Fixing Taters

The best way to remedy a dish you’ve oversalted is by putting a potato into the pot; it absorbs the extra salinity.

But what if you’re cooking potatoes?

You’re probably gonna need a different plan.

A week or so ago, I bought a bag of baby potatoes.  From what I could see, they looked like fingerlings.  I would cut them in half length-wise, roast, and serve with super bright and puckery lemon mayo.

Before I cooked them, I took a Denver steak, and some of the spuds to my still self-isolating Kid.  My child later told me that they were too small to roast like I was thinking, so they were stewed instead.

The Matthews family band loves old school Southern stewed potatoes.  But I’ve never made the classic type.  I use a method that evolved from a potato recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

The Food Network chef has a recipe for herbed new potatoes.  The procedure is similar, but the end result is crispy and if you’re not hyper-vigilant, it can stick to the bottom, then fall apart when serving.

Our procedure produces a creamy spud that more closely resembles a Southern stewed potato, only there’s no need to peel and cut them up before cooking.


I called The Kid after dinner and asked how dinner was.  Unfortunately, the spuds were over salted.

I couldn’t help myself.

“You know how to fix over-salted food, don’t you?”

In an eminently weary voice that left no doubt of The Kid’s thoughts about having a hilarious mother, my child replied, “Yeah, you throw in a potato.”

I swear, I am a walking punchline…wait…I’m a really funny mom, that’s it.

After pausing so my child could finish busting a gut and appreciating the comic genius that is Mom, I said, “…or, you could have added lemon.”  The Kid and I are lemon fiends.  If it doesn’t take our breath away and bring a tear to our eyes, it needs more.

Lemon juice is very acidic.  Which means it needs lots of salt.  If lemon juice is in a recipe, you have to up the salt to compete with the lemon.  If The Kid had added lemon juice to the spuds, it would have probably balanced the salt.

When I made the potatoes for Petey and me, I decided to try the lemon in them.  I had to go easy because my husband isn’t the fan The Kid and I are.

But he’s a very lucky man.  Because in addition to all the delicious eats I create, he lives with a woman who every utterance is pure comedy gold.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at      

Sorta Stewed Lemony Potatoes

3 pounds red or yellow new potatoes

½ cup water

2 heaping teaspoons chicken base, like Better Than Bouillon

2 bay leaves

½ teaspoon dry thyme

½ teaspoon mustard powder

Salt & pepper

Juice from half a lemon

¼ cup garlic chives, sliced thinly


¼ cup finely chopped herbs of your choice

Wash potatoes and cut in half any very large ones.  In large heavy pot with a lid, stir together the first six ingredients.  Give it a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Cover and cook at medium medium-low until the potatoes are tender, but before the liquid has all cooked out (12-18 minutes).

Take off lid and cook until the pan is dry and there are browned bits on the bottom of the pot.

Remove from heat and add lemon juice.  Stir in until a saucy glaze has formed and the brown bits are off the bottom and in the sauce.

Stir in herbs and serve.  4 servings.

Siding Irish

They say dogs are incapable of experiencing embarrassment.  So putting a sign around the misbehaving pooch’s neck with a “confession” for the consumption of the internet set is a colossal, mean-spirited waste of time.

So knock it off–it’s not nice.  What if your dog turned the tables and posted humiliating snaps of you eating Lucky Charms in your underwear? But what those Lucky Charms were doing in my boxers I’ll never know.

Normally my self-consciousness knows no bounds.  My default complexion is red-faced.  I am convinced that my entire life is one big blooper reel packaged for the world’s amusement.But when it comes to corned beef, I am decidedly canine.  I could eat my weight of it in front of the queen, and feel nothing but satisfaction.  I could proudly down a Reuben roughly the size and shape of a dorm fridge while chatting with international amazing humans, George and Amal Clooney.

What is this embarrassment of which you speak, Queenie?  George, would you mind passing the potato salad?  I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough!  Shut up!  I can quit anytime I want!

In previous columns, I have sung its praises and waxed rhapsodic about my fine friend, corned beef.So today, in honor of the upcoming holiday, I thought I would share with you, Gentle Reader, my version of a side dish that is even more appropriate and traditional than corned beef at the Saint Patrick’s Day feast.

The process of corning meat is very similar to turning pork into ham.  It’s a way to preserve meat.  But peasants in Ireland could not afford beef.  Cows require a lot of very fertile land.  Pigs don’t need much space, and are not finicky eaters.  So when the Irish were lucky enough to have meat on their table, it was usually some version of preserved pork.When the Irish came to America, they discovered rather than a luxury, canned corned beef (also called bully beef) was cheap food to fill hungry bellies.

In Ireland corned beef has no widespread historical foundation.  But to meet tourists’ expectations (especially American tourists), it can be found in restaurants throughout Ireland.

This side dish though, is pure Irish.  It’s colcannon, which is made with potatoes, cabbage, onions, and bacon.  The ingredients are humble and readily available on the Emerald Isle.  The extra ingredient is time, which costs nothing, but can’t be bought.

When making this, try to have the skillet containing the onions and cabbage completed when the potatoes are finished cooking, so everything is hot enough to both melt the butter and serve.

Colcannon with cabbage two ways


6 medium-large red skin or Yukon Gold potatoes

1 large Russet potato

1 head regular cabbage

1 large yellow onion

8 slices bacon

1 stick butter

1 cup heavy cream (approx.)

Salt & pepper to tasteCut bacon into one-inch strips and cook in a skillet on medium-low until fully rendered and perfectly crispy.

While bacon is cooking, cut cabbage in half, and core.  Cut one half into large chunks.  Slice the other half very thin.  

Peel potatoes and cut into similar sized chunks.  Place in a large pot of heavily salted water.  Turn on medium-high and cook until not quite tender.  Put cabbage chunks into the water and cook everything until it is fork tender.  Drain, then put back into pot.After bacon has finished, remove from frying pan, but keep in the fat.  Slice onion into thin half-moons.  Turn skillet to medium-low and add onions and season.  When the onions start to turn golden, add cabbage, season, and cook until the veg are amber colored.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan on low.

Assembly: pour caramelized onions and sliced cabbage into pot with potatoes and chunks of cabbage.  Add 6 tablespoons of butter which you’ve cut up.  Mash with potato masher until mostly smooth, but with a little chunk left.

Stir in cream a little bit at a time (you probably won’t use all the cream).  You want these just a little looser than you want the finished product (the starch in the spuds will tighten it up).  Season, taste, and season again if needed.  Put into serving dish, dot with the remaining butter and sprinkle top with crispy bacon.Serves 6-8 diners.

Like most potato dishes, this one reheats well, and also makes a mighty tasty potato pancake.  But don’t just wait for St. Paddy’s Day to enjoy it.

And about the fact that corned beef isn’t a traditional Irish food…

Don’t care.  Want large amounts anyway.Thanks for your time.

Breaking It Down

The following statement came to me in my sleep: Man can wait, but not breakfast.

It sounds a lot more profound when in a semi-conscious state, but what it means is that with very few exceptions, breakfast foods are meant to be prepared at the last minute, and eaten immediately.

A couple years before the Louisiana Purchase, when I was in the hospital after having The Kid, each day I was delivered a little card with meal choices on it.  Every afternoon I’d fill it out, and look forward to the next day and my picks.

One morning I was really looking forward to lifting that cloche.  I’d ordered an omelet.  Instead, my breakfast was a banana.  Sitting in that warm, moist environment for an extended period had mutated those eggs into a rubber doggy chew toy.  Honest, in all aspects, that omelet had become a silicone movie prop.

rubber food

…and that’s not a steak, an ice cream, or a happy meal either.

Even Petey knew better.  When I complained, he said, “What do you expect? Eggs can’t sit around like that”

Lesson learned.

Growing up, when my mother needed to make dinner fast, or the cupboard was bare and payday a few days away, sometimes we’d have breakfast for supper.  My poor mom would always apologize.  What she never understood is that we looked forward to those nights.  Breakfast for dinner is kinda renegade, a little indulgent, and totally awesome.

Fast forward to present.  Each week I inventory the kitchen and make a semi-flexible meal plan.  And on that schedule is usually some kind of breakfast for supper.

Years ago I realized something.  There’s no way to do much of the cooking beforehand.  Bacon though, is my friend.  You can make it anytime, because as long as it’s crispy, you can happily eat it at any temp.  But almost everything else has to be made right before eating; it needs to be eaten hot.  Reheating just leads to sadness and regret.

My kitchen always looks like a hurricane has hit after dining on breakfast.  Everything gets done at the same time, and there’s no time for tidying before eating.

And that’s why I say breakfast waits for no man.

Here’s a half-exception, though.  Next time you’re baking potatoes, bake an extra few.  When they come out of the oven, let them cool a bit, and then bag them up and toss them in the fridge.

When it’s time for breakfast (AM or PM), peel ‘em or not, then dice into 1-inch pieces and put them into a big bowl.  If you’re not doing baked any time soon, parboil any type tater you’ve got on hand.

Next, it’s time to go treasure hunting.  Open that Frigidaire and look for some sad orphans.   Did you find some leftover pot roast, corned beef, or another protein but not enough for a full meal or even a sandwich for one?  We’re making hash here, so cut it up and throw it in.  What about some droopy mushrooms, carrots, or peppers?  In they go.  Even mostly empty jars of things like jalapeños, beets, or capers work.

And this, you can do even a day or two in advance.

Helpful Hash


Potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes (about 3 heaping cups)

Refrigerator booty (roughly half as much as potatoes)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper

Place spuds into bowl.  Put in booty also.  If you have any hard veggies like carrot or parsnip, par-boil until not quite fork tender.  Drizzle in vegetable oil, and gently toss to coat.   Season (then taste for seasoning).

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium-high.  Place butter in it, and when melted, add potatoes and booty in one layer.  Give them a little smoosh with spatula so you get more surface contact, thus get more caramelized, crispy bits.

Let cook until there’s a golden crust, then flip and cook until that side’s crusted.

Plate and top with eggs (for the best scrambled eggs ever, don’t whisk, mix in the blender until frothy then cook quickly in lots of butter).  Serves 4-6.

I love breakfast for supper.  The only way I could love it anymore is if I ate at Waffle House, and let them clean up after me.

After supper, all I have to do is loosen my belt.

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


4 slices seeded rye

½ pound thinly sliced corned beef

½ cup sauerkraut

4 slices Swiss cheese


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. 


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


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.

The pitter-patter of tiny resolutions

I once knew a woman who kept shoes in her oven.

She doesn’t cook, but she has a crock of utensils on the stove-top.  This is a woman for whom appearances are everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I know from shoe storage conundrums.  When I look for a particular pair in my shoe closet, I wade in like I’m entering a flood-swollen river to rescue a bus full of orphans.  Armed with only a flashlight and my plucky, never-say-die attitude, I declare something brave yet memorable, and leap into the fast-moving current.

I don’t retreat until I’ve found the desired footwear, be it purple suede boots or beaded strappy sandals.

Oh God, that’s the stuff, just like that.

This woman not only had misplaced her values, along with her shoes, she was rail-thin, unhappy, and unhealthy.

And I place the blame squarely on her diet.  She ate lots of low-fat, low-cal takeout and frozen meals.  She ate quickly, and alone.  Food to her was fuel.  If she could have had a home without a kitchen, she would have.

Our attitudes about food are formed early in our lives.  Gathering around the table to break bread, celebrating with a special meal, being rewarded with a treat, those are all good things, despite what some would have you believe.  As people (especially women) age, disordered thinking about eating can take hold.

Good foods, bad foods, behaving, being bad; all of those ideas just contribute to stress, guilt, and the loss of enjoyment.

Have you ever watched a dog, or a teenage boy eat?  They don’t sit with calculator or app, torturing themselves—they happily indulge.

I’m convinced that a healthy, joyful relationship to food and our bodies begins as children–in the kitchen.  Eliminate reliance on other people and the processed meals which they produce.

cooking at Granny's

In my grandmother’s Pittsburgh kitchen at age two.  I still get that look on my face if you bug me.

Get kids into the kitchen and cook with them.  You may have to drag them there at first, but not only is cooking a crucial life skill, if little hands take part in preparing, little mouths may be more willing to eat the resulting food, which by its very nature will be healthier.

This recipe is delicious, easy to prepare, and the various tasks can be parceled out depending on age and skill.  Younger kids will be able to help assemble.  Older kids can shred cheese or dice shallots.  As they gain experience, their contributions can grow with them.

Muffin taters

tater muffins

Vegetable spray

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick (a mandolin is the best tool for this job, so that the spuds are evenly sliced)

½ cup grated Cheddar cheese

2 shallots, finely diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 8 muffin tins and one side of foil with vegetable spray. Layer potato slice, a tiny bit of cheese, and a couple shallot pieces into muffin cup.  Repeat until cup is full, and move onto the next.  Top each with a pinch of salt and pepper, a little more cheese, and drizzle over a tablespoon or so of cream. Cover with foil (sprayed side down) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through. Invert cakes onto plate and serve.  Serves 4.

Although I say this serves 4, they are horribly addictive, so I always double the recipe.  My petite, dainty mother once put away a dozen of these things in one sitting.

For 2016’s resolution, do something that will vastly improve the quality of life for a child.  And hey, if they become culinarily proficient, you can a get a night off every now and then, and have someone serve you for a change.

Thanks for your time.