The north of Spain is famous for its variety of creamy cheeses, and many of them are sheep's milk cheese. Local dishes feature these cheeses in a variety of ways, and one that will quickly become a favorite is this delicious, cheesy Spanish potatoes au gratin (patatas gratinadas). This potato and cheese recipe is especially typical in the region Aragon, in northeastern Spain. It's usually served on the side with a hearty meat dish, though sometimes is served on its own as an appetizer or tapa.
This Spanish potatoes au gratin is easy to prepare and uses ingredients that are probably already in your pantry -- potatoes, eggs, milk, cheese, and bacon or pork belly (pancetta). Moist, not runny, this dish has a solid consistency -- a bit like a layered Spanish potato omelet with bacon.
Note: This recipe calls for Manchego cheese (sheep's milk cheese). If sheep cheese is unavailable, use another sharp cheese such as aged Monterey Jack.
- 4 medium to large potatoes
- 1 large onion
- Optional: 2 slices bacon (or pork belly or Spanish pancetta)
- 3 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 8 to 12 ounces whole milk
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup grated cured sheep's milk cheese for topping (such as Manchego cheese)
- Optional Garnish: 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- Preheat the oven to 360°F degrees.
- Peel and cut the potatoes into thin slices (1/8-inch thick). Peel and thinly slice the onion.
- Cut the bacon or pancetta lengthwise in strips and lightly fry them in a medium high pan. Remove the bits with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a paper towel.
- Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-inch by 12-inch glass baking dish. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Lay the julienned onions and a couple of strips of bacon or pancetta on top to create another layer. Repeat this process until all potatoes, onions, and bacon has been used.
- Beat the eggs and milk together, and pour over the potato mixture. (You can add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to the milk and egg mixture if you wish.)
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and place in a hot, preheated oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Return to the oven uncovered for another five to ten minutes (until the cheese is golden brown).
- When cheese has melted, remove from oven and decorate with the fresh thyme if desired. Cut into squares and serve.