right after we moved into our place in seattle i took a careful tour of the yard, looking for any perennial herbs left behind by previous residents. i found only 7 small plants growing along the front of the house that looked like a less woody rosemary, but the taste indicated they were definitely not rosemary. the flavor was a little like thyme, but with the bitterness and pungency of oregano. i snipped a piece to take with me to the seattle tilth edible plant sale a few weeks later, and compared my sample to their herb starts. that's how i discovered we had 7 small summer savory plants in our yard.
once i'd learned what it was, i had a new critical question-- what the heck do you do with it? all of the online information i could find talked about its use in flavoring beans. it wasn't seeming like a terribly versatile herb, and i had 7 of them. (now we're down to 3, since i ripped out 4 to make the tomato bed.)
a couple of months ago i bought a new cookbook, the herbal kitchen by jerry traunfeld. jerry was executive chef at the way celebrated restaurant/inn, the herbfarm in woodinville, washington, before opening his new restaurant here in seattle, poppy. (maybe you saw him on top chef masters this past season! he didn't make it to the end, but we remain darn proud, just the same.) the bottom line is, jerry is a chef known for his knowledge of herbs, and his cookbook offered a great recipe-- a summer savory potato gratin. we're entering a potato drought for several weeks until the new season crops are ready at olsen farms, and the gratin was a perfect use for my final 2 pounds of yukon golds until later in the summer.
summer savory potato gratin
adapted from the herbal kitchen by jerry traunfeld
2 lbs organic waxy or russet potatoes, like yukon golds or rio grande
1+ Tbsp butter cut into dices, plus some softened for preparing the pan
1/4 cup chopped shallot
1/4 cup chopped summer savory (substitutions: 2 Tbps chopped winter savory or chopped thyme)
1 cup (or more) grated good quality gruyere cheese
3/4 cup milk (we used organic 2%)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
heat oven to 400 degrees. peel potatoes and slice them as close to 1/16" as you can. (remember when i said you have to get a mandoline if you don't have one? i'm serious. go get one now. you can slice 2 lbs of potatoes in, like, 4 minutes.)
butter a gratin dish (glass or ceramic) and arrange 1/3 of the potato slices around the bottom. top with 1/2 shallots, 1/3 savory, and 1/3 cheese. sprinkle with salt and pepper. repeat twice more, topping with savory and cheese. (season each layer with salt and pepper!) dot top with the diced butter and pour milk over top.
bake 40-45 minutes until browned and bubbly.
yukon gold potatoes-- olsen farms
shallots-- pipitone farm