On my list of comfort foods, this Italian dish is at the top! The word “gateau” means “cake” in French. And this luscious Potato Cake is the perfect comfort food! Lots of ham and cheese sandwiched together with soft, mashed potatoes…you’re gonna love it!
Gateau is commonly served in Italian homes in southern Italy, the area around Naples, where my Good Husband grew up. (In the Neopolitan dialect it’s pronounced “gatt-Ã²”.)
Last week I made Gateau for lunch and invited my [northern] Italian neighbor to join us. She’d never eaten Gateau–and absolutely loved it! Even had seconds, which she rarely does!
In North America we generalize “Italian cooking”, not realizing how regional their cooking really is! Southern Italian cooking is very different from northern Italian cooking. Pizzas are different in every region and each part of the country has their own favorite pasta dishes. I’m partial to southern Italian food, perhaps because my mother-in-law is from there and those are the dishes I am most familiar with. If I were to generalize, I would say that southern Italians eat more rustic food–such as this potato dish.
I begin by peeling, dicing and boiling 3 lbs. potatoes in a big pot of salted water. That’s about 6-7 C. of diced potatoes. I’ve found they cook up faster if I use plenty of water. And if I salt the water they’re boiled in, the salty flavor gets into the potatoes and I don’t even have to add salt later. Once they’re good and soft, I drain them…
…and add 1 cup (250 ml) milk and 1/2 cup (115 g) butter. Here’s another way you can measure butter if you don’t have those neatly measured sticks of butter like they have in the States…put 1 cup of milk in a 2 cup measuring cup and then add small cubes of butter until the milk rises to the 1 1/2 cup (12 oz.) mark on the cup…
I pour that over the potatoes then, in the same cup, I lightly beat two eggs with a fork and add them to the potatoes…
I dump in 4 T. of grated Parmesan cheese…
…and mash everything up…
You can use a hand mixer if you prefer, but don’t over-mix! And don’t use a food processor as potatoes tend to get to “glassy” if they are processed. Yuck!
You can see that the mixture is quite soft–not dry. The eggs will help the mixture to “bind” when it bakes so that it holds it’s shape in the end. For now, I’m going to put half of the potato mixture in a 9X13-inch casserole dish that I’ve buttered and dusted with dry bread crumbs…
I smooth the potatoes out into the corners…and cover with a layer of sliced (or shredded) cheese. You can use any type of cheese. I used Swiss on this layer…a favorite of my Good Husband’s.
Next, I put a layer of deli meat…
Neapolitans eat quite a wide variety of deli meats–mortadella, prosciutto, salami, etc. They usually make this dish as a way to use up those little odds and ends of deli meats that invariably get left in the fridge, wrapped in butcher paper. We don’t eat a lot of deli meats, so instead, I just buy whatever meats I want. Here I’m using a combination of salami and speck (a dry ham popular in the Val d’Aosta region as well as in Germany). When I living in Germany I usually used turkey salami. Use whatever variety of deli meats you like best or have on hand!
I top this with another layer of cheese…this time I’m using smoked scarmorza…
…and on top of that I spread the remaining potato mixture…
I spread it into the corners and sprinkle it with dry bread crumbs…and Parmesan cheese…
At this point the Gateau (Potato Cake) can be refrigerated until later–or baked at 350Â° F (180Â° C) for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
I like to leave it set for 10-15 minutes before cutting it–as you might for lasagna. This helps the cheese to set a bit and makes it easier to lift out a delicious square of creamy Potato Cake…
All you need is a salad on the side to make a wonderful lunch…or supper. Perfect for a rainy day–but delicious any day!
- 3 lb. (1.5 kg) potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 6-7 C.)
- 1/2 C. (115 g) butter
- 1 C. (250 ml) milk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 T. Parmesan
- 6 T. dry bread crumbs
- 8 oz. (250 g) sliced or grated cheese of your choice: mozzarella, scarmorza, Swiss, Gouda, Provolone
- 4 oz. (125 g) prosciutto, Italian salami or ham, sliced or diced
- Boil the potatoes until tender; drain. Mix in the butter, milk, eggs and 2 T. of the Parmesan and mash well.
- Butter a 9X13-inch (23X33 cm) baking dish and sprinkle in half of the bread crumbs, coating the surface completely.
- Spoon half of the potato mixture into the dish, spreading it evenly. Top with the cheese, and the meat, then cover with the remaining potato mixture.
- Sprinkle the top with the remaining bread crumbs, and 2 more tablespoons of Parmesan.
- Bake at 350Â° F (180Â° C) for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
- Let rest 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.
This recipe for Gateau is on page 161 of O Taste & See Some More!