In the south of Italy it is called gattò. In Sicilian dialect is also called u grattò chi patati. For me it was a mysterious word. I discovered the origin when I was a child at school. Gateau in French means “cake”: here is the influence that foreign dominations have had on our dialect, as well as on our dishes.
The potato gateau is a recycling dish, delicious in all its forms. Although it is also good cold, the gateau is delicious if served at room temperature. You need to rest well and, in some cases, that the cheese is still soft. You can safely eat also on the beach, when outside, walking. A tasty pie full of surprises. An ancient variant was prepared in a pan, because back then not everybody had their own oven. Those who, however, were lucky enough to have one, used a large aluminum baking tray to bake it.
The gateau and its variation
My aunt did it with the funds of cold cuts and cheeses. My grandmother, on the other hand, did it with peas and ham, or with a rich layer of mixed meat sauce.
There is also the variation with the anchovies, with the hard-boiled eggs and the artichokes, with the salami and the caciocavallo, with the seasoning of the sfincione, with the wild fennel, the bacon and primo sale…
In short, there are so many varieties because you easily switch from tradition to the most simple leftovers from the fridge. What matters is to play with the ingredients and then taste so much goodness. The contrasts of texture that explode in the palate and the simple flavors, is a perfect fusion between those delicate and those decisive. These are the specifications of a good gateau.
My memories are related to summers in the country, when it was prepared in the morning during a rite that I attended and participated with joy. This was awaited throughout the day by us, irresistible greedy, until it arrived in the evening, as compact as it should be. At dinner, around that large table full of good things, when there was the grattò for me it was a party.
Today we present the version with fried aubergines, ham and caciocavallo.
This is a real goodness!
Ingredients (for 8 people, with a tray of 26 cm of diametre)
- 1.250 g of yellow potatoes
- 1 egg
- 1 white onion
- 70 g grated grana padano
- Salt, pepper and breadcrumbs (as needed)
- A little bit of butter
- 150 g sliced ham
- 150 g chopped caciocavallo
- 3 aubergines
- Evo oil to fry
First prepare the aubergines. Slice them thick, sprinkle with salt and put them in a colander for at least 40 minutes. In this way, they will lose their bitterness, or the vegetal liquid (put a weight on them and you will accelerate this process).
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water.
Now, spread the aubergines on a cloth, cover with another one, to dry them and make your frying perfect, as long as the oil is hot. Place them on paper to dab the excess grease.
When the potatoes are cooked, peel them and mash them while they are still warm. Let cool a few minutes and mix them with the egg. Season to taste with salt, add pepper, finely chopped onion and grana padano cheese. Keep some cheese aside for later. Make sure the mixture is firm, if not add more grana padano cheese.
Grease generously a pan and sprinkle with plenty of breadcrumbs, on the bottom and edges. At this point get a bowl full of water and a metal spoon.
Now you can form your own potato gateau. Pour half of the mixture of potatoes on the baking sheet and, with moistened hands, roll out the mixture making it adhere well to the bottom and edge. Wet the back of the spoon and smooth. Create three pits and insert three little pieces of butter. Now have fun alternating ham, aubergines and caciocavallo. The more layers you do the better the gateau will be. Enriched with a sprinkling of cheese, close with the remaining mixture and add more butter.
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and grana padano cheese. Put some more butter flakes or if you prefer a drizzle of oil. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 180° (gas oven) in preheated oven. After 25 minutes remove the aluminum. Continue cooking for another quarter of an hour, or until you see a nice golden crust. Turn it out after at least half an hour and serve.
Of course, you can also season the potatoes with herbs, such as parsley and you can use grated pecorino cheese instead of grana. Or try this recipe with smoked cheese.
The potato gateau will become an essential dish: too good not to cook it often, just as comfortable to serve when you have no other ideas or food!
Buon appetito in the sign of ancient tradition and family warmth.