Vegetables and Sides

Potato Torte Stuffed with Pancetta

Recipe courtesy of At Home with Michael Chiarello (Chronicle Books, 2004), by Michael Chiarello. Reprinted with permission from the publisher

Ingredients

 

  • 3 pounds large russet potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1/2 pound pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, about 1 1/2 pounds total
  • Finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Prick each potato once or twice with a fork, place directly on the oven rack, and bake until a thin knife blade easily slides into them, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, to make cutting the pancetta easier, roll up the slices into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap, and put it in the freezer for about 1 hour. Remove the pancetta from the freezer and cut the log into julienne strips 1 inch long and 1/4 inch wide and thick.
  4. In a 12-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the pancetta over low heat. Cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, just until it begins to crisp and the fat is rendered, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain. Remove the skillet from the heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the skillet, and set aside.
  5. While the pancetta is cooking, peel the onions, trim off the root and stem ends, and then cut in half lengthwise through the stem end. Cut each half lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  6. Add the onions to the reserved skillet and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set the skillet over medium heat and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 20 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the thyme and cook, stirring once or twice, for 15 seconds to release its flavor. Add the vinegar and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to loosen browned bits on the pan bottom. Return the pancetta to the skillet, stir briefly, and then remove from the heat.
  7. Using a paring knife, peel the potatoes. You want to keep the potatoes whole, so peel gently. Grate the potatoes on the largest holes of a box grater-shredder onto a large plate, always moving the potato in a single direction. You will give up the last 1/2 inch or so of each potato (or your knuckles). Transfer the grated potatoes in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and mix well.
  8. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, spread half of the potatoes across the bottom of the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes to release some moisture from the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining 3 teaspoons thyme evenly over the layer of potatoes in the pan. Spread the onion mixture on top in an even layer. Place the remaining potatoes on top of the onions, pressing them down very lightly.  Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil around the outer edge of the skillet.
  9. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the potatoes are golden brown on top, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a spatula along the outer edge of the torte to release any potatoes stuck to the pan sides. Invert a round rimmed platter larger than the skillet on top of the skillet. Then, holding the plate and the skillet, invert them together. The torte should release onto the plate. Lift off the pan, then pour off any extra oil from the platter. Alternatively, use 2 large spatulas to carefully slide the torte out of the pan onto the platter. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes longer. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

 

Time Level Yield
2 hours+ Moderate 8 servings

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