An extravaganza of meat and potatoes Entertaining: The traditional pairing may sound pedestrian, but it can achieve elegant heights.

August 09, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Whenever I ask my husband what he thinks I should serve for dinner, he invariably answers, "Meat and potatoes." Nothing seems to bring him more pleasure at the table than simply cooked steaks, chops or roast accompanied by potatoes prepared in any style.

Several weeks ago for a weeknight meal I prepared herb-rubbed, broiled lamb chops along with a gratin of potatoes baked with chevre cheese and black olives. My spouse was in heaven devouring every morsel of meat on the chops and smiling as he took bites of the crusty, golden potatoes. The meal was such a success that I am thinking of repeating it for guests scheduled to visit next weekend.

The potatoes are a delicious side dish to serve with lamb, but they would be equally good with grilled steaks or a standing rib roast. To make the gratin, I whisked together creamy goat

cheese and milk to make a sauce. Then I layered sliced potatoes in a baking pan, seasoned them with salt, pepper and oregano, and spread them with a coating of sauce. Finally, I sprinkled the potatoes with grated Parmesan cheese and slivered black olives.

Baked until the potatoes are tender and a rich golden crust has formed on top, the dish bursts with flavor and stands up well to the robust taste of lamb or beef.

Although I like the potatoes best when baked and served straight from the oven, on several occasions I have cooked the dish and then reheated it in a moderate oven before serving.

For my next company meal, I plan to add a salad of mixed greens tossed in a mustard vinaigrette. Store-bought pound cake, lightly toasted and mounded with strawberries and a dollop of orange-scented whipped cream, will end this "meat and potatoes" extravaganza.

Gratin of Potatoes With Goat Cheese and Black Olives

Serves 4 to 6

6 ounces creamy goat cheese

3/4 cup whole milk

2 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 teaspoons oregano

6 tablespoons grated imported Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch-long slivers

Place goat cheese in medium bowl. Add milk and whisk well until mixture is smooth and cheese is completely incorporated into milk to make sauce. Set aside.

Arrange 1/3 of potatoes overlapping in medium oven-to-table baking dish that has been coated with nonstick vegetable spray. Salt and pepper generously and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon oregano.

Spread 1/3 of sauce over potatoes and sprinkle with 1/3 of Parmesan cheese. Scatter half the olives over potatoes. Repeat to make 2 more layers, omitting olives from final layer.

Bake potatoes at 400 degrees on middle rack until tender when pierced with knife and top is crusty and golden, about 50 minutes or longer. Remove. Cool 5 minutes, then serve. (Potatoes can be baked 2 to 3 hours ahead. Cool, then cover loosely with aluminum foil and leave at cool room temperature. Reheat, uncovered, at 350 degrees until hot, about 20 minutes.)

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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