Cheesy-Peasy Potato Nests

Cheesy-Peasy Potato Nests
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cheesy-peasy potato nests
Scoop out to serve the cheesy-peasy nests!

We almost called these Easy-Cheesy-Peasy Potato Nests, but, while they’re not too difficult, we can’t really think of them as easy, either. More like moderate-Cheesy-Peasy Potato Nests, but that doesn’t really have that nice a ring, does it? This recipe came about as a way to use some potatoes that we had sitting in the cupboard. One of them was just starting to sprout, so it was time to use ’em.

The idea of turning the potatoes into small nests comes directly from the Cheese and Potato Nests we’d made before, but, this time, we tried to address their blandness by using a stronger cheese as a sauce to flavor the potatoes. And, we added peas, because peas are so tasty (they’re one of the few vegetables that are tolerable when commercially frozen).

So let’s get scratchin’ and put some dinner on the table!

Makes 8 nests.

Cheesy-Peasy Potato Nests

Cheesy-Peasy Potato Nests

Ingredients

  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup shredded (about 2 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper

Abbreviated Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease eight cups in muffin tins.

Peel and grate potatoes. Soak potato shreds in water for 15 minutes to remove the starch.

Drain potatoes and press into muffin tins, making small cups. Bake 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.

Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until light brown, about 5 minutes.

Add milk, cream, and nutmeg, a third at a time, while stirring continuously. Stir until thickened and bubbly.

Remove from heat and let stand for a minute, stir in cheese until melted and smooth, then add peas. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Divide mixture among partially-baked potato cups.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2014/02/cheesy-peasy-potato-nests/

Ingredient discussion:

Cheese is the real key here. Use one with a lot of flavor, to stand up to the baking. We happened to have a bit of five-year Cheddar that fit the bill. We went with heavy cream (organic so it wouldn’t contain seaweed) to add richness to the dish, but it would be fine with just milk, or half-and-half. And, while we used green onions (I’itoi onions, a local variety), ordinary yellow onions would be fine. Finally, while we would have preferred fresh peas, we do feel that frozen peas are one of the few vegetables that are an acceptable substitute for fresh.

Procedure in detail:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease about eight cups in muffin tins so that the potatoes won’t stick while they bake. Also, be aware that you might need to grease a few more or a few fewer cups, depending on the size of your potatoes. We greased twelve, but we had to skimp on potatoes for six of our cups.

soaking grated potato
Soaking the potato shreds in water removes some starch and prevents browning.

Peel and grate potatoes. We like to peel and grate each potato at the same  time, and, in this case we grated them directly into a bowl of water. The water serves two purposes: it helps leach out some of the potato starch, which we didn’t want in this dish, and it keeps the potatoes from oxidizing and turning brown. Let soak for about 15 minutes.

potato nests
See, just like little nests! Now, bake the shells while you make the sauce.

Make nests. Drain the potatoes, and press the potato shreds into the muffin tins to form little nests. With the soaking, the potatoes will seem as if they’re crisp and somewhat inflexible, but they’ll press into place.

Bake nests. Slide the nests into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, which is about the time you’ll need for the sauce filling.

making roux
Making a roux is the key to a thick cheese sauce that doesn’t separate.

Make roux. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. When melted and foamy, add onions and cook until tender. Sprinkle flour on top of the onions, and cook, stirring and scraping, until the flour is light brown, about 5 minutes.

dairy and nutmeg
We like to mix the cream and milk together, then grate the nutmeg on top.

Add milk, cream, and nutmeg. While stirring continuously, add the milk and cream in thirds, stirring until the roux is completely incorporated before the next addition. We do this by measuring out the milk and cream, grating the nutmeg on top, then pouring the mixture in a third at a time. Stir and cook until thickened and bubbly, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat for 1-2 minutes.

making cheese sauce
Once the sauce has thickened and cooled for a minute, stir in the cheese until melted and smooth.

Add cheese. After the sauce has cooled a bit (this helps to keep the cheese sauce from separating, or breaking), stir in the cheese until smooth and creamy.

ading peas
Now add the peas. It’s okay if they’re still a little frozen. The oven will fix that.

Add peas and season. Stir in the peas, taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

cheesy-peasy potato nests
Our nests are filled and ready to be put back in the oven until browned and bubbly.

Fill nests. Remove the nests from the oven and divide the cheese and pea sauce among the nests, filling them about 3/4 full. The sauce will settle into the potatoes as they cook.

cheesy-peasy potato nests
Scoop out to serve the cheesy-peasy nests!

Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the nests have browned and the sauce is bubbling.

Serve. Scoop out the nests and plate.

Using a very sharp Cheddar cheese really made these nests stand out from the hum-drum, and cheese and peas just seem to form a natural pairing in terms of flavor; hence, you often see cheese sauce poured on top of steamed peas. By baking these two together, we avoid adding to that last minute rush of finishing a sauce to top the peas. Instead, we can concentrate on the other tasks needed to finish dinner and still have the cheese sauce. Placing the peas and sauce in the potato cups prevents the sauce from running over the plate, and helps to round out this meal. Our only complaint was that the potato nests didn’t get as crispy as we’d wanted. So, for the lack of crisposity, they don’t quite get all the stars. We’ll say four, though, for the outstanding flavor.

Worth the trouble?

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