Spousal Spuds

Every time, and I mean every time I ask my husband Petey what he wants for supper, he gives me the same answer.  You might think that he’s a picky eater with an extremely limited palate.

Actually, the opposite is true.

The abiding answer to my culinary query?

“Whatever you feel like making.”Petey’s response gives me complete freedom with my only limitations being price and availability.  But, you know, sometimes I am completely out of ideas, and I’m truly seeking direction.  Sadly, it never comes from him.  Honestly, the fact that I still ask the question after 35 years of non-answers says a ton about me, and not about him.

But, that’s the man I married.I only learned about ten or twelve years ago that he’s crazy for coconut cake.  It’s his favorite.  That fact’s not something I’m proud of.

But, he doesn’t make it easy.

I buy this macaroni salad from Lowe’s.  It’s really convenient to have on hand when we need a quick side dish.  He always eats every bite on his plate.

Last week he told me he doesn’t like it.

Ladies and Gentleman: my husband.

C’mon!  How am I supposed to have picked up on that one?

The man is almost militantly easy going when it comes to food.  Planning a visit to a restaurant, I study the online menu like it’s an unknown Shakespearian sonnet.  I want to know every conceivable option, the chef’s food philosophy, the ingredients’ sources, and whether they cook with gas or electric.

Petey orders the BLT.So, if the man voluntarily mentions something, or even shows an interest bordering on mild enthusiasm, I take notice.  Frankly, it’s such a rare and magical occurrence, I would beg, borrow, and/or steal to produce it for him.

The other night we were watching a PBS cooking show, and there was a potato dish.  Petey casually said, “That looks good.  We should try something like that.”Of course, he said this after it was finished and the chef had moved onto something else.  And of course, I hadn’t been giving it my full attention, and had no clear idea about ingredients or procedure.  So, I watched an encore showing with laser-like focus, and a notebook at the ready.  And in the viewing discovered the chef was awful at anything resembling details.  I was effectively on my own.

So this is what I came up with.

Petey’s twice-baked potatoes

petey's potatoes4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ¼ inch strips

2-3 pounds red skin or fingerling potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces

1 ½ cups sour cream

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1-2 tablespoons fresh chives or green onions, sliced thinly

1 ½ cup shredded parmesan or other dry cheese such as Manchego

Salt & pepperPreheat oven to 375.  Cook bacon in skillet on stovetop until crispy, reserving fat.

Use reserved fat to grease 13 X 9 baking dish.  Toss cut potatoes in 1-2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat and season with salt & pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes until al dente.

While potatoes are baking, make sauce by mixing together in large bowl, sour cream, herbs, cooked bacon, and ¾ cups cheese.

When the potatoes have finished the first bake, raise oven to 425.  Put potatoes into bowl with sauce and mix until coated.  Pour back into pan, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and bake 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before service.Serves 6.

If you can’t decide whether to make this dish, you might want to know it has Petey’s full-throated, enthusiastic praise.

His exact words?

“It’s not bad.”Thanks for your time.

Quel delizioso!

Nature loves diversity.

Or, as any self-respecting, pocket protector owning, socially awkward uber-geek knows that put another way, is the statement which forms the basis of Vulcan philosophy; infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

The diverse combination of which I speak today isn’t quite as exotic as the love child of a blue-skinned, antennaed Andorian and a species which looks like nothing so much as an evolved Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Pahkwa-thanh.It’s an egg dish which is a culinary marriage of Italy and France.

In France, there is something called a galette.  There are actually two somethings.  One galette is a free-form pie.  You roll out a large circular shape of short crust pastry.  Rustic is the name of the game here, so you don’t want a flawless geometric circle with clean, perfect edges.You then place the filling on the dough, leaving a two-inch border around the edge.  The edge is folded up and painted with an egg wash.  If it’s a sweet galette, sugar is sprinkled over the whole confection, and it’s baked to golden perfection.  A savory version is made the same way, only sprinkled with salt, pepper, and any herbs or spices desired.

But it’s the other type of galette which is used in our diversity dish.

I like pie, I really do.  My mom makes a pecan pie to break your heart.  Warm apple pie wearing a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream is a well-deserved, delicious classic.  And all Edwards frozen pies are really tasty, but their lemon merengue with vanilla wafer crust is almost a religious experience.Like I said, pie is a gift from the culinary gods, but the second type of galette has to my favorite…it’s taters.  If I had to give up either pie or spuds forever, it would be goodbye pie.

In this galette, waxy potatoes are peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thin.  Then you melt some butter in a cast iron pan and, starting at the center, lay down slices of potato in a rosette pattern.  Repeat for a total of three layers, seasoning each layer.With a traditional galette, you brown the first side, then place a plate over the skillet, flip it, return it to the pan cooked side up, and brown the bottom.

With this treatment, you flip the potatoes and turn the heat down.  Then for the Italian portion; called a frittata, beat beat up 6 eggs, season them, and stir in some bacon, caramelized onion, lightly steamed broccoli florets, and sundried tomatoes.  Pour it over the spuds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until it starts to set around the edges.frittata galetteSprinkle the top with crumbled goat cheese.  Then set the pan in the oven under a low broiler until the frittata is just set, and it’s puffed and very lightly golden.  Remove from oven, slide it onto a serving platter, let it sit for a minute or two, then slice and serve.   It will feed six.  It’s actually good cold, so leftovers make a great lunch the next day.

So, when I was telling The Kid about this recipe, I didn’t explain which kind of galette I was talking about.  And when I got to the part about flipping it, my child got very confused, with visions of an up-ended free-form cherry pie.  But when I explained it was a potato galette the dish got a vote of confidence.

So my lesson is a new twist on a brunch dish.

And The Kid’s advice is if you have a pie, don’t flip it upside down.Thanks for your time.

May we suggest poutine?

Before I write another word, for the sake of your circulatory system and my conscience, I need to be completely honest with you, Gentle Reader.

Poutine (pronounced poo-teen), is to health food what Rolls Royces are to economy cars.  Classic Canadian poutine is French fries, drenched in gravy, and covered with cheese curds.

I love poutine, but because of its sinister health connotations, I indulge infrequently.  I had it twice in Vermont at a restaurant called The Skinny Pancake; a crepe joint.  It was love at first bite, but honestly, I was already half in love just from the description of the dish.But depressingly, even poutine can be ruined.  One morning I had breakfast at the Pancake.

…and their glorious poutine

But depressingly, even poutine can be ruined.  One morning I had breakfast at the Pancake.

Because it was the AM, they offered a breakfast version.  It was covered in mild sausage gravy and topped with poached eggs.  The gravy was like sage-flavored wallpaper paste, and the eggs were so overcooked they might have been hard-boiled.

I was so disappointed I almost cried.I succumbed to poutine at lunch yesterday.  And it was really good.  But again, so very calorific and rich that The Kid and I shared an order, and last night for dinner I was fine with just some fruit.

The moral is, they can be transcendent—or dismal.  But, despite my experience with the ghastly jacked-up poutine, I am constitutionally unable to not tinker.

So The Kid and I collaborated and invented a couple of new twists.  But first, a quick tutorial on the technique for making an easy, quick gravy—‘cause it ain’t poutine if there ain’t gravy.

There are only four steps:Fry-In a large heavy pot, sauté the base.  Get some type of fat hot.  It can be butter, oil, or render some bacon.  Then toss in some kind of base; onions, mushrooms, or meat (like that delicious, delicious bacon).

Roux- Remove the meat or veg once it’s caramelized.  Then sprinkle in flour and whisk and cooked for a few minutes until it starts to get a little color.  Rule of thumb is ¼ cup light-colored roux will thicken 2 cups of liquid.Deglaze- Add cold liquid to the hot pot.  This will immediately lower the temp and allow you to scrape up brown bits.  If using alcohol, allow it to almost cook out, then pour in enough stock to make an unctuous sauce.  Add back veg, but hold bacon for garnish.

Thicken:  Whisk constantly until it comes to a boil.  Aside from tasting and re-seasoning if needed, this is the final step.  Once it comes to a boil, it’s done.  If it’s too thick, add more liquid.  If it’s too thin, cook at simmer until it tightens up a bit.

This procedure can be used to make almost every type of gravy.

The first twist on poutine is really simple.Instead of fries, use tater tots.  Cover with lashings of mushroom/onion gravy in which you deglazed with sherry, then added beef stock. Sprinkle on a big handful of coarsely grated hoop cheese on top.How about some sweet potato poutine?  Make sweet potato fries, either homemade or store-bought.  This time use goat cheese, and red-eye gravy.  For the gravy, cook bacon until it’s brown and crispy.  Remove bacon from pan and stir in flour.  Then add a couple cups of coffee and whisk until thick.  Top with crumbled, crispy bacon.

I hope you try some version of poutine.  But think about it as a day at the fair.  There’s a good reason it only rolls around once a year.Thanks for your time.

Patriotic Party Guest

You can ask The Kid, and there will be full confirmation—I am a corny, kitschy, sentimentalist.

When Petey and I travel, we both love to do the touristy thing.  I’m the girl that would totally stop at World’s Largest Jack-in-the-Box (Middletown, CT), the Indian Death Tiki of Awesomeness (Maggie Valley, NC), and spend the night in dog shaped digs at the Dog Bark Park Inn (Cottonwood, ID) or beneath boulders at Kokopelli’s Cave Bed & Breakfast (Farmington, NM).

OMG, I love these things…

Each fall I literally do a happy dance in the grocery store the first time I see the mellow-creme pumpkins on sale (and don’t even start–they are a completely different confection from candy corns).

I buy one loaf of spongy white, Sunbeam or Wonder bread a year.  It’s used to make my annual Thanksgiving night, before bed, turkey sandwich.

My sweater is exactly like the one in the middle.  Yes, folks, it’s so bad they put it in a very famous Saturday Night Live sketch (I owned it before the sketch).

At Christmastime, I watch hours and hours of fifty-year-old cartoon and Claymation holiday-themed productions.  Each year, If not physically restrained by Petey, I would happily perch on Santa’s lap for a nice, long chat.  I own a Christmas sweater so ugly it’s illegal in 25 states and actually has functioning bells on it.

So when there is a barbecue or picnic for the Fourth of July, you darn well better believe that there will be food, beverages, décor and fashion in red, white, and blue.

For dessert, I buy Independence Day hued M&M’s and liberally scatter them, along with handfuls of broken pretzel pieces, on top of my dark chocolate, fudgy brownies.  And I serve Sundaes with homemade vanilla ice cream drenched in fresh cherry and blueberry sauces.

Blue historically, has been hard to find in savory foods.  I guess there’s blue cheese, and I like it fine, but it’s only blue because of mold; which isn’t really very festive when you think about it.

About fifteen years ago, the US was introduced to a colorful new spud.  Even though it’s known as a purple Peruvian potato, don’t be fooled.  Most of them are as blue as the moon in Kentucky, Elvis’ suede shoes, and a K Mart special.

Uncle Sam’s potato salad

red white blue spud salad

3 pound purple/blue potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper

24 ounces Cherub baby tomatoes, left whole

8 ounces goat cheese crumbled

5 or 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Leaving on the skin, cut the potatoes into bite-size piece and cook in heavily salted, boiling water until fork-tender (15-20 minutes).  When still hot, toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and lemon juice.  Season, and taste for seasoning. 

Let cool completely then put into a large bowl with tomatoes.

Dressing

lemon herb dressing

Whisk together:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Refrigerate dressing for at least two hours.

Thirty minutes before service, add dressing to potato/tomato mixture, a little at a time until the vegetables are lightly coated.  Gently mix in goat cheese.  Cover and let sit indoors at room temperature (not outside, where it’s hot, you don’t want a trip to the emergency room for dessert).

Before service, sprinkle the bacon on top.  This way it will still be crispy when eaten.  Serves 8-10.

And if you don’t get it together for the fourth, don’t fret.  This potato salad also works for Bastille Day, on the 14th.  Though, you should probably call it Frere Jacques potato salad.

Thanks for your time.

The Red Menace

There are three types of people.

There are folks who like brown/mushroom gravy inside, outside, and on the side of their meatloaf.  And there are those who love meatloaf to come sporting a shiny red cap of glaze.

I actually have a Kitchenaid, but other than that, this looks exactly like me when cooking.

But there are the enlightened ones, those noble humans whom, like myself, have love for both varieties.

The Kid?  Not so much.  That child likes red meatloaf about as much as flat beer and the heartbreak of psoriasis.  If it ain’t brown, The Kid ain’t down.

There is one little logistical glitch, though, with red meatloaf.

We can do way better than this…

When I make brown meatloaf, I start by making a nice, rich mushroom gravy.  I then use it in the mix, I ladle it over the top for baking, and spoon it over the mandatory buttermilk mashed potatoes.  And no matter its complexion, with an old school protein like meatloaf, potatoes are in fact, mandatory.

French fries just don’t work.  It’s like black suede boots with a white eyelet dress.  Baked potatoes are an option, but fully dressed is an awful lot of starch and fat.  And red meatloaf isn’t terribly flashy as a main, you don’t want it to disappear completely next to the showgirl that is a loaded spud.

My answer is to serve braised baby potatoes.

Braised Baby Potatoes with Herbs

braised creamers

2 pounds baby potatoes or little creamers, washed
1 cup beef stock
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped herb of your choice (like chives, dill, or tarragon)
Throw everything into a large heavy pot with a lid.
Cover and cook on medium until the potatoes are fork-tender (15-20 minutes), stirring frequently.
Uncover and let the liquid cook down into a thick, buttery sauce.
Right before service, stir in herbs and check for seasoning. Makes 4 servings.

I’ve broken down the meatloaf into small steps.You can do them early in the day; or even the day before, then put it together right before baking.

Red Glazed Meatloaf

Glazed onions:

glazed onions

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ tablespoon granulated onion

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ cup Marsala wine

Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat a skillet and add veg oil.  Put in chopped onion, thyme, granulated onion.  Cook until onions start to brown around the edges.  Stir in tomato paste.  When the paste darkens, pour in Marsala.  Let the wine cook out, then take off heat.

Meatloaf mix:

red meatloaf

4 slices multi-grain bread, ground fine in a food processor

4 eggs 

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons horseradish

2 pounds ground chuck

Salt and pepper

Directions:

In a large bowl, place in bread crumbs, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, and horseradish.  Add cooked onions.  Mix everything with vigor until it is a homogenous mass.  Break beef into large chunks and put in bowl.  Using clean hands or disposable gloves, mix meat and bread crumb mix until it is completely mixed in.  Form into loaf shape.

Glaze:

red glaze

1 cup ketchup, divided

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons horseradish

Pinch salt and pepper

Directions:

Take out ½ cup of ketchup and set aside.  Whisk together the other half cup of ketchup and the rest of the glaze ingredients.  Spread 1 tablespoon of this in the bottom of the dish in which you’re baking the meatloaf.  Using a paint brush, paint the glaze all over the meatloaf.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Remove from oven and pour/paint the plain ketchup on the top.  Return to oven and bake 30 minutes more.

Remove from oven and let rest for 20 minutes before service.  Serves 5-6.

I served this with my cool, crunchy broccoli salad.

Bacon Broccoli Salad

broccoli salad 2.0

4 large stalks of broccoli
4 pieces bacon
1/3 cup grated parmesan, divided
1 cup mayonnaise
Hot water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Place bacon on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Put it in the oven, then set oven to 350 (if you put the bacon into a hot oven it will seize up and never fully render; it also keeps the slices flatter). Cook for 15 minutes, flip each piece over and cook until it is golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven to a paper-towel covered plate. Reserve ¼ cup bacon grease for dressing.
While the bacon is cooking, cut the broccoli into small, bite-size florets. Place into a large bowl with half the cheese.
For dressing, whisk together mayo, bacon fat, and parmesan. Thin with hot water, a little at a time until it’s the consistency of pancake batter. Mix into broccoli until it’s lightly coated. Refrigerate until service. Makes about 8 servings.

If you have leftovers, the meatloaf makes epic sandwiches.  Just slice and put it in a hot skillet.  Cook until it browns and forms a crust.  Flip and cook the other side then melt a thick slice of horseradish cheddar on it.

You know, I’ve been thinking about that “three kinds of meatloaf people” philosophy, and I think I need to amend it.

What if you don’t eat red meat? Or you like it cheese-stuffed, or bacon wrapped?  Maybe you like it spicy, or Horrors! What if you actually don’t like meatloaf at all?

You know…there is one meatloaf that I could live without.

Thanks for your time.

Open your pie hole

Bless her heart.

bless

Every good Southern girl knows what this means…

I grew up eating my mom’s version.  She uses canned beans, canned tomato soup, and instant mashed potatoes.  She calls it shepherd’s pie.  But lamb is the base of shepherd’s pie.  And lamb ain’t something that’s ever gonna happen at her house.  She hates it.  The closest thing to lambs at my folks’ place would be a wool sweater.

She makes hers with ground chuck, and when you make it with beef, it’s called cottage pie.

I’ve been in many different kitchens; both professional settings and private homes.

dream kitchen.png

Here’s the kitchen in my mind.

I’ve picked the brains of every cook I could get to stand still long enough to answer any one of a thousand questions.  I now have many of these generous culinary coaches on speed dial and email 911.  Because of their generous, patient, support, I have been able to develop my own personal cooking philosophy.

Here ‘tis:

“Treat every ingredient with respect and elevate it as much as is possible, be it a humble egg, or the most expensive cut of meat.”

So when I decided to make cottage pie, I wanted to use from-scratch ingredients.  I would also work to get the best flavor and most desirable texture to which each ingredient was able to rise.

Honeymoon Cottage Pie

cottage pie

1 lb. 80/20 ground beef

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, diced

1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

½ cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons butter (if needed)

1/3 cup dark beer

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups low-sodium beef stock

1½ teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped finely

2 bay leaves

2 cups frozen peas

2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes

Mashed potatoes:

10 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

4 tablespoons butter

1/3-3/4 cup fat-free buttermilk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Salt & pepper

Place potatoes into large pot with plenty of salted water.  Cook over medium heat until spuds are tender.  Drain.  Place back into pot and drop in butter.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and using a hand masher, mash until smooth/chunky.  Stir in buttermilk until just a little loose.  Taste for seasoning, cover and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat a large heavy skillet to medium-high.  Brown seasoned hamburger.  When cooked, set aside, and leave fat in skillet (add butter if there’s not at least 3 tablespoons).  Put in onions, mushrooms, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves.  Season veg.  Cook until onion turns golden.  Stir in tomato paste.  When paste darkens and starts to stick to the bottom, deglaze with beer.  When the liquid’s cooked out, mix in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Pour in beef broth and stir until smooth.  Bring to a simmer and take off heat (it should be nice and thick).  Add back meat and peas and carrots.  Check for seasoning.

Pour into a greased casserole dish, or 6 individual ramekins.  If you use individual dishes, you can freeze some for another night. 

Top with mashed potatoes.  Smooth over the top, leaving no gaps.  Cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove foil and top with cheese.  Return to oven and cook under low broiler until browned and bubbly.  Serves 6.

This is even better with crusty bread and a crisp, green salad.  If you’re a beer drinker, serve it with a glass of the same type you cooked with.  You literally can’t get a better pairing.

Both Petey and I grew up in the 1960’s-70’s.  In this era most of the moms had been raised during the Great Depression and/or World War II.  They were sick of economizing, making do, and Victory gardens

This ennui resulted in a heady enthusiasm for cooking with cans of this, and jars of that.  The only fresh produce many kids from our generation ever saw was potatoes, tomatoes, and iceberg lettuce.

Is it any wonder we have such a messed up relationship with food?  This stuff was considered good eats back in the 70’s.  And what’s up with the knife-wielding woman under the table?

So while many of those dinners we ate hold nostalgic appeal, processed foods do not.  Rehabbing this food using better techniques and fresher ingredients gives us the best of both worlds.

And since we baby boomers are looking at 50 in the rearview mirror, healthier is much smarter.  I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be around to embarrass my great-grandkids.

Embarrassing yes, but even I have my limits.

Thanks for your time.

The late-ish Debbie Matthews

I always used to be on time.  Always.

Then I met Petey.  That boy will be late to his own funeral.

So the fact that I’m talking about corned beef and cabbage, 3 ½ weeks after Saint Patrick’s Day is apt.

But you know what?

Any time is the right time for corned beef, because it is heavenly, meaty ambrosia.  Whether eaten hot, with a plate full of butter-drenched veg, or heaped between some rye, corned beef is mouthwateringly delicious.

Recently I made it for the first time.

This wasn’t by choice.  If I’d had my way, I’d make it all the time.  But Petey absolutely loathes it.  And, until recently, so did The Kid.

My child and I share a love of Reubens.  But traditional corned beef and cabbage was only enjoyed by me, and I couldn’t justify cooking an entire brisket for one.  Joyously, The Kid has lately had a change of heart.

But Buddy-Roe, we can put away Reubens like Reuben-eating rock stars..

Profoundly non-kosher Reubens

reuben

4 slices seeded rye

½ pound thinly sliced corned beef

½ cup sauerkraut

4 slices Swiss cheese

Mayonnaise

Thousand Island dressing

Lay out bread.  Spread mayo to taste on 2 slices, and Thousand Island on the other two.  Lay one piece of cheese on each slice of bread.  Top half the rye with corned beef and sauerkraut. 

2012-12-10_18-34-24_659

Spread very thin layer of mayo on the outside of sandwiches.  Cook in skillet on medium-low until hot and melty.

But to make this delicious dish, you need some corned beef.  Most of the time I pick it up from a deli.  But now I can make corned beef with veggies, and put together a Reuben with homemade leftovers.

Corned beef and cabbage

corned beef

2 pound corned beef brisket with spice packet (or 2 tablespoons pickling spice)

1 large yellow onion

2 tablespoons butter

4 bay leaves

3 cups dark beer, divided

2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Salt and pepper

Water

8-10 medium red skinned potatoes, washed and cut into 4 pieces

1 head of cabbage, cored and cut into 8 pieces

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces, or left whole if they’re small

6 tablespoons butter melted mixed with 2 tablespoons each chopped fresh parsley and chives

Preheat oven to 250.  Place Dutch oven on stove-top and set to medium.  Melt butter in pot.  Slice onions into half-moons.  Add to pot with bay leaves, spice, salt and pepper.  Cook on medium-low until onions are golden.  Turn heat up to medium-high and stir in mustard.

Pour in ½ cup beer.  Scrape up any bits clinging to pot bottom.  Add maple syrup and cook until almost dry.  Add rest of the beer.  Place in brisket, fat side up.  Add enough water to barely cover meat.  Insert probe thermometer set to 210.  Cover and place in oven.

When brisket gets to 195 degrees, put potatoes into separate pot with salted water to cover.  Add enough corned beef cooking liquid to cover by 1-2 inches.  Cook on medium.  After 10 minutes add carrots and cabbage.  Cook until all veggies are tender.  Drain and pour parsley-chive butter over.

When corned beef hits 210, remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes.  Carve thinly against the grain.

Serves 6.

Normally I’d recommend serving this with salad.  But when it comes to this meal, I have no shame.  I can eat my weight in corned beef.  When this is on the menu, I don’t want to clutter up my belly with anything else.

Thanks for your time.

Ally goat

“Walk away.  Just walk away.”

That’s a phrase one of my culinary heroes, Alton Brown, uses.  It’s meant to get the cook to back off and not overwork it or tweak it to death.  Like over mixing biscuit dough, developing the gluten, and ending up with tough, rubbery, inedible results.

It’s also what I tell myself when making mashed potatoes.

I mash them by hand with a good amount of butter.  When the spuds are mashed,  but still chunky, I mix in buttermilk, about ¾ cup at a time until they are just a little thinner than I’d like (they’ll tighten up while standing).  Then I cover them and walk away ‘til service; because if I continue to stir, I’ll develop the starch in the potatoes, and they’ll end up gluey.

But gluey can actually be a desired trait in a certain potato dish.

I love America’s Test Kitchen.  They have cookbooks, magazines, and a pair of PBS television shows.  Using theirCook’s Illustrated magazine, I finally got over my fear of cooking sugar; caramel, fudge, the whole candy thermometer megillah.  I also appreciate that if they offer a recipe, they have tested it into the ground.  One of The Kid’s culinary schoolmates was an America’s Test Kitchen intern and has verified that each dish was made with hundreds of variations to be assured of having the very best, most successful, recipe.

One Sunday afternoon I was watching an episode of ATK, and became extremely intrigued by a potato side dish they made.

It was called pommes aligot (pronounced “pom ally go”).  It’s a dish from the Aubrac region in France.  Aligot basically turns conventional mashed potato wisdom on its head.  The potatoes are whipped like crazy, cheese is added, and more stirring ensues.

The result is a rich, creamy, cheesy dish that is shiny and elastic.  The French sometimes use this as a dip for bread sticks and raw veggies, kind of like a fondue.

In France the dish is made with Tomme; a semi-soft cheese made in the Pyrenes and Alps regions.  It is almost impossible to find in the states.  Christopher Kimbel and the gang at the Test Kitchen came up with a gruyere/mozzarella combo to mimic flavor and texture.

I don’t buy a lot of Gruyere, and was pretty horrified by the prices.  I didn’t want to get too far off the reservation the first time I made the recipe, so I used Gruyere, but found a smoked version that was two bucks cheaper.  It added a nice, subtle smoky flavor to the finished dish.

Pommes Aligot

aligot

3 pounds red-skinned potatoes (6-8 medium)

3 tablespoon kosher salt + more for seasoning

Water to cook potatoes

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup whole milk

1 cup shredded smoked gruyere cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (a big-gish pinch) 

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

Peel the potatoes, cut them in half, then into 1/2-inch slices. Place in a large pot with 3 tablespoons of salt. Add water to cover the potatoes by at least an inch. Bring to a boil and cook for fifteen minutes or until easily pierced with a paring knife. Drain the water. Put the potatoes in a food processor with the minced garlic, salt to taste and the butter. Pulse a few times, add the milk, and pulse until smooth. Return the mixture to your pot and turn heat to medium. Sprinkle in nutmeg and pepper.  Slowly add the cheeses, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon while doing so, over a period of 3-5 minutes, until stretchy, elastic consistency is achieved.  Check for seasoning.  Serves 8.

I made them on Sunday night with some Denver steaks I was lucky enough to catch on sale, along with peas and carrots.  It was a Valentine’s dinner that wowed Petey.  The spuds turn out glossy and gorgeous.

To be really honest they are at their most basic level, cheesy mashed potatoes.  But, the type of cheeses is unusual, and the method of preparation is fancier.  These are gorgeous, velvety mashed potatoes with a sexy French accent.

I googled “Sexy French”, and this rather attractive young man came up.  Is he French?  Don’t know, don’t care.

Thanks for your time.