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Posts Tagged ‘potatoes’

I love potatoes in pretty much any form. When I was a kid, my dad made “Susan fries,” which were pan-fried slices sprinkled with paprika. (Susan’s other big culinary contribution to my life: butterscotch chips in brownies. Seriously, try it.) Homefries made in a skillet were one of my first truly excellent dishes, and when I finally decided mashed potatoes weren’t against my religion, I fell hard and fast for them. But sometimes even I want something other than starch at breakfast or brunch, which is how we got to these Southwestern homefries.

southwest homefries

The addition of beans and cheese makes these a little more balanced and substantial. They were inspired by a dish I love at Sylvester’s in Northampton. Their version features onions and peppers, too; mine is simpler and requires you to chop only the potatoes.

Southwestern Homefries

4 medium-to-large potatoes (about 2 lbs)
Olive oil
Salt
2 c. cooked black beans (or one 15-oz. can)
2 c. salsa (one 16-oz jar)
About 2 c. grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Wash the potatoes and then dice them, aiming for about a one-inch dice. Spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or in pans. Add olive oil and toss to coat; I usually use 2-3 T. Sprinkle with salt, then put in the oven.

Let them roast for 20 minutes without stirring, and then use a spatula to turn them. Add more olive oil if the tray is getting dry, and roast for 20 more minutes. Then check to see if they’re cooked all the way through by sticking a toothpick in one piece. If it goes through easily, they’re done. If not, continue roasting until they are. Depend on how small you cut them, they could take up to 20 more minutes.

(To make something that comes together quickly in the morning, you can do the above steps ahead of time and keep the roasted potatoes in the fridge. You’ll want to reheat them in a foil-covered pan at 350 until hot, about 10 minutes, before proceeding.)

Transfer the roasted potatoes to a square baking dish. Drain and rinse the beans, and then top the potatoes with them and the salsa, and finally the cheese. You can adjust the amounts of any of these to taste. Turn on your broiler and stick the pan in under it. Stay nearby and check frequently; it should take about five minutes for the cheese to get melted and bubbly.

Serves four.

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Even though borscht was the first way I ever ate beets (at a pretty awesome tasting dinner at evoo a few years back), I hadn’t made it until recently. I have no real excuse for this other than having no personal vision of borscht that would allow me to sort through the hundreds of different recipes available and select one. But this winter, that problem was solved for me by necessity: given an overwhelming beet situation, I just picked one on the basis of “having all of the basic ingredients in my kitchen at the time.” Very scientific.

mmm, borscht

The best thing about the soup below is that it is both fast and easy, rare qualities in a soup. It took me a bit over an hour, start to finish, including peeling and chopping the vegetables. You can also serve it pureed (as shown above) or not, depending on your preference. And for something made with vegetables in season at the dead of winter, it is surprisingly light and fresh, more like a vegetable soup than like a stew. Combined with its brilliant hue, it makes for a nice break from the beige diet of late winter.

Borscht
Wildly adapated from the Kitchn

3 T. olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions
5 cloves of garlic or about 2 t. jarred crushed garlic
1 t. dried dill
4 carrots
2 potatoes (about 1 lb; use starchy potatoes if you have them)
1 bunch beets (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. lemon juice (from half a lemon or a jar)
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel and dice the onions. Then do the same to the carrots, beets, and potatoes, aiming for half-inch chunks.

borscht veggies

Heat the olive oil in a big stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent, about five minutes. Add the garlic and dill, stir, and cook for another minute or two until fragrant. Then add the carrots, beets, and potatoes. Cook for another five minutes, until the vegetables start to lose their crispness.

Add the salt, lemon juice, sugar, and vinegar, plus four cups of water. Mix well, and turn up the heat so it boils. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until all the vegetables are tender. Start checking for this around 30 minutes, but it could take up to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

borscht - cooking

If you want to serve it as a chunky soup, you can go ahead serve it as soon as it is cooked. If you want to puree, you’ll probably need to remove it from the heat and wait for it to stop boiling, then do it in batches in your blender or food processor. (It’s a bit much for an immersion blender, I’m afraid.) If you find the texture too thick after pureeing, you can add more water.

Many people like this with sour cream, although I preferred it plain. Makes about six cups.

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“Foods I didn’t discover until adulthood” are getting to be a theme on this blog, which I’m pretty sure is because there are so darn many of them. As a young child, I only ate three things we could reliably get outside of the house: hamburgers (well-done only, no pink), pepperoni pizza, and spaghetti with red sauce. Add a father with equally, er, selective tastes and you get a childhood with fairly limited cuisine.

potatoes and cauliflower

So that’s how it happened that I didn’t discover Indian food until I went to live in England for a year when I was twenty. (Other discoveries of the same year: sushi, falafel, and portobello mushrooms. Also wine and kir. It was a good time.) And then, for years, I ate amazing Indian food in restaurants, but utterly failed to recreate anything like it at home.

Fortunately for all of us, that era is past. The secret, it turns out, is really great garam masala. I buy it from an Indian grocery, but you can also get it online, and it is the difference between “random bunch of Indian-inspired spices” and “YUM.” This recipe for potatoes and cauliflower (aloo gobi) is a little less saucy than most restaurant preparations, but every bit as tasty.

Indian-style Cauliflower and Potatoes
Adapted from Madhur Jeffrey’s World Vegetarian

Canola oil for the pan
About 1 pound of potatoes
About 1 1/2 pounds of cauliflower
1 onion
About an inch-long piece of fresh ginger
1/4 t. turmeric
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. garam masala
1/2 t. salt plus more to taste
black pepper to taste

First, wash the potatoes. Chop into one-inch chunks. Line a plate with paper towels and set it to the side.

Heat a large skillet with a lid* with a about three tablespoons of oil and the same amount of water over medium heat. When it is hot, add the potatoes and cover. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through, 7-12 minutes.

While this is happening, chop off the stem of the cauliflower, and then chop it into florets, no more than about an inch and a half across. It’s okay to cut large natural florets into smaller pieces with a knife.

Then remove the lid from the potatoes and allow the water to boil off. (You can check to make sure they’re done by poking with a fork or toothpick; it should easily pierce all the way through.)

Fry the potatoes until they are golden brown, stirring only occasionally, 3-5 minutes per side, adding oil as needed to prevent sticking. When the potatoes are done, use a spatula or slotted spoon to remove them to the prepared plate, and line a second plate with paper towels.

Add the cauliflower to the remaining oil (add more if needed!) and cook, stirring only occasionally, until it is soft and caramelized on the edges, 5-8 minutes. While it is cooking, peel and chop the onion.

cooked cauliflower

When the cauliflower is done, use the spatula to turn it out onto the second plate. Check to make sure there are a couple of tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the pan, then add the onion. As it softens, grate the ginger.**

When the onion is soft, add the ginger to the skillet and cook half a minute, until it is fragrant. Add the other spices and stir to coat everything, then add the potatoes and cauliflower back in, along with three tablespoons of water. Stir everything to coat, then turn the heat down, cover, and allow to cook for about five minutes.

This recipe makes about four servings and reheats beautifully. It also doubles well, but the vegetables really get some of their flavor from their contact with the pan during the initial frying (which caramelizes them to that lovely golden brown), so you may need to do that step in batches.

*The lid doesn’t have to belong to the pot, just to cover it or the contents reasonably well.

**I love a microplane grater for this; my favorite is a big flat one like this.

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Mashed potatoes evoke strong feelings: they must have chunks, or have no chunks. A ricer/food processor/drop of water must never touch them. You must you this or that kind of dairy.

caramelized onion mashers.jpg

One way around the whole controversy is to make a variation on the traditional dish. Everyone will be so suprised that you put nutmeg in that they’ll be quiet about your preferred mashing tool. Or at least, we can hope.

Mashed potatoes with caramelized onions, brandy, and nutmeg
Adapted from a recipe in the Boston Globe, November 22, 2009

1 T. canola oil
6 T. unsalted butter
2 lbs. onions (about 4)
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. brandy or cognac
1/2 t. nutmeg
2 1/2 lbs. potatoes (5 to 7 potatoes)*
1/2 c. half-and-half

First, the onions. Peel and dice them, then heat a skillet with one tablespoon of butter plus the canola oil over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and the onions and cook until they soften, then turn the heat down to medium-low. The slower you can stand to cook these, the sweeter they will be, and as long as the butter is bubbling and popping, they’re cooking. You want to cook them to a medium brown color, which can take anywhere from 10 minutes on medium to close to an hour on a lower heat. All of the ways produce onions mellow enough to use, but the sweetness of really caramelizing them slowly is worth the wait.

When the onions are getting close to done, peel the potatoes and chop them into roughly one-inch cubes. It’s best to do this one potato at a time, peeling and chopping and then putting the pieces in a bowl of cold water to prevent discoloration.

Set up a pot with a steamer basket big enough to hold your potatoes. Add enough water to come close to the bottom of the steamer, and put it on to boil.

Meanwhile, rinse the potatoes in a couple of changes of cold water; this helps remove excess starch. You can hold the potatoes in a bowl of very cold water (I sometimes even add ice) until the water boils. Once it does, put the potatoes into the steamer basket and set a timer for ten minutes.

steaming potatoes.jpg

When the onions are caramelized, stir in the brandy and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, until it no longer smells like evaporating alcohol. Stir in the nutmeg and remove from the heat.

When your timer goes off, carefully pull the steamer out of the pot and rinse the potatoes under cold running water (more starch removal!), then put them back in to steam until they’re tender all the way through. This will take 10-15 more minutes, depending on the exact size of your chunks.

While that’s happening, warm up the half-and-half and melt the remaining five tablespoons of butter.

ready to mash.jpg

When the potatoes are done, you need to start squishing them. The easiest way to do this is with a potato ricer, which is like a garlic press on steroids, but of course, mashing with a potato masher or even forks will do the job. Or you can fake a ricer by pushing the potatoes through a medium-mesh sieve with the back of a spoon.

Once they’re mostly squished, add the melted butter. (You’re going to want to mix gently if you used a ricer; if you’re mashing by hand, keep at it.) Add the half-and-half a bit at a time, until you’ve attained nearly your preferred level of squishiness. Then mix in the onions, which will make them just a bit squishier, salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

*I am a huge fan of Yukon Gold, which is a medium-starch variety, for mashing. If you use a starchier potato like russets, you may need more half-and-half. Stay away from waxy potatoes (like the little red-skinned ones) for mashing; they’re better for salads.

**You can caramelize extra onions and freeze them, and then you’ll have them ready any time you want them! When you defrost, they’ll be pretty soft and mushy, but that’s the nature of caramelized onions anyway, so it’s fine for nearly all uses. Just take your extras out before you add the brandy!

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