This hearty winter dish, which translates to "married potatoes" (though I'm not sure why), is a specialty of Italy's rugged, mountainous region of Abruzzo. There, it is traditionally made with scamorza, which is essentially a firm mozzarella. Because good scamorza is hard to find here, I've substituted pecorino fresco, which has a similar texture and mild flavor. In a pinch, you can use a good-quality supermarket-style mozzarella, which melts well.
No doubt you will balk at the amount of oil the recipe calls for. I did. But Laura Decina, the Abruzzese chef who shared her recipe with me, says the oil performs two vital functions: It roasts the potatoes to buttery tenderness without drying them out, and it achieves a perfectly crisped, golden-brown bread crumb topping.
Here, I've given a range so you can use less oil. You also can drain the oil that remains in the pan once the potatoes are baked; that's what I usually do. This is a great party dish, as it can be assembled in advance and feeds a lot of people. But the recipe can be cut in half easily.
- 4 cups fresh plain bread crumbs (see NOTE)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Whole leaves from 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (1 cup)
- 3 pounds potatoes, such as Yukon Gold (preferably older potatoes)
- 1/2 to 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (see headnote)
- 1/2 to 1 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
- 1 pound pecorino fresco, scamorza or supermarket mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have a 9-by-13-inch baking pan at hand.
Combine the bread crumbs, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, a generous grind of pepper and the parsley in a medium bowl and toss to incorporate. Let the mixture sit while you prepare the potatoes.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Combine the oils in a large liquid measuring cup.
Pour half the mixed oils into a large baking pan. Arrange one layer of potatoes in the bottom. Sprinkle them with a third of the remaining teaspoon of salt.
Remove the garlic from the bread crumbs (reserve for another use, if desired).
Scatter one-third of the bread-crumb mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle with a third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Top with half of the pecorino fresco. Arrange a second layer of potatoes over the pecorino; sprinkle with a third of the remaining salt. Top with a third of the bread-crumb mixture, a third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the remaining pecorino fresco. Make a third layer of potatoes; sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 teaspoon of salt. Top with the remaining bread-crumb mixture and the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Drizzle the remaining oil mixture over the potatoes.
Bake uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, or until the potatoes are very tender and the bread crumb topping is a deep golden-brown. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
At this point, you can drain some of the oil by carefully tipping the pan. Cut the potatoes into wedges and serve immediately.
NOTE: To make fresh bread crumbs, trim the crust off a one-pound oaf of country or peasant-style bread. Break the interior of the loaf into large chunks. Working in 2 batches, place them in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the bread chunks have broken into small crumbs.
Adapted from chef Laura Decina of Ristorante Plistia in Abruzzo, Italy.
Tested by Domenica Marchetti.
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