Smashed Potatoes with Bacon and Parsley

March 26, 2016

I love the simplicity and creaminess of mashed potatoes, but hate the chore of peeling. I especially hate peeling hot potatoes (which I did for 15 years). This recipe leaves the skins on. Since I don’t need to process the potatoes with a ricer, the skins don’t get in the way. The cream cheese provides wonderfully texture; yet not as creamy as mashed potatoes. The bacon provides lots of flavor. Instead of thinning with milk, it is thinned using the potato cooking water. Overall, 4-stars. Less healthy than regular mashed potatoes; but more flavorful.

No peeling necessary

No peeling necessary

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $4.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 5:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

2-lbs small red potatoes
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
6 slices bacon
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

  1. Cut cream cheese into 8 pieces and add to medium bowl allowing to come up to room temperature while the potatoes cook.
  2. Put potatoes in a large saucepan and fill with cold water until the potatoes are covered with 1″ water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bay leaf. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 35-45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut bacon lengthwise in half, and then crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Fry bacon for 5 to 7 minutes in 10-inch skillet over medium burner until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon to plate lined with paper towels. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and use the residual heat of the skillet to melt the butter. Empty into the medium bowl with cream cheese.
  4. Before draining the potatoes, remove 1/2-cup cooking water and set aside. The potatoes will be done when a paring knife inserted into potatoes meets no resistance. Drain the potatoes and discard the bay leaf. Return the potatoes to pot, and allow to sit in pot for 5 minutes, uncovered, which will allow the surfaces are dry.
  5. While potatoes are drying, Whisk together the cream cheese, melted butter and bacon fat until smooth and fully incorporated. Add in 1/4-cup of reserved water (not the full 1/2 cup that you set aside), chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir to combine.
  6. Use a wooden spoon to smash potatoes just enough to break skins. Fold in the cream cheese mixture until most of the liquid has been absorbed and chunks of potato remain. Add more cooking water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the potatoes are slightly looser than ultimately desired (potatoes will thicken a little as they sit).
  7. Adjust salt and pepper according to taste. Stir in chopped bacon from Step 3. Serve immediately.

St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef Brisket

March 24, 2016

This year, I was looking to make my first corned beef brisket to share with my two sons on St. Patrick’s day. The recipe was just published in the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated (March/April 2016), including a 6-day brine. Unfortunately, I did not buy the special pink curing salt (sodium nitrite) in time; it needs to be purchased online. So instead, I bought one of those ubiquitous pre-packaged briskets that appear in my supermarket around St. Patrick’s day. The beef is suspiciously inexpensive; I am not sure how more than two pounds of brisket can cost a total of only $7.

Traditional St. Patrick's Date fare; at least in NYC

Traditional St. Patrick’s Date fare; at least in NYC

By starting with a pre-packaged, pre-brined brisket, I am not sure how accurate my 4-star rating can be. Of course, home-brined briskets will be far superior that my pre-packaged brisket. Never-the-less, I was happy with the overall technique used in the recipe and will try to order the curing salt well ahead of next year’s St. Patrick’s Day feast. 4-stars, but the jury is still out on the final rating of this recipe.


  1. If you do not use pink curing salt #1,  your brisket will be grey instead of pink.
  2. While not called for in Chris Kimball’s original recipe, I caramelized some of the fat cap before cooking. It added great flavor and improved the overall texture of the fat cap.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $12. (including $7 pre-packaged brisket)
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 4:00 pm  Ready:  7:30 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The general descriptions of how to prepare it are given below, but I did not brine by own brisket this year:

Brine Ingredients:
4-1/2-to-5 pound, flat-cut beef brisket
3/4 cup table salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 bay leaves
5 allspice berries
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds

  1. Trim fat on surface of brisket to 1/8 inch. Dissolve salt, brown sugar, and curing salt in 4 quarts water in large container.
  2. Add brisket, 3 garlic cloves, 4 bay leaves, 5 allspice berries, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, and 1 tablespoon coriander seeds.
  3. Weigh brisket down with plate, cover, and refrigerate for 6 days.

Cooking the Brisket:
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoons peppercorns

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees.
  2. Remove the brisket from brine and rinse under cold tap water to remove any excess salt. Use paper towels to pat dry.
  3. Brown fat-side of brisket in Dutch oven over high burner for 5 minutes until nicely caramelized.
  4. Prepare a spice bundle by cutting an 8″ square of cheesecloth. Peel 3 garlic cloves. Put garlic, 2 bay leaves and 1 tablespoon peppercorns in the center of the cheesecloth, and use kitchen twice to tie into a bundle.
  5. Add brisket, 2 quarts of water and spice bundle to a Dutch oven; it’s okay if the brisket does not lie completely flat. Cover pot and put over a high burner until it comes up to a simmer.
  6. Move to oven and bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, until you can easily insert a fork into the thickest part of the brisket.
  7. Remove Dutch oven from oven and turn off oven. Set brisket in a large oven-safe platter, and pour 1 cup of the cooking liquid over meat. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the turned-off oven.

Vegetable Ingredients:
6 carrots
1 head green cabbage (2 pounds)
1-1/2 pounds small red potatoes

  1. Peel your carrots and cut them in half cross-wise; then slice the thick-ends in half lengthwise into long, equally thick slices. Do not peel your potatoes.
  2. Set the Dutch oven over high burner and add your carrots and potatoes. Bring up to a simmer over high burner. Reduce burner to medium-low, cover, and allow to simmer for 7 to 10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Cut your cabbage through the core into 8 wedges. Add wedges to pot, and increase burner to high until the pot comes up to a simmer. Reduce burner to low and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, covered, until all the vegetables become tender.
  4. Meanwhile, set the beef on a cutting board and slice against the grain into 1/4″-thick slices, returning the slices to the platter. Use a slotted spoon to add the vegetables to the platter. Add additional broth to platter and serve.

Pommes Anna

December 31, 2014

I made these decorative potatoes as part of my wonderful holiday meal. While they look beautiful, a quick glance at the ingredient list reveals that they are just a prettier version of plain, old potatoes. No surprises whatsoever. The slow-cooking in the skillet on the stove-top gives them a nice crust. The carmelization adds nice flavor. 3-1/2 stars, the texture of my top layer was a little over-done. Next time I will reduce the stove-top cooking to 25-minutes.

Beautiful dish, but really just regular potatoes.

Beautiful dish, but really just regular potatoes.

Chris Kimball warns against slicing the potatoes until you are ready to start assembling. I’m not sure what the consequences are, but thought that it was important to pass along. I had contemplating to peel and slice them ahead of time to save time on the day of my massive meal.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $2.50.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start time: 4:45 PM. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

3-lbs russet potatoes (you can also use Yukon Gold or white potatoes)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
Salt and ground black pepper

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to peel your potatoes. Also melt the 5 tablespoons of butter; either in the microwave or in a 10″ non-stick skillet (wipes and used again in Step 3). Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees.
  2. Use the slicing attachment on your food processor to slice your potatoes into 1/16″-to-1/8″-thick slices. Empty into a large bowl with melted butter, and use your hands to toss until potatoes are evenly coated.
  3. Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil to a clean, 10″ heavy-bottomed, non-stick, oven-proof skillet. Swirl to evenly coat the skillet. Set a kitchen timer of 30 minutes, and put the skillet over medium-low burner.
  4. Use the nicest slices to form the bottom layer. Start arranging by placing one slice on center the skillet. Continue by overlapping more slices in a circle around the center slice. Continue to form the next outer circle of overlapping slices. Your first layer should consist of 3 or 4 rows of overlapping potatoes until the entire bottom of the skillet is covered with potatoes. Evenly sprinkle each layer with a scant 1/4 teaspoon salt and pinch of ground black pepper.
  5. Arrange the second layer of potatoes by working in the opposite direction of the first layer; evenly sprinkling each layer with a scant 1/4 teaspoon salt and pinch of ground black pepper. Continue repeating the layering of potatoes, switching directions with each layer, and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until you have used all the potato slices. You can piece together broken or uneven slices to form a single piece. When you are done, the potatoes will mound in the center of the skillet.
  6. Continue cooking until the 30-minute timer you set in Step 3 has beeped (if you are unsure about the correct setting of medium-low, check after 25 minutes. Use the bottom of a 9″ cake pan to press down firmly to compact the potatoes. Use a lid to cover the skillet and bake in oven for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 10 more minutes. Test the doneness of potatoes using a paring knife.
  7. Line a rimless cookie sheet (or the bottom side of a sheet pan) with aluminum foil, and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  8. Hold potatoes in place using the back of the cake pan, titling skillet, drain off and discard any excess oil.
  9. Put foil-lined sheet on top of skillet, wearing oven mitts, flip over and remove skillet. Carefully slide potatoes into serving platter. Serve by cutting into wedges.

Braised Red Potatoes with Lemon and Chives

July 6, 2014

This simple braised potato recipe yields soft and tender potatoes. The nice caramelization made me think that there would be a slight crunch, but after my first bite I remembered that they were braised. They were therefore just tender. But the flavor was nice, not just plain potatoes. The recipe calls for using small red potatoes measuring 1-1/2″ in diameter. But my supermarket was selling appropriately sized purple potatoes at half the price as red potatoes, so I went with purple. I haven’t had purple potatoes since my trip to Bolivia, which has the world’s most bountiful variety of tubers. 3-1/2 stars.

Made entirely in one pan

Made entirely in one pan


Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $4
How much work? Low
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time: 5:00. Dinner time: 6:00

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1-1/2 pounds small red potatoes (unpeeled)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

  1. Cut the potatoes in half. Peel 3 cloves of garlic.
  2. Put potatoes with their cut-side down into a single layer within a 12″ non-stick skillet. Add 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons butter, 3 whole, peeled garlic cloves, 3 sprigs of thyme, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Once it has reaches a simmer over medium-high burner, turn down to medium heat and simmer (covered) for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes just become tender.
  3. Uncover and move garlic cloves to a cutting board using a slotted spoon, Throw away the thyme sprigs. Turn up burner to medium-high and vigorously simmer (occasionally swirling the pan) for another 15 to 20 minutes until the water evaporates (the butter will start to sizzle)
  4. Meanwhile, once the garlic becomes cook enough to handle, mince it into a paste. Add to serving bowl, stirring in lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mince chives and set aside until the last step.
  5. Continue to cook for 4 to 6 minutes more, swirling pan, until the butter browns and the cut side of the potatoes becomes spotty brown. Remove to serving bowl.  Stir in chives and toss until combined. Serve.


Garlic Mashed Potatoes

October 25, 2013

22 cloves of garlic sounds more like a recipe to keep vampires at bay, than something to make for anyone whom you might think about kissing within the next 7 days. But don’t fear, the slow-roasting of the garlic mellows the edge and deepens the flavor. The garlic is not overpowering; rather it’s nicely balanced and adds interest to an otherwise plain side-dish. I made these potatoes last week as part of my Bistro Dinner; which consisted of Salmon Cakes with Lemon-Herb Tartar Sauce and these Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Overall, the meal was a big hit; and these potatoes were a 4-star side dish.

Nice flavor adds interest of mashed potatos

Nice flavor adds interest of mashed potatoes

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $1.50.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 5:15 PM.  Ready: 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original Garlic Mashed Potatoes is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

22 small-to-medium-sized cloves garlic (3 ounces; 2 medium heads garlic)
2 pounds potatoes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup half-and-half, (warm)
1-1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Leaving the skins on the garlic cloves, and avoiding any large cloves, put the garlic in a small, covered skillet and toast over the lowest possible burner for 22 minutes, shaking the pan every few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes and put the whole, unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with 1″ of water, and bring to a boil over high burner. Turn down burner to medium/low and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Garlic will be done when they have dark brown spots and the cloves are somewhat softened. Cover skillet and allow to sit off-heat in skillet for 15 to 20 minutes more until they fully soften.
  4. Use a paring knife to cut off the woody end and peel the garlic cloves. Set aside.Potatoes will be done when a paring knife meets very little resistance. Drain potatoes.
  5. Cut stick of butter into 8 pieces and add to empty, and still hot, saucepan, allowing the butter to fully melt.
  6. Use a fork to spear potatoes and peel using a paring knife. Processing potatoes in batches, cut the potatoes into big chunks as necessary to fit into the hopper of a ricer or food mill. Add peeled potatoes into ricer and process, emptying back into large saucepan with melted butter. Also process the peeled garlic cloves.
  7. Use a wooden spoon to combine the half-and-half, and 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Crispy Potato Latkes

April 6, 2013

I love hash browns, and at one point subsisted on them for more than a month. But I had never heard of Potato Latkes before I made this recipe; I think may be the same thing as Potato Pancakes. Whatever they’re called, the only real difference is that they use egg as a binder and include a 1/2 cup of grated onion. The Latkes themselves are delicious, 4-stars. Unfortunately, I was very unpleasantly surprised at the huge mess they made in my kitchen. It’s like Chris Kimball purposefully tried to use the greatest number of bowls and baking sheets possible; definitely not worth the cleanup.

Delicious, but a big mess

Delicious, but a big mess


  1. I froze the leftover latkes by loosely covering them with plastic wrap while they cooled for 4 hours at room temperature. Then I put them in a Zip-lock bag and froze them. Chris Kimball recommends reheating in a 375-degree oven for 3 minutes per side (for room-temperature latkes) or 6 minutes per side (for frozen latkes).

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $1.20
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Huge.
Start time: 5:30 PM. Dinner time: 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup grated onion
Salt and pepper
2 lightly beaten eggs
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
Vegetable oil

  1. Scrub your potatoes and shred them, unpeeled, using the shredding disk of a food processor. Chris Kimball recommends cutting the potatoes into 2″ lengths.
  2. Set an oven rack to the middle of your oven, and pre-heat a rimmed baking sheet to 200-degrees.
  3. Add shredded potatoes, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Put half of potatoes in center of clean cloth dish towel. Gather together towel ends and twist to drain as much liquid as possible; allowing the liquid to drain into a measuring cup. Empty dried potatoes into a second bowl, then dry the reminder of the potatoes. Allow the reserved potato liquid to stand for 10 minutes, so that starch and water separate.
  4. Cover potatoes with plastic wrap and microwave for 1-1/2 minutes, stirring mixture with fork every 30 seconds, until warm but not hot. Evenly empty potato mixture over a second rimmed baking sheet. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. There is not need to wash out bowl.
  5. Pour off the water from reserved potato liquid, leaving only the potato starch in measuring cup. Add eggs and stir until smooth. Put cooled potatoes back in to bowl. Add minced parsley, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and potato starch/egg mixture. Toss until everything is evenly combined.
  6. Place another wire rack over a third rimmed baking sheet. Line with a triple layer of paper towels.
  7. Add 1/4″ of oil to a 12″ skillet. Preheat over medium-high burner for 5 minutes until reaches 350-degrees (oil will be shimmering but not smoking). Measure 1/4-cup of potato mixture and place in oil. Push down with spatula until in becomes a disk 1/3″-thick. Repeat until 5 latkes are in pan. Cook for 3 minutes per side, until they become golden brown. You may need to adjust the burner so that the latkes bubble around the edges.  Remove to drain on paper towels, then place on baking sheet.
  8. You may been to add a little more oil to ensure you have 1/4″ depth, reheat oil to 350-degrees and repeat step 8 with the rest of the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper according to your to taste, and serve with sour cream.
Sour cream always goes nicely with potatoes

Sour cream always goes nicely with potatoes

Crispy Potato Tots

March 24, 2013

My first Tatar-Tot-experience was from my mediocre Jr. High School’s cafeteria. Even still, they were delicious and I never figured out why my mother never made Tator Tots when I was growing up. I have always loved them, and I’ve made them for my kids many, many times; but only from a bag. So I was excited to see in the latest season of Cook’s Country that Tator Tots can be made from scratch. I made them for a recent sleepover with 5 teenage boys. They were easy to make, but there were a few minor problems. First, 10 minutes in my microwave didn’t seem to fully cook the potatoes, compromising both texture and flavor.  They were just undercooked, not raw, so an extra 2 to 4 minutes would be enough extra time. Second, I failed to properly estimate the amount of time they would take to prepare. Budget a full 1-1/2 hours. Third, the boys wanted the Tots to be round; not square. Fortunately, the bar to make a sleepover a success is set pretty low; having more to do with the smile on my face than perfectly cooked Tator Tots. As they were, I can only give them 3-1/2 stars. Not worth the effort when compared to the bag. But I will try them again and update the review if I am more successful next time.

Homemade rectangular Tator Tots

Homemade rectangular Tator Tots


  1. Chris Kimball warns that if you have a food processor with capacity less than 11 cups, that you need to process the potatoes in two batches. I did this, using half the water in each batch.
  2. When I pressed the water out of the potatoes I didn’t check to see if I yielded 1-1/2 cups of liquid. If I didn’t, that may explain why the potatoes didn’t fully cook during the 10 minutes in the microwave.
  3. Chris Kimball says that you can cool the fried leftovers, then put in a zip-lock bag. They can be frozen for up to 1 month. Bake at 400-degrees for 12 to 15 minutes to re-heat.

Rating: 3-1/2 star.
Cost: $2.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 4:30 pm. Dinner Time:  6:00.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below, but the ingredient list has already increased the amount of cheese according to my recommendations above :
2-1/4 teaspoons table salt
2-1/2 lbs russet potatoes
1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups vegetable oil

  1. Whisk 1 cup water and salt together in bowl until salt dissolves.
  2. Peel your potatoes and cut them into 1-1/2″ pieces.
  3. In one or two batches depending upon the size of your food processor, add the potatoes chunks and water. Pulse 10 to 12 times until the potatoes become coarsely ground. Empty into a fine mesh strainer and use a rubber spatula to press out 1-1/2 cups of liquid.
  4. Put potatoes into a large glass bowl and microwave (uncovered) for 10 to 14 minutes; stir potatoes once after 5 minutes. The potatoes should become dry and sticky.
  5. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, mix until combined. Allow to cool for 10 minutes by spreading the potatoes out on a foil-lined sheet pan. Use a spatula to push the mixture to the center of the foil, and put in an 8″ square cake pan. Use a spatula to evenly spread the potatoes, then fold the foil over and firmly press the potatoes to ensure they are even, compact and fill the corners. Freeze for 30 minutes, so that they are easier to cut.
  6. While the potatoes freeze, begin pre-heating your oil over a high burner to 375-degrees (about 10 minutes).  If you want to serve both batches at the same time, pre-heat your oven to 200-degrees. I served the first batch immediately, and therefore didn’t pre-heat my oven.
  7. Use the foil to lift the potatoes and put them on a cutting board. Cut them into bite-sized tots. Depending upon the exact size of your cake pan, that could be 6×8 or 5×9.
  8. When the oil reaches 375-degrees, use a wide, metal spatula to gently lower half your tots into the oil (without splashing). Fry each batch for 6 to 7 minutes until they become crispy and golden brown.
  9. Remove from oil as they become ready and drain on a wire rack set over a foil-lined sheet pan. Season with salt. Keep the fist batch warm in your 200-degree oven while you cook the second batch. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for the second batch.

Herb-Roasted Prime Rib and Potatoes

December 29, 2012

I’ve never made prime rib before. Partially because standing rib roasts are so expensive (usually cost at least $80), but also because Prime Rib always seemed bland; tender but bland. So I made this herb-roaster prime rib for Christmas dinner, because it seemed to offer more interesting flavor. In addition, I used Chris Kimball’s home, dry-aging technique. After 5 days in the back of my refrigerator wrapped in cheesecloth, the roast resembled something costing twice as much. In the end, I was happy with the dry-aging technique, which improves the beef’s texture and concentrates it’s flavor. But I very disappointed with the recipe, because the herb-flavor did not penetrate the beef. Worse yet, Most of the herbs were trimmed away with the fat cap. 3-stars. Next time I will stick to a more traditional jus, so that the added flavor of the the jus can be enjoyed in every bite.

It looks delicious, but only 3-star

It looks delicious, but only 3-star


  1. This recipe does not seem to be as thoroughly tested as most of Chris Kimball’s recipes. In fact, it is not from Cook’s Illustrated, but rather from The Best One-Dish Suppers. An example of the issue, while Chris Kimball mentions adding oil in step 5, he fails to add it to the ingredient list or say how much oil to add or what type to use. I used two tablespoons of olive oil, which seemed okay
  2. Chris Kimball over-rests the roast for 30 minutes. True, the internal temperature of the beef doesn’t fall much in those 30 minutes, but the outside portions of the beef were noticeably cool. I’d recommend that you start to carve no later than after 20 minutes, and keep the cut beef tented with aluminum for until dinner.
  3. I was worried because Chris Kimball usually under-estimates cooking time for potatoes, so I par-cooked the potatoes for 8 minutes in microwave. I tossed them with 1 tablespoon olive oil and covered with plastic wrap, and shook them half way through microwaving.
  4. I bought a 3-rib roast weighing about 7-1/2 pounds. But I cut my roast into two smaller roasts (one roast had 2 ribs and the other had 1 rib). My kids prefer the end-cuts, and are happier if the beef isn’t too red.

Cost: $35
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 1:00 pm. Dinner Time:  6:00.

Chris Kimball’s original version of this recipe is here. His dry aging technique is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it this week are given below:

7-lb beef standing rib roast (3 or 4 ribs)
Salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3 pounds small red potatoes

  1. About a week before dinner, remove the roast from packaging, rinse well, and pat completely dry with paper towels.  Wrap the meat with three layers of cheesecloth, Place on wire rack with the fat side up; set over a sheet pan and place in the back of refrigerator (the coldest part). After 24 hours, remove, unwrap, discard cheesecloth and wrap with a fresh piece. Place back in refrigerator for up to 6 days undisturbed.
  2. Plan on removing the roast from the refrigerator about 5 1/2 hours before serving. Remove cheesecloth, cut away the fat and trim the ends and any discolored parts of roast.  Allow roast to sit a room temperature for 2 hours for more even cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, set an oven rack to the bottom position in your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees for 20 minutes. Prepare your V-rack (set inside a roasting pan) by coating it with vegetable oil spray.
  4. Pat the roast dry using paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Put roast on your V-rack, and roast at 450-degrees for 1 hour until becomes well browned.
  5. Meanwhile, add the minced thyme and rosemary, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1 teaspoon sugar to a small bowl, and stir to combine.
  6. Remove the roast from the oven and reduce to 250-degrees. Take the herb-mixture and evenly spread over the roast. Bake for between 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the internal temperature of the beef registers 130-degrees for medium-rare; 140-degrees for medium and 155-degrees for medium-well.
  7. While the roast cooks scrub your potatoes and cut them in half.
  8. Put roast of a cutting board and allow to rest for 20 minutes, and turn up your oven to 450-degrees. Remove the v-rack from the pan and discard all but 3 tablespoon of the rendered fat from the bottom of the pan. Add cut potatoes to pan, season with salt and pepper and toss until evenly coated. Arrange them so that the cut side faces down in the pan. Roast until the potatoes are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  9. Just before the potatoes are ready, carve the roast. Hold the roast steady with a carving knife, and cut along the bone to remove. Set the roast cit-side down and slice across the grain into 1/2″-thick slabs. Keep the cut beef tented with aluminum foil until ready to eat.

Shepherd’s Pie

November 11, 2012

I have a friend who introduced me to Shepherd’s Pie about 10 years ago. It was her signature dish, and when I saw the current issue of Cook’s Illustrated my memories flew back to those simpler years in Hoboken, New Jersey. I was surprised by the long length of the ingredient list, and while they are common enough, with such a long list you’re sure to need a special trip to the supermarket. In my case it was 4-ounces of white mushrooms, scallions, carrots and port. Overall, the pie took more effort than I had thought; making the mashed potatoes, browning the vegetables and meat in many steps, then broiling the final pie. However, it is not daunting; everything is straight-forward with no special skills or techniques. In the end Chris Kimball’s recipe was very good, I give it 3-1/2 stars; delicious, well-balanced. A solid recipe for classic Shepherd’s pie, but not so exceptional as to surpass the memory of my friend’s Shepherd’s pie.

Classic Shepherd’s pie is not as easy as you think

While I just got back power two days ago after Hurricane Sandy; I lost two 80-foot pine trees and spent 11 days without power; this recipe also reminded me how fortunately I am. The area where I lived in Hoboken was exceptionally low-lying and the damage was exceptionally devastating. My friends have virtually all moved out of Hoboken, it seems to be a transitional town, everybody staying and enjoying it for a few years before the headaches eventually become too great. But I feel for all those who have moved in, as it could have just as easily been me and my friends who were hit so hard.


  1. Chris Kimball says not to use beef that is fattier than 93%, but I tempted fate and used the 80% lean ground beef that was already in my refrigerator. I cooked it separately so that I could discard some of the extra fat, before combining the other ingredients.
  2. I didn’t have a 10″ broiler-safe skillet, so I used my 12″ skillet to cook the meat, then assembled the pie into a Pyrex pie plate.
  3. I didn’t melt the butter separately as instructed in the recipe, I just allowed the residual heat of the potatoes to do it for me.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $14.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:45 PM. Finish time 5:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

1-1/2 lbs 93%-lean ground beef
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons water
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2-1/2 lbs russet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg yolk
8 scallions (green parts only)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 onion
4-oz white mushrooms
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons Madeira or ruby port
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 carrots
2 teaspoons cornstarch

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the beef, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and baking soda. Allow to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. In the mean time, Peel your potatoes and cut into approximately 1″ cubes. Put potatoes in a medium saucepan, adding just enough water to cover, then add 1 tablespoon salt. Set over high burner, cover, and bring up to a boil. Reduce to medium-low, and continue simmering for 10 to 12 minutes. The potatoes will be done when a paring knife doesn’t meet any resistance. Empty potatoes into a strainer and then return them to the same saucepan for about 1 minute until all the surface moister has dried. Remove potatoes from heat and stir in butter.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together your milk, egg yolk, then mix into the potatoes. Thinly slice the green parts of 8 scallions, add to potatoes and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Cover saucepan and set aside.
  4. Chop the onion and mushrooms. Peel your garlic cloves. Peel and chop your carrot (to be used in Step 6)
  5. Using a 10″-skillet that is safe to eventually put into the oven, pre-heat vegetable oil over medium burner until it’s shimmering. Add onion, mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; saute for 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and press garlic directly into the skillet; continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Add Madeira or Port and continue cooking for 1 minute. Mix in flour and continue cooking for 1 minute.
  6. Add 1-1/4 cups beef broth, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 2 chopped carrots. When it comes up to a boil, reduce the burner to medium-low and add ground beef in 2″ chunks. Cover the skillet and cook for 12 minutes until the beef is cooked through, using 2 forks to break up the meat half-way through cooking.
  7. Stir cornstarch and remaining 2 teaspoons water together in bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into filling and continue to simmer for 30 seconds. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Set an oven rack to be 5″ from the broiler, and pre-heat while assembling the pie. Put mashed potatoes in a large Zip-lock bag and cut of a 1″ opening in one corner, then pipe the potatoes into an even layer over the filling. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out the potatoes, ensuring that all the meat is covered. Finally use the tines of a fork to make ridges over the entire surface, in whatever pattern you like.
  9. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, put pie on-top and broil for 10 to 15 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown, rotating the pie half way through broiling to ensure even browning. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

I assembled in a pie plate, for lack of oven-safe 10″ skillet

My Own Potato Salad

July 31, 2012

I’ve made a lot of different styles of potato salad (for example here and here), but none of Chris Kimball’s recipes has matched my own personal recipe for potato salad. Perhaps I’m biased, because I’ve adjust the recipe over 15 years to precisely match my taste. It uses Balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and red onion instead of yellow onion. I can’t believe I haven’t yet posted this recipe. I give it 4-stars, because it’s just potato salad.

the best potato salad is also my oldest recipe

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $2.50
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 4:30.  Ready:  5:30.

3 eggs
2-1/2 pounds Red Bliss or Eastern potatoes
1-1/2 Celery stalk
1 medium red onion
1 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

  1. Hard boil eggs by adding eggs to pan of cold water placed over high burner. Once the water begins to boil, allow to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from burner and allow to stand for 10 more minutes. They will be perfectly cooked. (see here)
  2. Add potatoes with skins on to a large pot and cover with water. Put on stovetop over medium-high heat, cover, and cook for 35 minutes until tender.
  3. Meanwhile dice onion, and finely chop celery into small pieces.
  4. Mix mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add diced onions and celery.
  5. Dice the hard boiled eggs. Add to mixture.
  6. When potatoes are done remove from heat and rinse with warm water. Make sure not to overcook the potatoes or the salad will be quite sloppy. Keep the water at a gentle simmer and use the tip of a paring knife to judge the doneness of the potatoes. If the knife inserts easily into the potato pieces, they are done.
  7. Empty potatoes into a strainer. Place on cutting board and use a paring knife to peel the hot potatoes. There is no need to hold them using a fork, which will inevitably fall apart or burn your hands. Cut potatoes into small cubes after you’ve removed the skin.
  8. Mix together in large bowl with other ingredients.

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