I was a late bloomer in the kitchen but I have always been kind of a professional eater. Even as a kid, I was choosing my friends based on what I thought their mothers could offer me in way of snacks. The last thing I needed was another manga cake friend named Andrea who had a mom serving up Kraft Dinner for lunch when I could befriend young Rui who’s mom was slinging bacalhau fritters . After years spent travelling, eating and exploring, I gained some kitchen chops and by 2010 I started my blog, The Yum Yum Factor, originally as a way to catalogue the dishes that I cooked for friends and family so they would stop pestering me for recipes. I consider myself a solid home cook with an adventurous palette, a high tolerance for burns and cuts and a desire to eat the world.
One of the things I love best about the spring is that it is foraging time and the markets are full of things like fiddle heads and ramps. I found myself with a big bunch of those ramps a friend brought me from up north, a fridge full of local mushrooms and a bag of Bistro Bakers Russet potatoes from Downey Potato Farms in nearby Shelbourne. So, in honour of Local Food Week here in Ontario (June 1st-7th) I decided to make a dish that would show off all three of these locally sourced items. Since I also had some Ivanhoe Smoked Cheddar (Madoc Ontario) as well , what else could I make but a rich, creamy gratin?
You can use a combination of whatever mushrooms you like and if you can't find ramps, don't despair because ramps are really just wild leeks so you could substitute a well washed and thinly sliced leek but do try to find ramps before they are all gone.
This recipe is very loose so relax and play with the ingredients. If you love mushrooms, feel free to use more mushrooms. Replace the smoked cheddar with smoked gouda, Emmental or any other, strong tasting hard cheese you have on hand. This is one of those easy side dishes that is almost impossible to mess up because all of the ingredients are so delicious that nobody will care if it's a little too creamy. Honestly, is too creamy even a thing?
Cheesey Mushroom, Ramp and Potato Gratin
approx 2-3 tbls of softened butter
a 473ml container of 18% cream
1/2 cup of chicken stock
approx 300 grams of mushrooms (I used shiitakes, oyster and cremini) wiped clean, if needed, and sliced
1 handful of ramps, washed and sliced thinly with a couple of whole ramps, including green tops (or 1 large leek, washed and julienned)
2 large russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups of grated smoked cheddar cheese
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Butter a 1 quart baking dish (I used an 11" oval gratin dish) with about 1 tbls of soft butter.
Melt about 1-2 tbls of butter in a hot pan, add your mushrooms with a pinch of kosher salt and sauté until they are soft and browned, set aside (if you use oyster mushrooms, add them during the last couple of minutes).
Bring the cream and the chicken broth to a low simmer in a medium sized pot.
Wash the potatoes but don't peel and slice them very thinly on a mandolin, no thicker than 1/8".
Make sure your ramps are washed clean and slice them thinly. If the green tops are still fresh, use those too.
Grate your smoked cheddar and put aside.
Lay a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the gratin dish, overlapping them as you go until the surface is covered. Scatter 1/3 of mushrooms on top, then add 1/3 of the sliced ramps and 1/3 of the cheese (after you set aside 1/2 cup of cheese that you will use to finish the dish) and add a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Pour 1/3 of the cream/chicken stock on each layer as you go. Repeat twice until you end with a layer of potatoes. If, for any reason, the cream doesn't come up to the top of the potatoes, add some more cream or even a bit more chicken stock. Lay the two or three whole ramps over the top to make it look pretty.
Cover the gratin with tin foil and bake it for 40 minutes. Take it out of the oven, remove the foil, scatter the rest of the cheese over the top and return to the oven for about another 25 minutes or until it's bubbling and most of the liquid as been absorbed. Remove from the oven and let it sit at least 15 minutes before serving.
There's no better way to celebrate local than to bring all of your favourite fresh ingredients to the table in one spectacular dish! A big thanks to Carole for once again stunning us with her creativity and mouthwatering meals.
Find Carole online at The Yum Yum Factor, and on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!