Posts tagged ‘Starchy Side’

German Potato Salad

german potato salad

One of the many components of putting together RJ’s now-famous birthday pig roast was developing a cohesive group of side dishes to complement the main course.  We were looking for southern-inspired sides — traditional but not boring, simple but with great flavor.  My contribution was a jalapeno cornbread; my mom brought her famous coleslaw; and RJ’s aunt Jane made a delicious slow-cooked sausage appetizer that satisfied the hungry folks drooling over the rotating pig.  One of the stars of the show in my mind, however, was my mother-in-law’s potato salad.

This potato salad has made frequent appearances at large family gatherings since it is easily multiplied and contains no mayonnaise that will cause it to spoil.  Delicious served warm, cool or room temperature, German potato salad is a crowd pleaser to be sure.  The vinegary zing contrasts with and complements the sugar and this foundational pairing of sweet and sour reverberates through the layers of flavor: savory bacon with sharp mustard, creamy egg with pickles or raw onion.  The result is a balanced composition perfect for summer picnics or winter feasts.

While this is not my mother-in-law’s recipe, the results tasted very similar.  Hers has an oil vinaigrette base and less of the optional add-ons.  Play with the recipe to your heart’s content — you won’t be disappointed.

german-potato-salad

German Potato Salad, adapted from Gourmet magazine, January 1990

(serves 8 )

3 lb. large boiling potatoes (about 6), such as Yukon gold
6 slices of lean bacon
1 c. finely chopped onion
1 c. thinly sliced celery
1 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 Tbs. Dijon-style mustard
6 Tbs. cider or champagne vinegar
1/2 c. thinly sliced scallion greens
3 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped (optional)
1/3 c. chopped dill pickles (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Drop the whole potatoes into the pot and cook for 18 minutes or just until cooked through (you want them to still be firm but not completely crunchy).  Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook the bacon strips over moderate heat until it is crisp and transfer it to paper towels to drain. Crumble or chop the bacon strips into pieces.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat; to the skillet add the onion and the celery, and cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened. Add the sugar, the flour, and the celery seeds, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the mustard, the vinegar, and 1/2 cup water, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, and simmer until it is thickened (this took me about 40 seconds but make take up to 2 minutes). Season the dressing with salt and pepper, pour it over the potatoes, and stir in the scallion greens, eggs, and/or pickles.  This may be served warm, room temp or cold.

german-potato-salad

September 6, 2009 at 2:38 pm 1 comment

Polenta of the gods

Polenta

To spare you another dissertation on why I love Patricia Wells’ The Paris Cookbook, I will instead refer you to my first post on the book, and get right to the heart of the matter.  This polenta is sinfully, sinfully delicious.  Why then do I call it “polenta of the gods” rather than “Satan’s cornmeal”?  Because this is a dish I would think is a staple on heaven’s divine menu.  It is laden with rich cheeses and luxuriously melts in your mouth.  The reduced chicken stock, provided you use real, homemade, quality stuff, is the perfect flourish — adding both depth of flavor and visual interest to a side dish that often goes overlooked.

Easy Polenta RJ and I served this with a simple pan-roasted chicken breast and these caramelized shallots and it was all divine.  I can see this as a special occasion side dish (too rich for every day, but quick and easy enough to do on a weeknight for guests) to accompany braised meats, or with a mix grill of sorts.  Just be warned about two things: 1) this is not a light and airy side dish – it is silky smooth but also dense with cheese and 2) use the best ingredients you can find – homemade chicken stock (or really good store-bought) and artisinal cheese such as Abbaye de Bel’loc or good Manchego since this is a simple and straightforward dish, the quality of the parts equal the quality of the whole.

Helene’s “Polenta” with Sheep’s Milk Cheese, from Patricia Wells’ The Paris Cookbook
(Yield 4 servings)

3 2/3 c. Homemade Chicken Stock, or more as needed
3/4 c. corn flour or fine-grain yellow cornmeal
7 oz. French Basque sheep’s milk cheese, freshly grated (2 1/2 cups)
8 oz. mascarpone cheese

Reduce the chicken stock: in a 6-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups of the stock to a boil over high heat. (Make sure you use a large saucepan, to prevent the stock from boiling over.) Boil until the mixture is thick and syrupy, reduced to about 1/2 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the liquid to the top of a double boiler, set it over simmering water, cover, and keep warm.

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the cornmeal and the remaining 1 2/3 cups chicken stock. Stir with a wooden spoon to blend. Cook the mixture over high heat, stirring, until it is thickened and leaves the side of the pan as it is stirred, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add both cheeses, and stir to blend. Cook, stirring to melt the cheeses and thoroughly combine the mixture, about 2 minutes more. The mixture should be soft and pourable. (If it is not, thin it out with additional chicken stock.)

Pour the mixture into warmed shallow soup bowls. Drizzle with the reduced chicken stock, and serve.
Polenta plated

April 28, 2009 at 6:21 am 4 comments

Fried Rice and Shrimp

Crispy Shrimp

I would like to add to my previously mentioned list of food I usually purchase rather than attempt to cook.  Asian food, though a broad category, should certainly be on that list.  I just think that the professionals do a much better job than I ever could, for several reasons: 1) I don’t usually have the right ingredients and end up making odd substitutions like vermouth+sugar for mirin, barbecue sauce+teriyaki sauce+molasses for hoisin, and ground fennel seed for star anise.  When I do buy the occasional jar of Thai fish sauce or black bean paste, it ends up sitting in my fridge for ages until eventually I throw it out.  2) Asian dishes usually (and admirably) involve lots of vegetables.  This poses the recurring problem in my house.  If I buy 5 different vegetables for a stir fry or something, then I use a tiny bit of each since I’m cooking for only one veggie-eater, I end up with a pile of leftover vegetables that I can barely begin to erode before they go bad.  3) I’m no Asian – I’m the whitest white girl eva… so I doubt I would ever make anything authentic or ground breaking in this arena.  4) It is fun to get takeout every once and a while – every cook needs a break!

Now you know all my pathetic reasons for not venturing into the culinary sphere of the Far East.  Unassailable logic, no?  Despite this, it took only one recipe to allay all my fears and negate all my excuses!  I should say, actually, that it is two recipes – though one is decidedly more Asian than the other, they go together so well I am including them both here.

Funny that this ‘Asian’ recipe comes from another stark-white white girl: Ellie Krieger.  As far as Food Network stars go, I would give Ellie a 5 out of 10.  Not as funky/charismatic as Anne Burrell or cute as Danny Boome, but also not as annoying as Paula Deen or Rachael Ray.  I never watch her show, cuz most of the food is whole grains and vegetables which don’t go over so well with RJ.  So imagine my amazement when I see Ellie’s recipe for fried brown rice, chock full of colorful veggies, in my Fine Cooking.  As some of you know, I’m doing the “Cook the Issue” challenge, whereby I have to cook every recipe in Issue #97 – see my work so far by clicking here.  Before I post the recipe, let me tell you how Ellie, with this one dish, addressed all of my issues with both her cooking style and the making of Asian food in general:

1) The recipe does not include any exotic Asian condiments besides soy sauce, which hardly counts, and fresh ginger, which I sometimes buy and happened to have leftover from my marmalade.  The shrimp, which I paired with this rice, required Chinese five-spice powder, but I can buy this in small quantities and not worry about having to toss it within 6 months.

2) Yes, this fried rice uses a lot of vegetables, but get this: it encourages the use of whatever leftover veggies you have lying around.  Think baby carrots that are turning flakey and white on the outside, that random quarter of a red bell pepper you’ve had in a plastic bag since last week’s salad, and residual broccoli stalks.  It also incorporates frozen vegetables like corn and edamame which can obviously keep a lot longer than fresh stuff.

3) I gained confidence starting my venture into Asian cuisine under the tutelage of a woman with skin paler even than my own.

4) Sure is fun getting takeout, but it is also fun to save money and have fun cooking.  I made the full yield of the recipe, and ate the rice for several lunches in the days that followed.

5) This recipe also helped me to get over the whole problem with whole grains in my house.  It requires that the brown rice be cooked in advance and chilled in the fridge before frying.  This means that I can actually justify cooking my brown rice for dinner one night (even though RJ won’t touch the stuff so I’ll have to make him a separate white rice serving) and saving the leftover rice for the next day’s cooking.

Needless to say, the dish was a revelation.  The shrimp, which comes from the same Fine Cooking issue, was simple  to make alongside the fried rice.  They tasted wonderful together!  And I did most of the prep work for both recipes well ahead of time, making the assembly all the easier.  I highly recommend this dinner and the inevitable lunches that will follow unless you have 4 people who love fried rice like you do!

Fried rice aromaticsFive-Treasure Fried Rice, by Ellie Krieger in Fine Cooking issue #97 (serves 4+)

“I first created this recipe as a destination for leftover broccoli stalks, but its easily adaptable, so feel free to substitute other vegetables you might have in the fridge—asparagus, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, bok choy, bean sprouts, and jícama are all possibilities. I love the nutty taste and chewiness of brown rice, and you just can’t argue with its antioxidant power and fiber. My favorite route to brown rice is to order it with Chinese food, but you can certainly cook some up yourself. Either way, bear in mind that the rice has to be well chilled so the starch hardens and makes it fry-able. Use fresh rice and you wind up with a gummy mess.”

Chopped veggie prep2 Tbs. canola oil
1 cup peeled, finely diced broccoli stems (from about 1-1/4 lb. broccoli)
3/4 cup finely diced carrots
3/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame
3/4 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
4 scallions (both white and green parts), thinly sliced
2 Tbs. finely grated fresh ginger
2 large cloves garlic, minced
4 cups very cold cooked brown rice
3/4 cup finely diced Canadian bacon (4 oz.)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce

rice-vegHeat all but 1 tsp. of the oil in a large nonstick skillet or stir-fry pan over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli stems, carrots, and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the edamame and corn and cook until the edamame is thawed, about 1 minute. Add the scallion, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the raw garlic aroma subsides, about 1 minute. Add the rice and Canadian bacon and cook, stirring, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.

Make a 3-inch well in the center of the rice mixture. Add the remaining 1 tsp. oil, then the eggs, and cook, stirring, until the eggs are almost fully scrambled. Stir the eggs into the rice mixture. Stir in the soy sauce and serve.

Fried Rice

Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp with Garlic and Chile, from Fine Cooking issue #97  (serves 4)

Using easy-peel shrimp will speed prep because the shells are slit open and they’ve been deveined.  [This recipe can be prepared as a meal or as a fun appetizer]

Shrimp prep2 Tbs. cornstarch
1 tsp. granulated sugar
Pinch of Chinese five-spice powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced into rounds
4 large scallions (green parts only), sliced 1/4 inch thick
1-1/2 lb. large shrimp (26 to 30 per lb.), peeled and deveined, tails left on
3-1/2 Tbs. peanut or canola oil
1 small lime, cut into 4 wedges

In a large bowl, mix the cornstarch, sugar, five-spice powder, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, chile, and scallions; set aside.

Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Line a small baking sheet or large plate with a double layer of paper towels. Add the shrimp to the cornstarch mixture and toss until evenly and thoroughly coated.

Cooked crispy shrimpIn a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add half of the shrimp in a single layer. Cook without disturbing until deep golden and spotty brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, quickly flip each shrimp and continue to cook until the second sides are spotty golden brown, about 1 minute longer. (The shrimp may not be cooked through at this point.) Transfer the shrimp to the prepared sheet. Add another 1 Tbs. of the oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining shrimp, transferring them to the sheet when done.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the skillet. Add the garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the chile and scallions are softened andthe garlic is golden and smells toasted, about 1 minute. Return the shrimp to the pan and stir to combine. Serve immediately, with the lime wedges.

February 2, 2009 at 9:47 am 3 comments

Orzo to Make You Say “YES!”

Cheesy Orzo

When RJ proposed to me in June of 2007, I was blown away.  Not completely surprised, but quite overcome with the enormity of the step we were taking.  He brought me out to the southern most point of the beach in the town where we met.  The sun was just beginning to set and the ocean was in our ears when he asked me to be his wife.  I just happen to have a painting of the moment (my wedding present to him) if you’d like a visual:

painting

After I said yes and started crying, etc. etc. we went out to dinner.  The idea was to enjoy a few moments together before we started calling all of our friends and family.  But I was so excited and nervous that it was very difficult for me to concentrate on food.  I could barely hold my champagne flute steady!   I had ordered the Chicken Statler, and though the chicken was good, I merely picked at it.  The orzo on the side, however, was a different story.  Despite my shaky mental state, I devoured it!  On the menu it was called “Asiago Mac and Cheese” and with those clues, I resolved to recreate the dish in my own kitchen.  And every time I do, I am taken back to that wonderful night – and to the memory of the proposal too!  

Asiago Mac and Cheese (or Cheesy Orzo Risotto)
Serves 3-4

Toasting orzo3 c. home-made chicken stock (you can, of course, use the box or can from the grocery, but for the best version of this dish, you have to use the rich, home-made stuff)
2 Tbs. butter
1 large or 2 small shallots, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
2 c. dried orzo pasta
3/4 c. grated asiago cheese (you can substitute parmesan, or a mixture of the two, for a slightly different flavor)

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a separate medium to large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the shallots and garlic, stirring to coat. Cook 3-5 minutes, allowing the shallots to become translucent and fragrant. If they begin to brown, turn down the heat.

Add the pasta and stir to coat with the butter. Allow pasta to toast for about one minute. Pour in the simmering chicken broth, and stir to combine. Over medium high heat, boil the orzo in the chicken broth according to the orzo package’s cooking instructions (usually around 10 minutes). If, after that time, the orzo is tender but the stock has not completely absorbed into the pasta, drain what is left of the liquid from the pot (it doesn’t have to be completely dry, though. I usually just tip the pot and drain the excess – holding the pasta back with a slotted spoon – rather than using a colander). Stir in the grated cheese, 1/4 cup at a time, until you have reached a taste and consistency that works for you.

January 18, 2009 at 8:19 am 2 comments

Magazine Review: “Food & Wine” and Sweet Potato Gratin

Sweet Potato Gratin

This is the fifth (and final) installment of my series of Thanksgiving magazine reviews.  You can see my evaluative criteria here.  When I first decided what publications I wanted to review, I was going to keep FOOD & WINE off the list.  My reasoning was that half of Food & Wine is, well, wine and I didn’t think it would be fair to pit it against the other magazines, which were all food-centric.  However, I think it stacks up quite nicely, in fact.

  • 214 pages total : 95 pages of ads (44%)
  • 76 Recipes
  • News-stand price: $4.50
  • Price per recipe: $0.06
  • # of ads pretending to be articles: 5.
  • Recipe Index? Right after the table of contents, at the front of the magazine, Food & Wine offers two indexes – one listing the recipes in the issue, and another listing the wines.  The first groups recipes by category (Soups & Starters, Fish & Shellfish, Pasta & Rice, etc.) and supplies a color coded system to let readers know which are Fast, Healthy, Make Ahead, Vegetarian, and “Staff Favorites”.  The wine index lists all the wines
Photos: Food porn is not the reason to buy this magazine.  The pictures provided are nice but are often quite small (usually about a quarter of a page) as compared to those seen in the other magazines I’ve reviewed.  F&W also displays far fewer images than the others.

Best Sections:
• Equipment – This month the “Equipment” section tested skillets, comparing the pros and cons of cast iron, stainless steel, and nonstick versions.  I found this to be very helpful and interesting, including the brand recommendations.
• Master Cook – A great monthly column highlighting one master technique and how to use it in the home kitchen.  This month it is making your own ricotta cheese – brilliant!
• Wine-Tasting Room – A true advantage of this food magazine is the great wine advice.  This section highlights yummy wines with a focus on affordable and everyday ones.

Best Features:
• Each recipe clearly displays the active cooking time and the total cooking time.  Very helpful for those of us (ahem! me! ahem!) who tend to find themselves in the middle of preparation at 7:00 only to realize that the recipe requires 2 1/2 hours of braising time.
• Excellent layout and design.  I find this magazine to be one of the easiest to read and work with.
• Wine suggestions with many of the recipes, shedding light on the esoteric and impenetrable art of food and wine pairing.

Thanksgiving at the Food & Wine house:
The F&W “Thanksgiving Planner” is wonderfully organized and clear and the theme is “delicious and stress-free”.  Each recipe is marked with a symbol, letting the reader know if the dish can be made ahead, made way ahead, cooked on the grill or stovetop rather than the oven, or if you can finish it in the oven after the turkey comes out.  The dishes are grouped into three suggested menus with a wine pairing, but swapping is encouraged!  The ‘out-there’ factor is at mid range: goat cheese-edamame dip with spiced pepitas; creamed spinach and parsnips; grilled butterflied turkey; fennel, red onion and focaccia stuffing.   Ruling?  Choose wisely, my friend.

Particularly Unappetizing:
• Caraway-Ancho Chile Gravy
• Cream and Lemon Braised Pork Shoulders
• Giant Lima Beans with Stewed Tomatoes (sounds like images from my fifth grade nightmares…)

I’m looking forward to cooking:
• Cassoulet with Duck Confit
• Butternut Squash Turnovers
• *Sweet Potato Gratin with Chile-Spiced Pecans
• Cranberry-Pomegranate Sauce
• Creamed Spinach and Parsnips

*Sweet Potato Gratin with Chile-Spiced Pecans, from F&W November 2008.

5 lbs. sweet potatoespecans-4-web
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 c. pecans
2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. chipotle chile powder
kosher salt
1/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. heavy cream
freshly ground pepper
2 c. mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Roast the sweet potatoes on a large baking sheet for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until tender.  Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt the butter.  Add the pecans, sugar, and chipotle powder and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until sugar starts to caramelize and the pecans are well coated, 8 minutes.  Spread the pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and let cool.  Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor; discard the skins.  Add the honey, cinnamon, allspice and cloves to the processor and puree.  Season with salt and pepper.Sweet Potato Puree

Scrape the potatoes into a 9×13 inch baking dish; scatter the marshmallows are golden.  Sprinkle with the pecans and serve.  MAKE AHEAD: The sweet potato puree can be refrigerated overnight.  Bring to room temperature and top with the marshmallows bfore baking.  The spiced nuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Makes 12 servings.

Results: So delicious!  We could really taste the warm spices in the puree, and the crunch of the pecans was a welcome addition to this traditional dish.  I would absolutely cook this for Thanksgiving or any fall meal.  The leftover pecans (of which there were many!) went into my spinach, pecorino, and prosciutto salad for lunch, and they were perfect!  Sweet Potatoes and MarshmallowsThey could also be a good accompaniment to a Thanksgiving cheese plate. I think that F&W does a wonderful job blending traditional recipes (cassoulet) and innovative techniques (homemade ricotta), not to mention providing great wine recommendations and pairing advice.  If I could spare the shelf space, I would certainly add this publication to my subscriptions!  I can’t end this post without pointing out that the recipe I tested is clearly NOT a gratin as I understand it – gratins have melted cheese or buttered and browned breadcrumbs on top, not kraft mini marshmallows.

November 25, 2008 at 8:10 pm 2 comments


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