Throwing springtime dinner parties, such as Easter dinner and sunny Sunday brunches, perplex me the most. The main dishes are typically set – Easter ham or Polish sausage for example, but filling out the side dishes always give me a pause for thought. Green, spring-y vegetables are a given, such as sugar snap peas and asparagus. Easy. A bright, vinegary cucumber salad is always welcome as is a fruit salad of some sort. But what else?
Are potatoes appropriate? They seem too heavy, too warm weather, which is exactly what I’m trying to run away from. Then there’s the matter of bread. You need some sort of bread item in there; a biscuit, maybe rye bread or a squishy roll. I never know. It’s the dang carbohydrates that throw me off every time. The transition from winter to spring should be easier and heavy carbohydrates just seem out-of-place amidst all the light and brightness that is the new season. Is there such a thing as a light starchy potato or bread dish that plays well with others? I wondered.
One day I stumbled upon the idea of a potato strudel made with puff pastry and the idea really hit a chord. Potatoes in a new, fresh way wrapped in a buttery crisp crust was very interesting. Plus it was pretty enough for the spring holiday table and fancy enough for company. This was worth exploring.
I took the original recipe (found here) and expanded upon it, tweaking the seasoning a bit and adding tangy goat cheese. It was delicious. A potato gratin wrapped in a crispy, buttery puff pastry how could it not be? I made it a few times and then this week, I thought it needed a little pop of color so I added a handful of asparagus to the mix. While I liked the look and flavor, the asparagus has a tendency to overcook, which is exactly what mine did. They were on the thin side so this isn’t a total surprise so be sure to look for the thickest spears possible. Those little pencil thin spears will turn to mush in no time.
This addition of vegetables brings up a great point – start with the potato base and vary however the mood strikes. Maybe work in another vegetable – slightly sautéed mushrooms or spinach would be nice. Or just go straight up potatoes and cheese. I love the idea of a little gruyere tucked in there. I don’t think you can really lose. Just be sure to avoid very damp and moist items lest you make the pastry soggy. This would be very sad.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: A GOOD ONE. Hey, let’s be honest. This one has a crafty aspect with a sort of weaving technique that makes you feel special. Think about it this way: you’re weaving a warm, toasty pastry blanket around a potato gratin and that right there sounds magical. It takes some rather ho-hum components – potatoes, cheese, vegetables – and shoves them directly into the limelight. No shrinking violet here! This is perfect for the Easter table as it will hold it’s own next to that attention grabbing ham. I say do it.
Seven years ago: Khachpuri (cheesy Georgian bread)
Six years ago: Pretzel Rolls (by far my most popular recipe)
Five years ago: Guinness Stout Floats
Four years ago: Liege Sugar Waffles
Three years ago: Banana Bread Bread Pudding
Two years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise
Last year: Flourless Chocolate Cookies
POTATO GOAT CHEESE STRUDEL – adapted from this recipe
This strudel is best enjoyed straight out of the oven, with the puff pastry shattering into buttery crumbs as it is sliced. I’m not a fan of reheating, however, this can be assembled several hours ahead of time, refrigerated and then baked fresh, right before serving. Look for thick, fat asparagus spears as the thinner ones have a tendency to overcook, as mine did.
1 sheet puff pastry, about 9 ½ ounces
¾ pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled & thinly sliced
¼ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced, about ¼ cup
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
¼ pound thick asparagus spears, about 7-8 spears depending on the size
egg wash: 1 large egg yolk + 1 Tablespoon milk
flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
- Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
- On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll puff pastry to a 9”x12” rectangle.
- Transfer parchment and pastry to a heavy sheet pan. Refrigerate while you continue prepping the remaining ingredients.
- Peel, rinse and thinly slice the potatoes 1/8” thick. A mandoline, if you have one, works very well for this purpose.
- In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, scallions, salt, pepper and garlic.
- Gently toss the potatoes with this mixture, coating thoroughly. Though messy, your hands will do this best.
- Remove the puff pastry from the refrigerator and place the potatoes in the middle in a short of shingled fashion.
- Top with the asparagus spears then the crumbled goat cheese.
- Beat egg yolk and milk together to make an egg wash. Set aside until needed.
- With a sharp paring knife, cut a rectangle notch, about 1″ x 1 ½” from each corner; this will keep the pastry from becoming too thick on the ends.
- Now cut ½” wide strips about ½” from the edge of the filling to the edge of the pastry on both sides.
- Channel you inner coffeecake making skills – fold the notched out tabs on each end up and over the filling to seal the filling in on both ends.
- Alternating from side to side, take the first pastry strip closest to you and stretch it up and over the filling, pressing lightly on the opposite side to seal. Do the same with a strip from the opposite side, crisscrossing, and continue in this fashion until all strips are used. Your strudel will look a little like a mummy (see photo above.)
- Brush the strudel on all sides with the egg wash and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
- Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan, increase the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for another 25 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.
- The strudel is best enjoyed straight out of the oven, while the pastry is nice and crisp and the filling is warm. If you have to reheat any leftovers, crisp up in a 350°F oven.