I have to tell ya: I haven’t had much time to cook these past two weeks. Last weekend Doug and I went to Northern Kentucky so he could interview for a transfer to his company’s Cincinnati office for when we move back to the area this fall, and so I could start looking for wedding dresses with my mom and sisters, and we could start discussing the details of our wedding plans.
It was a jam-packed weekend, as it always is, but Doug got the job, I got a dress (YAY!) and we decided on a wedding date (more on that later). The excitement barely died down before Doug sprained his ankle playing basketball this week, and I’ve had to nurse him back to health.
Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to a relaxing Memorial Day weekend. I’m excited to dive into some-yet-to-be-conquered recipes, and I think some homemade pasta might just be in order for my friend Lucas’s birthday. But until I have those things to show you, I thought I’d go back to a yummy comfort dish I made this past Easter—Alex Guarnaschelli’s Cast-Iron Skillet Potato Cake.
When life is stressful, I often turn to comfort food, as so many Americans do. For instance, last night I made bacon-wrapped meatloaf for Doug and I, and it was just the sort of dinner we needed because I was trying to unwind from a long week at school and Doug was still stuck with his bruised ankle in the air and a pack of frozen peas on it to reduce the swelling. This Potato Cake would be a great accompaniment to meatloaf, or steaks or pork chops—any of those homey foods that beg for great side dishes.
What makes this potato cake so great is its texture: it’s crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside, with just a hint of thyme throughout. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet you can use a large nonstick skillet, but keep an eye on it because the cake probably won’t cook as evenly. No worries about that, though, because in every household there’s usually somebody who enjoys the dark, crusty, almost-burnt parts.
If you are on a budget but still want to impress, this would be a great dish to make. It’s simple but beautiful and, of course, delicious.
Cast-Iron Skillet Potato Cake
This recipe appeared in Alex Guarnaschelli’s show Alex’s Day Off. It’s a budget friendly recipe that makes a show-stopping side dish. Click here to download a print copy of this recipe.
1 to 1½ sticks unsalted butter
6 large Idaho baker potatoes, washed and peeled
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Clarify butter. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and bring it to a gentle simmer. Shut off the heat and allow it to sit a minute on the stove. The milk solids should start to sink to the bottom. Slowly pour the butter into a bowl, keeping as much of the white milky liquid as possible in the saucepan. Discard the milk solids; these are prone to burning and by clarifying the butter, the potato cake will be less likely to overbrown. Keep the butter warm on the stove.
Slice and prep potatoes. Using a mandolin slicer or a sharp knife, cut all of the potatoes into thin (1/8-inch thick) slices. Transfer them to a bowl and cover them with 3/4 of the melted butter. Season with a little salt and the dried thyme and toss to coat the potatoes with the butter. Pour the remaining butter in the bottom of the cast iron skillet and swirl it around to coat the bottom and sides.
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Layer potato cake. Remember that the bottom layer with be the top when you unmold this cake so it should be done with extra care. Layer the potatoes, following the edge of the skillet, so they overlap. Start the second circle, closer to the center, of overlapping potato rounds. Continue to make circles with the potatoes until the entire bottom of the skillet is filled with potato rounds in smaller and smaller circles. Fill the skillet with another level layer of potatoes. Sprinkle a touch of salt and make 3 more layers. Press down gently on the potatoes to make sure they are starting to stick together and form a cake.
Cook, flip, and finish. Place the skillet on high heat and cook until the water starts to emerge from the potatoes and you can see the edges browning, 5 to 8 minutes. Place the skillet in the oven and cook, undisturbed, until the potatoes feel tender in the center when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the skillet and carefully pour off any excess butter or liquid into a bowl. Place the skillet on a flat surface and cover it with a platter larger than the skillet. Carefully turn the platter over in one deft motion. Lift off the skillet and use a large metal spatula to place it back in the skillet so it can brown on the second side. Pour the butter back in and cook in the oven for an additional 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven. Pour off any liquid. Season with salt. Cut into wedges like a pie. Serve immediately in the skillet. Alternatively, lift it out of the skillet and serve on a platter or in slices on individual plates.