Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Gattò of Potatoes
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalWorcester Food Expert
Gattò, from the word gâteau, derives from the French period in Naples when this rich potato and cheese cake would be prepared for the aristocracy by their chef, a monzù or monsieur. This may be a dish served as stand alone or as accompaniments to antipasti, salads and soups. Choosing the suitable potatoes is very important just as much as underutilizing salt which will be plenty in the meats and the cheeses used. I am using a typical terracotta casserole however any baking dish will do unless you would like to make even a more stunning impression and in which case a spring-form mold is advisable but make the filling much more rigid by adding few more eggs in the mixture. As in any casseroles or pies the variations are plenty, especially in regards to the meats and the cheeses. I opted to keep out the additional bread crumb topping to show off the melting cheeses at the top.
For the Potato torte:
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
4 eggs, whole
3 oz unsalted butter
3 oz freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
A few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Milk if needed
For the filling:
6 oz. of mixed cured meats, such as cooked ham and salami, cut into very small cubes
6 oz. of cheeses such as smoked scamorza and mozzarella, sliced or cut into small cubes
For molding and baking:
Steam (or boil) the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size and quality of the potato. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and run them through a food mill or potato ricer into a large bowl, as if you were making mashed potatoes. Add the butter, grated cheese, seasonings and whole eggs. You can also add the cured meats to this mixture.
Mix everything very well until the butter is melted and the other ingredients well incorporated. If the mixture is too stiff to work with, add a bit of milk, a few drops at a time, until you have the texture you want.
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8" cake pan (or casserole) with the butter and line completely it with breadcrumbs.
Spread out half the mashed potato mixture on the bottom of the pan, then arrange the cheese and (if you have not added them to the potato mixture) the cured meats on top.
Add the other half of the mashed potato mixture on top of the filling and even it out so that the surface is nice and flat. Top the whole thing with more breadcrumbs and a few pieces of butter here and there.
Bake in a moderate oven (180C/350F) for about 30-45 minutes, until the gattò is cooked through and golden brown. (If the top is not quite browned enough, raise the heat for a few minutes before removing from the oven.)
Let the gattò cool off for a good 20 minutes or so before serving. Unmold the gattò if you baked it in a cake pan, and serve it just like a cake. If you baked it in a casserole, just bring it to the table and serve.
Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." Check out the Chef's website and blog.