Papet Vaudois With Saucisse au Chou and Côtes de Bette
My favorite traditional winter-time Suisse Romande dinner is a potato-leek gratin baked with a whole saucisse au chou “cabbage sausage” (way better than it sounds) on the top. Imagine after a day of skiing the Alps, coming back to your small, cozy skiing chalet with a fireplace warming your boots, a couple of wine glasses to clink and a good, hearty après ski Papet Vaudois, mmm… Here’s my father-in-law cooking Papet Vaudois over a wood fire in the outdoor kitchen in Greece last winter.
Last weekend, my mother-in-law treated us to a delicious variation that replaced the leeks with a vegetable I’d never heard of before: “côtes de bette” translated awkwardly as “ribs of beet”. I’m thinking they are the kind of green that has long stems (ribs) similar to celery, cardoons, and chard. They tasted a lot like chard stems. Another particular thing about dinner that evening was that next to the saucisse au chou, we had a sausage made after the grape-crushing season, for it had squashed grapes inside! Now those of you who have not yet tasted this delicious dish are probably thinking, “What could be worse than sausage seasoned with bits of cabbage inside? Well I guess that would be sausage with grape skins in it!! Yep that sure would be worse!” But, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong! This dinner was fabulous! Swiss cuisine deserves more international attention than it gets and if the cheese is the #1 reason why, Papet Vaudois comes in a close second.
Here’s the recipe:
5 medium baking potatoes, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick
1-1/2 pounds leeks or chard stems or if you’re lucky, “côtes de bette”, cleaned and sliced in 2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup beef stock
1 whole saucisse au chou, or if that’s not available, try a whole kielbasa
¾ cup half and half (Relax, it’s winter! You’ve been skiing! Don’t worry about it!)
½ tsp nutmeg
½ -1 cup grated gruyere cheese (optional but a delicious option!)
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and soften the onion in it. Add the potatoes, leeks (or substitute), salt and pepper. Add the wine and beef stock and simmer lightly covered for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are just al dente. Par-boil the sausage whole in just enough water to cover for 15 minutes. Dump the potato-leek mixture into an oven-proof pan and add half and half, nutmeg, optional cheese and sausage on top. Bake at 400F for up to 30 minutes or until middle is bubbly and it’s getting brown along the sides. Music to bake Papet Vaudois by: Pipilotti Rist’s (Ok, she’s Swiss German, so sue me) “I’m Not a Girl Who Misses Much” This video would have even tripped out John Lennon. Nuf said.