lentils to my daughter for dinner the next night, none of it went to waste.
Potato-Mushroom Cake & Braised Lentils
adapted from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
for the lentils
- 2 tbsp exra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- ½ cup finely chopped carrot
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- 2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup small lentils
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
for the potato-mushroom cake
- 2 lbs russet potatoes
- 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb mixed fresh mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 medium leeks, washed, drained and thinly sliced
- 2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Set the saucepan over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Stir in the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened. Clear a spot in the bottom of the pan, drop in the tomato paste, and let it toast and caramelize in the hot spot for a minute or two, then stir it in with the vegetables.
Spill in the lentils, drop in the bay leaves, stir them around the pan and pour in 6 cups cold water. Cover the pan, and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Set the cover ajar, adjust the heat to keep the water bubbling gently, and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender to the bite though still quite soupy. Stir in the salt and turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, wash the potatoes well and put them, whole and unpeeled, in a large pot. With enough cold water to cover them by about 2 inches, bring to a steady boil, and cook the potatoes just until they are easily pierced with a fork or a sharp knife – don’t let them get mushy or fall apart. Drain, cool, and peel the potatoes, then cut crosswise into ½-inch thick rounds.
Pour 2 tbsp of the olive oil into the big skillet, set it over medium-high heat, and stir in the mushrooms. Season them with ½ tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally as liquid from the mushrooms is released and boils off. When the pan is dry and he mushrooms are browned and caramelized on the edges, take the skillet off the heat and scrape the mushrooms into a bowl.
Pour the remaining 4 tbsp olive oil in the skillet, set it over medium heat, and stir in the leeks and garlic. Cook and stir until the leeks begin to soften, about 4 minutes, then lay all the potato slices in the pan; season with 1 tsp salt. With a wide spatula, turn the potato rounds over to coat them in oil. Let them cook and gradually take on color, turning them occasionally, until all the rounds are nicely golden, 8 minutes or so.
Scatter the mushrooms and grated cheese on the potatoes, and tumble to mix them in. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley and thyme and the remaining ½ tsp salt, and stir in gently. Spread the seasoned potatoes and mushrooms evenly in the skillet, and press down firmly, with the back of the spatula or some other firm utensil, fusing the slices into one large pancake.
Cook the cake until brown and crispy on the underside, about 5 minutes – lift the edge of the cake to check it. Cover the skillet with a big plate, and, holding them together with hot pads or towels, invert the skillet, dropping the potato cake onto the plate. Slide it back into the skillet and brown the second side, another 5 minutes. Slide the finished cake onto a cutting board.
To serve: Reheat the lentils and ladle them onto a warmed serving platter; center the whole potato cake on top. For individual portions, spoon the lentils into a warmed shallow bowls, cut a wedge of the potato cake, and place it on top.