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.

Comments:

  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

Comments:

  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

Comments:

  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.

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