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Wednesday, March 5, 2008 01:40 am

Get more from your mash

HereÂ’s a recipe for a potato pie thatÂ’s gone to heaven

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The girlfriend of a mashed-potato lover somewhere in the great online beyond needed culinary counsel. They’re in a “mixed” relationship — she’s an omnivore, he’s a vegetarian — and for her the ultimate companion for a mountain of mashed is a pool of gravy made from unctuous meat drippings. What, she wondered, could she mix with the mashed and make her meatless guy happy? The things we do for love. My first thought was to build upon ye olde potato purée (not that there’s anything wrong with that), enhancing it with like-minded, easily boiled and mashed cold-weather crops such as cauliflower, parsnips, and turnips. The result is undoubtedly more nutritious but also, from a taster’s point of view, more complex in both flavor and texture. (Not to mention that it’s a brilliant tactic if you’ve got reluctant vegetable eaters at home.) Then I remembered a recipe scribbled in an old notebook, a mashed-potato-casserole kind of thing with green beans that I have served at Easter in years past. Polpettone di patate e fagiolini is its long Italian name; traditionally a polpettone is a filled meatloaf, but this version, from the northwestern coastal region of Liguria, is meatless. It’s also not really filled or stuffed; it’s but more like a potato pie that’s gone to heaven.
Last week I revisited this recipe, and I remembered why I loved making it in March, when spring is oh so close yet winter continues to nip at our heels. We still need a cozy blanket of mash, but the green beans, studded throughout with specks of fresh herbs, give us hope for the promise of warmer, longer days.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com
Polpettone Di Patate e Fagiolini
1 pound potatoes, quartered (about five medium    potatoes; I really like the creamy quality of    Yukon Golds for this dish) Salt 3/4 pound green beans, trimmed Three eggs, beaten 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated 1/4 cup ricotta cheese 1 cup bread crumbs 1/2 cup milk 1/4 cup olive oil Two cloves garlic, peeled and minced 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an ovenproof baking dish, about 9 inches in diameter (for more of a “pie” effect, use a round dish). Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until fork-tender. Mash and cover them. In a separate saucepan, cook the beans in salted water for about 10 minutes, until nearly tender. Drain, finely chop, and set the beans aside. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then add both cheeses, whisking until they are integrated. When the potatoes are cool, combine them with the egg-cheese mixture. Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl and pour milk on top, allowing the breadcrumbs to soften. In a sauté pan, cook the garlic in olive oil for about 20 seconds, then add the herbs and beans, tossing them with tongs until well-mixed, about two minutes. Remove the pan from heat and allow the beans to cool. Add them to potato mixture and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add accordingly. With a rubber spatula, scoop the filling into the prepared baking dish and top the casserole with breadcrumbs. Bake about 40 minutes, until golden. Serve hot.
Makes about four servings.
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