Recipe Corner : POTATOES AND CHEESE

Nothing like a plate of potatoes and cheese (papas con queso) with fresh avocado and tomatoes! photo © Lorraine Caputo

Nothing like a plate of potatoes and cheese (papas con queso) with fresh avocado and tomatoes! photo © Lorraine Caputo

There’s really no other name I could give this recipe that came to be when I tried to replicate a comfort food — creamy scalloped potatoes — without the oven.

I’ve experimented — and haven’t quite succeeded. Though, I have created a rather tasty potato and cheese dish that have won rave reviews from travelers and hostel workers alike. (Tía, ¿cuándo vas a preparar papa con queso de nuevo? – Auntie, when are you going to make potatoes and cheese again? – one young worker in a Quito residencial would often ask me when I was in town.)

Over the years, I have come up with this simple recipe that includes only four ingredients: potatoes, onion, milk and cheese. From there, a variety of variations con be played on this theme.  Feel free to experiment yourself. A clove or two of minced garlic adds another dimension – as do herbs like rosemary or thyme.

Potatoes and Cheese makes a good one-pot meal or a side dish. Serve it with a tossed salad, or simply with sliced tomato. Accompanied with a nice Argentine or Chilean wine makes for a perfect end to a day of sightseeing or hiking. ¡Buen provecho!

Let’s start with the basics and create versions to satisfy any mood.

 

Onion sliced into plumillas – “little feathers.” photo © Lorraine Caputo

Onion sliced into plumillas – “little feathers.” photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

Estimated cooking time: 30 minutes

        For: vegetarians

 

BASIC POTATOES AND CHEESE

2 tablespoons of oil

6 large potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, peeled

salt to taste

1 cup of milk

1 cup of shredded or crumbled cheese

 

Cut the potatoes in half length-wise, then cut into thin slices crosswise.

Cut the onion in half length-wise, then cut into thin slices lengthwise. (This cut in Spanish is called plumilla.)

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Toss the potatoes into the oil, coating them. Cover the skillet to allow the potatoes to brown and to steam about five minutes. When the potatoes are beginning to become tender, toss in the onions. Cover and cook for about three minutes.

Add a cup of water and salt. Cover the skillet and turn the fire down to a medium flame. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the water is almost totally evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the milk and cheese. Cover and allow the cheese to melt. Serve.

 

Preparing the ingredients for Spicy Potatoes and Cheese. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Preparing the ingredients for Spicy Potatoes and Cheese. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Variation 1

SPICY POTATOES AND CHEESE

2 tablespoons of oil

6 large potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, peeled

1 large green pepper, thinly sliced

1 hot (chili) pepper, finely chopped

salt to taste

1 cup of milk

1 cup of shredded cheese

 

Prepare the potatoes and onion as described in the Basic recipe.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Toss the potatoes into the oil, covering them. Cover the skillet to allow the potatoes to brown and to steam about five minutes. When the potatoes are beginning to become tender, toss in the onions, green pepper and hot pepper. Cover and cook for about three minutes.

Add a cup of water and salt. Cover the skillet and turn the fire down to a medium flame. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the water is almost totally evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the milk and cheese. Cover and allow the cheese to melt. Serve.

 

Variation 2

VEGIE POTATOES AND CHEESE

2 tablespoons of oil

4 large potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, peeled

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks (optional)

1+ cup of broccoli and / or cauliflower florets

salt to taste

1 cup of milk

1 cup of shredded cheese

 

Prepare the potatoes and onion as described in the Basic recipe.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Toss the potatoes, carrot and broccoli (cauliflower) into the oil, coating them. Cover the skillet to allow the potatoes to brown and to steam about five minutes. When the potatoes are beginning to become tender, toss in the onions. Cover and cook for about three minutes.

Add a cup of water and salt. Cover the skillet and turn the fire down to a medium flame. Cook until the potatoes and vegetables are tender and the water is almost totally evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the milk and cheese. Cover and allow the cheese to melt. Serve.

 

VARIATIONS ON THE MILK THEME

  • If you are camping, use 1 cup of water and 4 heaping tablespoons of instant milk in place of the milk.
  • Natural (plain) yoghurt or – for a much richer dish – cream cheese may be used in place of the milk.
  • I have never tried it – but soy milk and cheese could probably work okay, too.
  • You’ll want to choose a cheese that will melt well (not all Latin American cheeses do!) Ask your local vendor what would work well in making a cheese sauce (una salsa de queso).
  • No grater on hand to shred the cheese? All is not lost!

Cut the block of cheese into thin slices. Lay the slices atop one another, and cut into thin ribbons. Voilà! You have shredded cheese!

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