Pan Haggerty for the Haggard

by Kelly on December 19, 2013   

Comfort food on a cold night

Comfort food on a cold night

It’s finally a leetle bit cold around here, and I’ve been craving something warming and easy. In the height of summer I found a version of this recipe in The Cheese Companion by Judy Ridgway that caused me to turn to my husband and mention that this would be an excellent dinner for us two imminent empty-nesters along with a simple salad and a glass of wine. This was really just a far-off vision of humble dinners in front of distant fireplaces. But on one recent post-shopping, nothing-in-the-house evening, I was feeling just haggard enough to remember this gorgeously comforting dish. (As spunky boys my husband and a friend once made up a character named Hagatha Uglemeyer — that’s how I felt.)

The dish is traditional Northumbrian, and while it adapts beautifully to any cheese, the North Country cheese, Wensleydale, is that region’s cheese of choice. Sound familiar? It’s Wallace’s obsession (and Gromit’s perpetual trial).

Wallace's constant craving, Wensleydale cheese

Wallace’s favorite, Wensleydale cheese

This dish celebrates cheese and its natural companion, the potato. For this one I’ve chosen three different cheeses, two of which I made here at home. I’m working on developing a cheese plant (that IS my far-off, and I hope not-too-distant, vision) and these are two of my trials. I’ll soon be posting about my progress at Little Sister Creamery!

My goat/cow tomme in the back, a soft taleggio in front, also mine, and a Gruyére on the right

My goat/cow tomme in the back, a soft taleggio in front, also mine, and a Gruyére on the right

Pan Haggerty | 4 servings

This recipe is really an open book — make it entirely veg, or use leftover chicken, fry a few strips of bacon and crumble them in instead of the sausage, try chopped ham or prosciutto, whatever is on hand. You can also use a little garlic if you like, or herbs, but I’ve kept mine very, very simple.

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 medium-sized potatoes)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 fresh sausage (I used a spicy Italian pork sausage)
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 pound cheese, shredded

Thinly slice the potatoes without peeling.

Keep the slices thin, or use a mandoline on a thin setting

Keep the slices thin, or use a mandoline on a thin setting

Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof pan (I like an 8-inch cast-iron pan for this) over medium heat. Peel away the sausage casing and brown the sausage meat, breaking it up into bits. Remove with a slotted spoon and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Layer 1/3 of the potatoes on the bottom of the pan, pressing them down to make sure there is contact. Scatter 1/2 of the onions, 1/2 of the carrots and 1/2 of the browned sausage over the potatoes.

Lengthwise thin slices like this works well, and carrots thinly sliced on the diagonal

Lengthwise thin slices like this works well, and carrots thinly sliced on the diagonal

Season salt and pepper and scatter 1/3 of the cheese over the top. Repeat a layer with another 1/3 potato slices, the remaining onions, carrots and sausage, season, and another 1/3 cheese. End with the rest of the potato and season, reserving the last 1/3 cheese for the final step.

Press down on the top to compact the layers -- I needed to so that my lid would fit

Press down on the top to compact the layers — I needed to so that my lid would fit

Cover and continue cooking over medium-low heat for 40 minutes, or until the layers are very tender when pierced with a skewer. Uncover the dish for the last 5 minutes.

Preheat a broiler. Scatter the final 1/3 cheese over the top and slide the pan under the broiler. Cook until the top is bubbly and brown.

I do recommend the little salad and glass of wine, and an amusing companion — think Wallace and Gromit!

Kelly McCune © 2013
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