QUAJADO (Aka kuajado, cuajado, frittada de prassa)
Leek and Potato Casserole
Quajado is a very old Sephardic dish dating to pre-Inquisition Jewish life in Spain, traditionally made of vegetables, eggs and cheese; omit the cheese for a non-dairy dish. Leeks were a favorite ingredient of Spain’s Jews, and grew abundantly in home gardens and farms of medieval Spain. In this later version, New World potatoes are used instead of eggplant.
3 large or 6 medium russet potatoes
3 Tb. olive oil, plus a little for the outside of the potatoes
6–7 large leeks
1 large or 2 medium carrots, shredded
5 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt (less if using salty cheese)
1 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 c. crumbled feta or shredded hard cheese such as Parmesan or kashkaval
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub potatoes under cold water, then brush lightly with oil. Prick skin and bake 50–60 minutes until very soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven, cut in half the long way, pull open to cool.
While the potatoes cook, clean and prepare the leeks. Cut off the darkest green tops, pull out the inner lighter green leaves in the middle. (Save the rest for making soup stock.) Cut off roots at the very end of each leek. Pull off a couple of layers of the tough part of the white and any damaged part. Split the white of each leek lengthwise and, with lighter green parts from the tops, cut across into half-inch pieces—8–9 cups of leek pieces. Place leeks in colander that fits into a large bowl or pot and wash under cold water. Set colander into bowl and fill with cold water. Let soak a few minutes, then swish the leeks around to help remove stubborn dirt. Let dirt fall to the bottom and lift out the colander. Toss and mix leeks under cool running water, checking for remaining dirt. If needed, rinse bowl and repeat.
Set a steamer insert or the metal colander into a pot with a few inches of water in the bottom and bring to a boil on high heat. Place clean leek pieces in the steamer or colander and cover pot tightly. Cook 15–20 minutes at medium heat until very tender. The leeks can also be boiled in a pot of water, but steaming adds no excess moisture. When leeks are soft, press them with the back of a spoon to force out any liquid.
Scoop out the insides of the potatoes, about 4 cups.
Mash together leeks and potatoes, breaking up any large lumps. Add grated carrots, beaten eggs, salt, pepper and, if using, cheese. Stir to combine well.
Put 2 Tb. oil in a 9×13-in. pan and oil bottom and sides. Place pan in preheated oven for 3–4 minutes. Remove hot pan and quickly add the leek-potato mixture, spreading it evenly. If the pan is really hot, the mixture will sizzle as it hits the oil. The hot pan will help create a good crust on bottom and sides of the quajado. Gently brush the remaining olive oil over the top.
Bake for 45–50 minutes until the mixture is firm and golden brown around the edges. Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate for up to 5 days. The cooked dish freezes well. To reheat, defrost and heat in a 350-degree oven, loosely covered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through.