At Vashon Island’s Kurtwood Farms, owner Kurt Timmermeister makes a bloomy-rind cow’s milk cheese called Dinah’s Cheese. When it was first released in 2009, Seattle swooned; nowhere in the state is there a farmstead Camembert-style cheese so clearly fit for international fame.
In my official opinion, it would be an atrocity to do anything to Dinah’s Cheese besides eat it at room temperature at its peak ripeness, when the middle succumbs to a thumb’s soft pressure and the inside has the consistency of thick homemade pudding. But should your path cross a certain gooey cheese good enough to make you voluntarily lie prostrate in a busy street, and you promise not to tell anyone that you’d consider putting half a wheel into a simple potato gratin with little bits of pancetta and a glug of cream, read on.
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil ¾ cup (about 3 ounces) diced pancetta 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour Salt Freshly ground black pepper 4 ounces not-quite-ripe Camembert–style cheese (about ½ wheel), chilled 2⁄3 cup heavy cream ½ cup whole milk 1 egg
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 8- by 8-inch (or similar) gratin dish with the oil and set aside.
2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, toss the potato slices and flour in a large bowl, using your hands to distribute the flour evenly. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper (the amount of salt you use should depend on how salty your pancetta tastes). Cut the cheese into thin slices. (You can leave the rind on.)
4. Spread one-third of the potatoes along the bottom of the dish, overlapping them as necessary. Scatter one-third of the cooked pancetta over the potatoes, followed by one-third of the cheese, broken up into little bits. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, making two more layers, ending with pancetta and cheese. Whisk the cream, milk, and egg together in a small bowl, then carefully pour the liquid mixture over the potatoes.
5. Cover the gratin tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the temperature to 400°F, and bake 40 to 45 minutes longer, or until the potatoes are lightly browned on top and a skewer can pierce through the layers easily. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.