Friday, September 8, 2017

Pear Potato Cheese Casserole

This simple to prepare, side dish for your harvest table sports unique flavor.

Potatoes and juicy pears make a great seasonal duet for a casserole gratin especially when topped with nutty, buttery swiss cheese, crispy pan fried smoked ham, fresh chives and sprinkled with fragrant fennel seeds. 

Paired with a simple crisp side salad, this flavor packed casserole is hearty enough to serve as a main dish for dinner and is a great fall brunch option. 

You can easily leave out the smoked ham from this recipe for a vegetarian version. I like using a swiss or gouda cheese for this dish, however, cheddar or mozzarella would work just as well. Substituting sweet variety apples for the pears would also be a delicious tweak. 

Pear Potato Cheese Casserole
Prep Time: 30 minutes 
Cook Time: 45 minutes 
Yield: serves 8
  • 2 lbs medium sized red or yellow potatoes
  • 4 ripe but firm fresh pears
  • 1 small bundle of fresh chives (about 1/3 cup when chopped) 
  • 8 oz swiss, gouda or gruyere cheese 
  • 4 oz smoked ham
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds 
  • Place the potatoes in a large pot of water, add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of sugar. Bring the potatoes to a boil and cook until they soften (about 20 minutes.) You should be able to easily run a fork through them but the potatoes should not be so soft, that they fall apart when pierced. They need to be firm for slicing and further baking. 
  • While the potatoes are cooking, wash the fresh pears and pat them dry. Cut each into quarters and remove the core. Cut each quarter section in half. 
  • Wash the fresh chives and pat them dry. Chop the chives into very small pieces.
  • Cut the cheese into small pieces. 
  • Drain the boiled potatoes and rinse them in cool water. Use your fingers or a peeler to remove and discard the skins. 
  • Cut the potatoes lengthwise into quarters, then slice each quarter in half. 
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F 
  • Roughly chop the smoked ham into small pieces. 
  • Place the ham in a dry frying pan and fry until the pieces just start to crisp. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  • Lay the potato and pear wedges into a 9 x12 casserole dish, alternating the potato and pear. Tuck the pieces of ham in between the potato and pear slices. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 
  • Evenly arrange the cheese pieces over the casserole, then sprinkle the fennel seeds over the top. 
  • Evenly scatter the chopped chives over the top.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until bubbling and slightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and serve immediately from the casserole dish.

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