My Favorite Dinner Party

Potato Torta Stuffed with Pancetta and Caramelized Onions

 

3 pounds large russet potatoes, unpeeled
1/2 pound pancetta, 1/4 inch slices
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 yellow onions, about 1 1/2 pounds in total
Finely ground sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375(F)

With a fork, prick each of the potatoes once or twice and place directly onto the rack in the oven. Bake until a think knife blade easily slides into them, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Be sure to let the potatoes cool so that you do not get a starchy texture.

Roll the slices of pancetta into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, place in freeze for about one hour. This will make cutting easier. Remove pancetta from the freezer and cut the log into julienne strips one inch long and 1/4 inch wide and thick.

In a 12 inch nonstick ovenproof skillet, add two tablespoons olive oil and the pancetta and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, just until it begins to crisp and the fat is rendered, about 20 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, place pancetta on paper towels to drain.

Remove skillet from heat, add two tablespoons olive oil and set aside.

While pancetta is cooking, peel onions, trim and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. Add the onions to the skillet and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 20 minutes. Add one teaspoon thyme and cook, stirring once or twice, for 15 seconds to release its flavor. Add the vinegar and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally to loosen browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the pancetta to the skillet, stir briefly, and then remove from the heat.

Using a paring knife, peel the potatoes. You want to keep the potatoes who, so peel gently. Grate the potatoes on the large wholes of a box grater-shredder onto the large plate, always moving the potatoes in a single direction. This gives you long strands and not beat-up pieces of potatoes. Turn the potatoes onto the surface area no wider than the grater.

Transfer the grated potatoes to a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and mix well.

In a 12 inch nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, spread half of the potatoes across the bottom of the skillet. Cook for two minutes to release some moisture from the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining three teaspoons thyme evenly over the layer of potatoes in the pan. Spread the onion mixture on top in an even layer. Place the remaining potatoes on top of the onion mixture layer pressing down very lightly. Drizzle the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil around the outer edge of the skillet.

Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the potatoes are golden brown on top, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for ten minutes. Run a spatula along the outer edge of the torta to release any potatoes stuck to the pan sides. Invert a round rimmed platter larger than the skillet on top of the skillet. Then holding the plate and the skillet, invert them together. The tort should release onto the plate. Lift off the pan, then pour off any extra oil from the platter. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Cut into wedges and serve warm.