I belong to a book club that meets about once per month. The rules are pretty lax and that suits me fine. Some months there are just three of us in attendance-other months several more show up. Sometimes people haven't even read the book they just show up for the social time - I like that too. The general rule is if you select the book you host the meeting. There is always some wine to drink and some food to eat. One participant, Bonnie, is an incredible planner, blogger, mother, wife and cook and always serves a beautiful table. Our leader Stacy, a professional photographer, wife, and dog breeder lives way out in the country and builds bon-fires for us to discuss our latest read. Robin, my girl friend, mother and recent returnee to the work world has a husband/chef who owns a fabulous restaurant, here in town, where we can all meet. I'm really not sure if it is a club that is about books or a club that is about food, but I have come to realize that it is a club about friends.
February was my month to host. I had selected The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The book is a delightful read and tells a fictional story about the lives of folks living and held against their will by the Germans during World War II. It speaks about their hard lives and lack of food and how they had to make something out of nothing to keep from starving to death. The potato peel pie is one such dish. After a bit of research I found this pie is as fictional as the characters in the book. If you did try to create it the taste would be a bit like wallpaper paste.
The February 2011 issue of Cuisine at home magazine featured a one-skillet meal called the Grape Pickers' Skillet that I thought might be a good stand in for the potato peel pie. As you will see it has plenty of potatoes, but also includes cheese, onions and bacon-there is no taste of paste here!
Grape Pickers' Skillet
Makes 8 servings
Total time: about 1-3/4 hours
10 oz. bacon strips
2 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup shaved Gruyere cheese, divided
Salt and black pepper
1-1/2 cup cooked shredded chicken
1 cup leeks
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Line an 8-inch cast-iron skillet with bacon, covering the bottom and the sides and leaving a third of each strip hanging over the sides. Sprinkle thyme over bacon. (This looks like spokes on a wheel.)
Layer half the potatoes onto bacon and thyme, covering the entire surface. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Gruyere over potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Repeat layering with chicken and 1/4 cup Gruyere. Continue layering with leeks, garlic, remaining potato slices, salt and pepper, and remaining Gruyere.
Fold hanging pieces of bacon strips to the center of the skillet, covering entire top. Transfer skillet to stove top and cook over medium heat, 10 minutes.
Cover skillet with foil, transfer to oven and roast 30 minutes. Remove foil and roast until bacon is crisp and potatoes are fork-tender, 30 minutes more. Let meal rest 10 minutes, then drain drippings and loosen edges to serve.
According to Cuisine the Grape Pickers' Skillet was "[n]amed for the peasant dish of layered potatoes encased in bacon [and]... was a favorite of grape pickers in France's Burgundy region." True or not this is a delicious meal for either breakfast, lunch or dinner and if you have some leftover will reheat nicely. Life is good - enjoy!