Category Archives: Potatoes

This is so difficult you may not even want to try.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

The gift of a spaetzle-maker, originally intended for the giver’s daughter – “Honestly, you’re more likely to use it.” – has plagued me for years. It sat in the cupboard leering, challenging me to finally take it from it’s simple, clear plastic wrapping and make a batch of the quickly simmered soup dumplings.

For some reason, however, making doughs, an activity involving things like measuring and specific ingredients, always seems so foreboding, a challenge best left to classically trained pastry chefs and German grandmothers.

Last week, the need to dress up my recipe for asparagus soup drove me to research spaetzle. Custards felt fussy, and a garnish of wild mushrooms just lazy. Mushroom spaetzle, though daunting, seemed the perfect solution. We carefully measured each ingredient only to discover that sweet, light Oyster mushrooms disappeared in the rich dough. We pressed on, sautéing hearty, bold Criminis for a second batch. They were delicious and we were in love.

So, was it worth the painstaking pain and suffering? Should spaetzle be left to the chefs? The answer is “no.” Made with four ingredients, simmered and served, spaeetzle couldn’t be simpler. Guten appetit!

Mushroom Spaetzle

Serves 6-8

Spaetzle makerIngredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Directions:

  • Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until softened and golden on edges. Add wine to pan and scrape up any brown bits. Cook until liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Chop mushrooms and parsley together until minced.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together flour and salt. Add mushrooms and whisk to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until it forms into a smooth dough.
  • Press dough through a colander, or spaetzle-maker, over simmering water. Cook for 2-3 minutes and drain.
  • Serve with butter or over soup.

Asparagus Soup

Serves 6-8

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches asparagus, about 2 pounds
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley, reserve stems
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Sherry vinegar

Directions:

  • Snap tough ends from asparagus. Add ends to a 4 qt saucepan with stock, thyme, bay and parsley stems. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Melt butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Simmer potatoes and leeks in butter. Add a little water as needed. Cook until potatoes are soft.
  • Strain stock into soup pot and cook for five minutes. Cut remaining asparagus into 2” pieces and add to stock. Remove 10-12 tips after 3 minutes.
  • When asparagus is just tender, pass soup through a food mill or processor. Stir through parsley.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, butter and vinegar. Garnish with asparagus tips.
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Building a pantry.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My love for cooking began, like so many long relationships, with a heated, passionate affair. I poured through cookbooks, unable to sate my newfound desire. Each new recipe, each new ingredient was a was an adventure I never knew existed. Like many affairs, it was also expensive.

Each new recipe required new oils, new spices. Each bottle of sherry vinegar, jar of cardamom and bag of arborio rice was another dollar (or $11) out of my pinched wallet. My mother, ever practical, suggested cooking with the ingredients I already had. Willful and young, I ignored her.

Eventually, I built a pantry. Using only a tablespoon per dish, that $10 bottle of walnut oil was on handwhen I needed it to toss with arugula and bleu cheese.

Getting a pantry started can seem daunting, and pricey. You can either dip a toe in the water, or jump off the deep end (which is exactly where my mother thought I had gone off). Either way, one day you will open your cupboard, delightfully surprised, and find everything right there.

Curried Fingerling Potatoes

There are a lot of ingredients here. Most of them are spices and they all go in the pan at once, simple and straightforward.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs ghee* or butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic. minced
  • 1 tbs mustard seed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 4 cups quartered fingerling potatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or Indian stock (see below)
  • 4-5 cups loose baby spinach
  • 1 tbs Chile Oil*
  • Sherry vinegar*

*Ghee is Indian clarified butter. Find it with international ingredients or other oils and cooking fats. We opened up our Sapore Oil and Vinegar cupboard, and used Merken Chile oil and Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar.

Directions:

  • Melt 2 tbs ghee in a 3 quart sauté pan. Add onion and cook until edges brown. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  • Add mustard and cumin seed. Cook for 2 minutes until mustard seeds begin to pop. Add remaining spices and cook for 30 seconds longer.
  • Add potatoes and stir through with spices and onion.
  • Add stock, stir and cover. Cook 15 minutes until the center of the potatoes is still firm when pierced with a knife. Uncover and cook until sauce is reduced to a thin sauce.
  • Add spinach and cover for 2 minutes.
  • Remove top, stir through wilted spinach.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, chile oil and sherry vinegar.

Indian Stock

This special stock adds additional richness to Indian-flavored dishes. You could also use it for soup with the addition of lightly browned pieces of carrot, potato and chicken.

Ingredients:
2 tbs ghee or butter
1 carrot, roughly chopped
3 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves

Directions:

  • Melt ghee in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery, onion and leek and cook until browned.
  • Add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Cook for 1 minute more and fill with 8 cups water.
  • Simmer for 40 minutes and strain solids reserving stock.

Earthy and French

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Photograph by Sam Armocido

God did just fine creating cauliflower. Pure, creamy and white, it needs nothing more than a quick steam before  tossing with salt, pepper and farm-fresh butter. That, however, is not the shortest path to impressing you with my culinary creativity. So, last week in the test kitchen we were faced with a decision: sweet and Indian or hearty and French? We stayed up until 1 AM and tried both. Here’s effort number one.

Cauliflower provides the comforting weight of potatoes with a mouth feel as light as zucchini or yellow wax beans. We found earthiness and luxury in Crimini mushrooms, sliced and sautéed, finished with thyme and white wine. Yukon Gold potatoes, relatively low in starch, gave heft without weighing our stew down. We needed depth, and found it in garlic and anchovy paste. A spicy, robust olive oil finished the stew richly.

We had achieved cauliflower stew Nirvana: hearty enough for a cold, damp fall night, but light enough that we weren’t crawling to bed from the dinner table.

You’re freaked about the anchovy paste, aren’t you? Your nose is wrinkled in disgust at the thought of that fishy, salty brown paste, oozing like toothpaste from a tube. Anchovy paste adds necessary layers of flavor in a dish that might otherwise feel one-dimensional. You won’t taste it. It’s one of those perfect stealth ingredients, delivering lots of flavor without getting caught. So go ahead, squeeze a little in, and don’t tell your kids or your picky eater of a boyfriend. They’ll never know.

Hearty Cauliflower Mushroom Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 cups sliced Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup dry Vermouth
  • 1 tbs chopped, fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes*, in 1/2” dice
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (here’s a quick and simple recipe)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut in florets
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs Moresca Olive Oil**
  • Nutmeg

*This past weekend, Dan at Agora Farms introduced me to the Eva potato. Named after the mother of the Cornell researcher who developed it, Eva is creamy and white, with bold flavor (who knew potatoes could have flavor?!) and medium starch. They make a perfect, creamy mash, just sayin’…

**Sapore’s latest introduction, Moresca is a bold, spicy oil perfect for dipping bread, tossing with pasta, arugula and walnuts and gave great depth as a finish to this stew.

Directions:

  • Melt butter over medium heat in large sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until golden brown on edges. Deglaze with Vermouth. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Reserve.
  • Heat olive oil in same pan. Sauté onions until translucent, add garlic and anchovy paste and cook 30 seconds.
  • Add potatoes and cook until onion begins to brown on edges.
  • Stir in the stock, cover and cook until potatoes have started to soften.
  • Add cauliflower and fresh thyme. Cover and cook until cauliflower is crisp tender.
  • Uncover and let broth thicken. Season to taste with Moresca oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Serendipity is unpronounceable in German.

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Serendipity occurred Saturday night in a German restaurant. Dipping a bite of weisswurst in mustard, I immediately recognized the same sharp, bitter taste I had battled working with turnips, two nights earlier. Cookbook after cookbook, recommended heavy cream or rich caramelization to balance the flavor. Our test kitchen feedback on Facebook suggested everything from beer-braising to brown sugar.

Wanting something lighter and stove top-friendly, and noting turnips’ starchy similarity to potatoes, we settled on hash browns.

Last fall I failed miserably at hash browns, undercooked centers, burned and blackened exteriors. Squeezing the water out of both potatoes and turnips was step one. Next came that bitter, sharp mustardy taste. Seasoning and sugar didn’t help, we needed fat. We tried cooking them in rendered pancetta fat to no avail. Parmesan helped but they were still off balance. An egg, lightly beaten, finally did the trick.

Back to serendipity. Not just happy coincidence, serendipity is an ah-ha moment that occurs when happenstance is observed with knowledge. The perfect pairing of sausage and mustard brought the realization that these hash browns, served alongside a thick slab of rich, sweet roast pork, would achieve dinner plate nirvana. I know what we’re serving for Sunday supper.

Turnip Hash Browns

*This dish doesn’t look pretty, but it tastes great! Two visitors to my Saturday demo at DC’s Eastern Market last weekend mentioned making turnip latkes for Hanukah. The sour cream and apple sauce they serve along side provided the same balance of sweetness and fat that a thick slice of pork would. Great suggestion, prettier presentation and I can’t wait to try it with some fresh homemade applesauce. Thanks!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs brandy
  • 2 medium potatoes, grated
  • 2-3 small turnips, grated
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Nutmeg
  • Cayenne
  • 2 tbs butter

Directions:

  • In a large skillet, over medium heat, sauté onions with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar until caramelized, 15-20 minutes. Deglaze pan with brandy, scraping up the brown bits and cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Meanwhile, wrap potatoes in a tea towel and squeeze the water out. Repeat with the turnip.
  • Mix potato, turnip, cheese and egg with the caramelized onions.
  • Season mixture with salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Fry a small patty to check seasoning. Adjust to taste as needed.
  • In a clean skillet, Cook over medium heat in a thin layer. Flip when golden and cook until done.

“I’ll take the light potato salad, please.”

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With each new summer cookout, looms the threat that someone is going to show up with those clear plastic containers from the deli counter of potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw. Now, rumor has it that these salads actually  contain potatoes, macaroni and cabbage, but the protective coating of mayonnaise obscures any possible proof.

Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole, but most summer cookouts abound with rich, grilled meats and sauces, toasted buns and baskets of chips and dip. What I want from my salad is something light and bright to balance the plate, and a gloopy heap of mayonnaise just doesn’t cut it. Enter the “French” potato salad.

Like may other American “French” delicacies like fries, toast and dressing, I’m not sure how french this is, but I think they would approve. Boiled potatoes are tossed, still warm, in a sharp, buttery vinaigrette, with garlic or shallots and fresh herbs. They soak up the dressing and releasing the flavorful oils from the greens; exactly what you want sitting next to your burger, hanger steak or chicken thighs, complete with flawless grill marks.

This is a recipe I served at Eastern Market recently, but experiment throughout the summer. Toss with halved cherry tomatoes and basil, use fresh tasting tarragon and shallots, baby arugula or minced red peppers. But please, I’ll take my potato salad without mayonnaise. and I like my burgers rare.

French Potato Salad with Mint and Garlic Scapes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups small potatoes
  • 3 tbs mint
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic scapes

For dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Koroneiko Olive Oil*
*More magical ingredients from Sapore Oil and Vinegar. Champagne or white wine vinegar can replace the Champagne Mimosa. The Koroneiko Olive Oil is Greek. Mild and grassy. Substitute another high-quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Boil potatoes in salted water until still firm but can be easily pierced through to the center with the tip of a knife. Drain potatoes.
  • Meanwhile, mince garlic and mash it into a paste with coarse sea salt. Whisk with Champagne Mimosa Vinegar. Season with pepper. Set aside.
  • Mix mint and garlic scapes in a salad bowl.
  • Cut warm potatoes in 1” pieces – halved or quartered – and toss with mint and garlic scapes. The heat will release oils in the mint.
  • Whisk oil into vinegar mixture in a steady stream until creamy. Toss with potatoes. Dress lightly so not to overpower the other flavors.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional mint.

A bowl full of spring.

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Cream soups always seem institutional, the purview of cans and dining halls. At their best, they are comforting carb and fat bombs, warming us on cold, wet days. But cream soups have never been an expression of the Socratic ideal of their centerpiece, be it broccoli, mushrooms or asparagus.

When I first started working with Alice Waters’ asparagus soup recipe, it was a revelation. Potatoes and onions, not cream or flour, thicken the soup, delivering heartiness without dulling the flavor. The flavor of spring’s fresh asparagus is brought front and center by first simmering the tough ends of the stalks in stock and then cooking the tender ends of the asparagus for as short a time as possible, 5-7 minutes, before running the soup through a food mill or processing it with an immersion blender.

Two pounds of asparagus seems like a lot, but after all, this is asparagus soup and you want that to be the primary flavor. Over time I’ve learned that the soup almost always benefits from a tablespoon or two of rich, farm-fresh butter for richness and a splash of sherry vinegar to brighten the vegetables. Spoil yourself with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

  • 2 bunches asparagus, about 2 pounds
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley, reserve stems
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • Butter
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Fresh parsley

Directions:

  • Snap tough ends from asparagus. Add to a 4 qt saucepan with stock, thyme, bay and parsley stems. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Melt butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Simmer potatoes and leeks in butter without browning. Add a little water as needed. Cook until potatoes are soft.
  • Strain stock into soup pot and cook for five minutes. Cut asparagus into 2” pieces and add to stock. Remove 10-12 tips after 3 minutes.
  • When asparagus is just tender – no more than 5-7 minutes total – pass soup through a food mill* or processor. Stir through parsley.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, butter and vinegar. Garnish with asparagus tips and fresh parsley.

*If you use a food mill, you will end up with a smoother soup, but some of the fibrous asparagus will be left behind. Add the stock back in a little at a time until you achieve the desired thickness.

Comfort food.

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On the last Saturday morning in March, cool and with a constant, unrealized threat of rain in the air, the marble potatoes tossed with sautéed Oyster mushrooms were the perfect comfort food. Hearty, earthy and coated in a bit of farm-fresh fat. This is where great ingredients truly matter: firm, small potatoes – each a perfect bite, low in starch so they are light, not gummy. Fresh Oyster mushrooms are delicate and mild but still earthy, chopped fine and sautéed they have no tough chew. Anchovy paste makes the flavors come alive in your mouth without ever making itself known, leading from behind. And, of course, farm-fresh Amish butter, lightly salted, tasting of rich cream and new spring grass. Truly a pocketful of marbles, a simple prize, deeply treasured.

Wild Mushroom Tossed Potatoes

Eat the leftovers for breakfast the next morning, at room temperature. Or make a fresh batch.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups marble or fingerling potatoes
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped oyster mushrooms
  • 1/4 tbs anchovy paste
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbs chopped thyme
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 2 tbs butter

Directions:

  • Bring a pot of water to boil, salt and add potatoes cook until they can be easily pierced through with a fork, but are still firm. If using fingerling potatoes, cut them into 1″ pieces as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
  • Heat oil in large pan over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms until soft, 3-5 minutes.
  • Add anchovy paste and shallots to center of pan and cook 2 minutes, until shallot begins to soften.
  • Add wine and cook until nearly evaporated.
  • Add herbs and butter. Cook one minute longer.
  • Toss potatoes with mushrooms. If potatoes have cool, cook a minute or two until they have warmed through.

NOTE: The mushroom sauce is also wonderful over pasta. Or just about anything else. Try it with roast chicken or a sautéed pork chop.