Switzerland’s Hot and Cheesy Casserole Named After A Disease

Goms is a valley in the rugged mountainous canton of Valais in Switzerland, where this pie originated. The unusual name of this pie, Gomser Cholera, derives from the cholera epidemic that hit Switzerland hard in 1836. Rather than leave the house and risk infection, people tended to prepare meals with the food they had on hand. In nineteenth-century Switzerland, this was typically, apples, pears, potatoes, onions, leeks, raclette cheese, local bacon, and the pastry ingredients. The cheese called for is one particular kind of raclette cheese known as Gomser; other raclette cheeses are Belalp, Valais Raclette, and Bagnes. They are sold under the generic name raclette cheese. As befits a home-prepared dish of many families, there are many recipes. This recipe is adapted from the one posted on the Goms tourist bureau Web site. However, the pie is hardly known in Switzerland today; in fact, most Swiss will look at you confusedly if you were to mention it.

Gomser Cholera
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Savory Pie
Cuisine: Swiss
Serves: 8 to 10 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes (about 1¾ pounds)
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3½ ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces onions, finely chopped
  • 1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, split lengthwise, washed well, and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound tart apples, peeled, quartered, and sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 pound puff pastry, defrosted according to package instructions
  • 10 ounces Gomser cheese (raclette cheese)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
Instructions
  1. Place the potatoes in a pot full of water, bring to a boil over medium heat, then cook until a skewer glides easily into the center, about 40 minutes in all. Remove the potatoes, peel, cut into quarters, slice, and set aside.
  2. In a large flameproof casserole, melt the butter with the bacon over low heat and cook until the bacon is slightly crispy, about 10 minutes. Add the onions and leeks and cook, stirring, until softened and slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add the apples and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Roll out two-thirds of the puff pastry dough to fit into a 9-inch diameter deep-dish pie pan. Spread half the onion mixture over the dough and top with half of the potatoes and then half the cheese. Cover the cheese with the remaining filling in the same order. Roll out the remaining puff pastry and cover the filling with it. Score in several places and brush with the beaten egg. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.

 

Spicy Catalan Stew of Haricot Beans

The role of dried common beans in the cuisine of Catalonia is unique in the Mediterranean. They play a role in the staple diet more akin to the role of beans in Mexico than with any other region of the Mediterranean. Although it’s true that beans are a staple or near-staple everywhere in the Mediterranean, the Catalonian love of beans is reflected in the role of the olla from the time of Don Quixote. The bean in those early bean stews must have been the fava bean or hyacinth bean, because Phaseolus vulgaris–the common bean so closely associated today with the cooking of Catalonia did not appear in Europe until after Columbus’s second voyage in 1493. One of the first references to this bean is in Clermont-sur-Lauquet in France from 1565 where it is called monges. It seems that this word might have come from the Catalan, which would make sense since the common bean had to move north from Seville where it first appeared in the Mediterranean. This very flavorful Catalonian stew using mongetes, common beans, is called salpiquet de mongetes, a dish that will remind you of a poor man’s or quick-style cassoulet in taste. The caul fat required in the recipe can usually be found in supermarkets that also make their own sausages and which serve ethnic populations. The Spanish-style semi-dry sausage can be ordered from La Española, by visiting www.donajuana.com.

Salpiquet de Mongetes
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Catalan
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1⅓ cups dried white haricot beans (about 9 ounces), soaked in water to cover overnight and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head of garlic, first layer of peel rubbed off
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Water to cover
  • 1 tablespoon pork lard
  • 1 slice lean salt pork (about 1½ ounces), diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 ounces bacon, chopped
  • One walnut-sized chunk caul fat or mesentary or pork fat, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 thin slices Spanish-style semi-dry sausage, salami, or peperoni, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the haricot beans in an earthenware casserole with the bay leaf, head of garlic, and salt. Cover with cold water. Turn the heat to high and once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat low and simmer, covered, until the outer cloves of garlic are very soft, about 30 minutes. Drain and return the beans to the casserole and cover again, just to the top of the beans, with fresh cold water. Save the head of garlic and extract the garlic from the cloves and chop. Discard the bay leaf.
  2. In a small skillet, melt the lard over medium-high heat, then brown the salt pork until a little crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it is soft, about 6 minutes, stirring.
  3. Chop the garlic cloves with the parsley and bacon and add to the skillet with the onions, then cook until the bacon is a bit crispy, about 4 minutes, stirring. Add the caul fat and cook 1 minute. Add this mixture to the beans and stir. Add the tomato paste, reserved garlic, olive oil, sausage, and pepper and then the salt. Simmer until the beans are very tender and the broth is in between a stew and a soup, about, 2 ½ to 3 hours. If necessary, moisten with water from time to time so the beans are always covered. Stir in the garlic from the garlic head.

 

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