Cheesy “Tex-Mex” Potato Gratin et al.

As the weather is starting to get warmer, pretty soon all these hearty winter dishes I have been enjoying all season will start to seem too heavy. However, for the time being I will keep making them as long as I can. Tonight’s dinner was a perfect example of classic comfort food, but with a little twist.

I will let you in on the chain of thought that went into planning tonight’s menu. Flank steak (for Ian) goes well with southwestern flavors, such as black beans and tortillas. And while beans and rice are a classic combination, most people don’t think about how well beans and potatoes go together. And what combination is more classic than steak and potatoes? There you have it. I decided on a simple black bean dish, “Tex-Mex” potato gratin, and a spiced flank steak for Ian.

First: Cheesy “Tex-Mex” Potato Gratin

This easily took the most time, but was by far the most rewarding.

  • 10 really small potatoes, peeled
  • 4 oz feta cheese (queso fresco would be even better, but the grocery store didn’t have any)
  • 4 oz low moisture mozzarella cheese, shredded (monterrey jack would work, too)
  • 1/2 of a 7 oz can of green chiles
  • 2 tablespoons minced onions
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • parmesan cheese
  • salt
  1. Slice the potatoes very thinly (I used a mandolin), and divide into thirds. Mix the feta with the chiles in a small bowl.
  2. Layer 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom of an 8×8 glass baking dish. Salt the potatoes. Top with half of the onions, then half of the feta/chile mixture, then a 1/3 of the mozzarella. Make another layer of potatoes, and then layer the rest of the onions and feta/chile mixture. Layer on another 1/3 of mozzarella. Top that with a final layer of potatoes and then the rest of the mozzarella.
  3. Cut the butter into really small pieces and dot it around the top of the dish. Mix the milk and broth together and pour evenly over the entire dish. Then top with an even layer of parmesan cheese (this will make a delectable crust).
  4. Bake in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes covered with aluminium foil (grease the foil with a little oil so the cheese doesn’t stick). Then remove the foil and broil until the cheese becomes brown and bubbly.

Second: Simple Black Beans

For the black beans, I sauteed onions and garlic in canola oil until the onions were translucent, then I added a can of black beans, the other half of the can of green chiles, some frozen cilantro and frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s (I love this stuff), and some ground cumin, salt and pepper. Cook until warm.

Third: Flank Steak

I forgot to marinate the steak, but I decided to cook it anyway. I rubbed it with Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, cumin, and garlic powder, topped it with onions, and broiled it for about 6 minutes on each side and then let it rest for a few more. It was not as flavorful as it could have been, Ian said, but it was cooked perfectly; rare and juicy.

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