Archive for ◊ November, 2010 ◊

21 Nov 2010 Basil Mashed Potatoes

I hope you are going to the Farmer’s market this weekend.  I was there last week, and there were still large bunches of fresh basil for a dollar. Spend a dollar.  Buy a bunch of fresh basil. Get some potatoes, too (Yukon Golds or white boiling potatoes).  Then try this recipe for Basil Mashed Potatoes. Thank you, Ina!  I found this recipe in Ina Garten’s (The Barefoot Contessa) new cookbook, “How Easy is That?“.

This recipe is for a savory mashed potato side dish.  No gravy needed.  This is a versatile side dish that will pair nicely with any number of main dishes. Serve it with your next meatloaf, roast chicken, pork chop, salmon fillet… Next time I make Shepherd’s Pie, I am going to top it with these potatoes.  Won’t that dress up a casserole that can sometimes be a bit bland? Last week,  I made some rather boring vegetable soup.  It perked right up when I stirred in some leftover Basil Mashed Potatoes. You’ll be amazed with what 2 cups of fresh basil will do to 2 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes.

Full disclosure: making mashed potatoes can really mess up a kitchen and dirty a lot of dishes.  Basil mashed potatoes dirties one or two more pots than regular mashed potatoes, but you don’t even have to think about making gravy…!

Basil Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes or white boiling potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • ¼ to 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (add to taste)
  • Directions

    1. Fill a small bowl with ice water and set aside.
    2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the basil leaves to the boiling water and cook for exactly 15 seconds.  Remove the basil from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge into the ice water.  Drain the basil and set aside.
    3. Add the peeled and quartered potatoes to the same pot of boiling, salted water.  Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Drain well.
    4. In a small pan over medium high heat, bring the half-and-half and Parmesan cheese to a simmer.
    5. Place the drained basil in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Puree the basil, then slowly add the hot half-and-half and Parmesan mixture and process until smooth.
    6. Mash the drained potatoes.  Slowly add the hot basil cream and beat until smooth. TASTE.  Add salt and pepper as needed.
    7. Place mashed potatoes in serving bowl and sprinkle with a little extra grated Parmesan cheese.  Serve hot.

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  So glad Ina was here with me!!!

    20 Nov 2010 Turkey Dressing/Stuffing

    Yesterday I went to Costco and Trader Joe’s.  Both places had samples of make-it-from-a-box turkey Dressing/Stuffing.  Did they think the samples would entice people to buy that stuff? What WAS it?  The texture was glue-y…, the taste was…, was…, there was no taste, it was just warm.  It’s no wonder we have a generation of kids who don’t like much more than hamburgers, fries, chicken nuggets, and soda.  If I were served that stuffing, I’d be longing for McDonald’s, too. C’mon, folks. We can do better than that.  I know I am preaching to the choir, but I was so taken aback at how horrible that boxed stuff was that I just can’t keep my mouth shut.

    Here’s my recipe for Dressing/Stuffing for turkey or chicken.  It’s evolved over the years.  Thirty plus of them. I’ve made Thanksgiving dinner for 30 consecutive years.  That’s right.  Thirty years.  No break.  Before that, my Dad used to make the stuffing when I was a kid.  It was always sage and onion.  He boiled the onions, then chopped them, mixed them with breadcrumbs, lots of powdered sage-sometimes too much, cooked turkey liver and pork  sausage, and then used the onion water to moisten the dressing before stuffing it into the bird.  When I was a teenager, my friend’s mother told me her secret, she said to use crackers instead of bread in the stuffing, so I did, and still do, most of the time.  I have tried making this dressing with cornbread too, but it didn’t work out very well.  I had cornbread mush.  It wasn’t very appetizing. One of these days I will try the cornbread again, because it should have worked. I must have done something wrong.

    My recipe is amazingly similar to my friend, Kayte’s, whose mother told me the cracker secret.  Kayte and I have been friends for over 40 years, but we had never compared stuffing recipes until she wrote hers down and shared it with our cookbook club. Kayte’s recipe evolved through the Irish women on her side of the family, mine evolved through English men, we overlapped a bit with the cracker tip, and we basically have the same recipe!  It’s a good one, too!

    This is an old school dressing. Nothing too fancy, but compared to those samples of that boxed stuff, it’s out-of-this-world!

    Advance Prep Tip:  Prepare and saute all  ingredients, then refrigerate (or freeze) until needed.  On Turkey Day, defrost if needed, and then just mix the prepared ingredients with the crushed crackers or toasted bread crumbs, stir in the fresh herbs, moisten with broth and eggs, and bake according to the directions below.

    Turkey Dressing (or Stuffing)

  • 1 1 lb. box saltine crackers with salt (or 1 lb. loaf sourdough bread or 2 baguettes, stale, cut into ¼ inch cubes, and toasted)
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter or  olive oil or vegetable oil, divided use
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • about 3 cups turkey or chicken stock, divided use
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, chopped (not sliced–mushrooms should be about the same size as the onions and celery)
  • 1 lb. pork sausage (Jimmy Dean’s Sage is my preferred sausage)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh sage plus 1 teaspoon dried sage (or 1 tablespoon dried sage), or to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • ¼ cup melted butter (or bacon fat), optional
  • Directions

    1. Crush the crackers and set aside.  Hints…you want crushed crackers, not cracker meal. I crush the crackers in their sleeve over a large bowl, and when the package bursts I let them fall into the bowl and use my fingers to crush any larger pieces.  Set crackers aside.  If you are using bread cubes, pour them into the large bowl, and set aside
    2. Heat 1-2 tablespoons butter or oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  When hot, stir in chopped onion and saute until soft, about 8 minutes.  Stir in chopped celery, and saute for another 3 minutes or so.  Add 1 cup of hot stock to pan.  Stir to release any stuck on brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Let simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove mixture from pan and let cool.
    3. To same pan add a bit more oil, and the pork sausage.  Brown sausage over medium high heat and then set aside to drain on paper towels.
    4. Add more oil to hot pan, if necessary, and add chopped mushrooms.  Saute mushrooms until cooked.  Turn off heat and let mushrooms cool slightly.
    5. Add the onion/celery mixture, the drained sausage, the cooked mushrooms, and the grated apple to the cracker crumbs. Toss to combine. Stir in sage, parsley, and pepper. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
    6. In a separate bowl combine the beaten eggs with 2 cups of stock.  Pour this mixture over the crumb, meat, veggie mixture in the large bowl and stir to combine.  If needed, add a bit more stock for mixture to be uniformly moist and clumpy.
    7. Stuff turkey with dressing and bake according to directions on turkey package for your sized turkey OR pour mixture into a 9 x 13 inch pan**see NOTE below!. Drizzle with 1/4 cup melted butter and cover with foil.
    8. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes the uncover and bake for an additional 12-20 minutes.  If dressing looks dry, stir and add another 1/2 to 1 cup broth.  When baked dressing should be puffy and have a nicely browned top crust

    **NOTE:  This year I am going to put some of the stuffing mixture into sauteed mushroom caps, and then bake for 20 minutes.  I will use the stuffed mushrooms to make a ring on the serving plate, and then mound additional stuffing in the middle of the plate.  Won’t that look nice?  I expect the stuffing aficionados in the family–that would be all of us!–to go wild over this.

    Enjoy!  Happy Thanksgiving!

    17 Nov 2010 Wild Rice Turkey Soup

    I know you are all busy making your Thanksgiving grocery list, and checking it twice; be SURE you have the ingredients for this soup on the list.  You have to make this with your turkey carcass, have to, have to, have to!  This is the best turkey soup I have ever tasted.  I made no changes to the recipe I found in “The 150 Best American Recipes” cookbook.

    Mmmmm… Homey, rustic, northwoods-y…, which, with a little imagination, might just transport you to a log cabin in the snow, fire blazing, a quilt over your feet, and a good book on your knee.  The soup has wild rice, mushrooms and turmeric, yes, turmeric, which compliment the strong flavor of turkey to make a soup that, according to “The 150 Best American Recipes” is “neither exotic nor bland”.  It’s my favorite after-Thanksgiving treat.  I can’t imagine making any other turkey soup.  It’s just the thing for an-after-Thanksgiving restoration, before the Christmas craziness commences.

    BTW, I like this soup so much I can’t just make it once a year.  When it’s not Thanksgiving, I start with a whole chicken which I boil or roast.  I remove 4 cups of the meat from the chicken, and then proceed as below.

    Wild Rice and Turkey Soup

    For stock

    1 turkey carcass (remove 4 cups of meat from the carcass-set aside for the soup)
    2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
    1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
    1 small onion, coarsely chopped

    Put turkey carcass in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, remove any foam from the top. Add the celery, carrot, and onion (peels and all). Simmer for at least 90 minutes (I cooked mine for about 3 hours). Strain broth into a large (4-5 qt) bowl. Discard carcass and all veggies (You will need 3½ – 4½ quarts of stock for this soup). If at all possible, refrigerate stock overnight and then remove all the hardened fat from the top of the broth. The next day continue with the directions below…

    For soup

    1½ cups wild rice, rinsed (the book specifies “hand harvested” but I couldn’t find that written on the package I bought from Trader Joe’s)
    ½ cup long grain white rice
    4 T. butter
    2 cups sliced celery
    2 cups sliced carrots
    1 diced onion
    ½ cup sliced green onion
    2 T. chopped fresh dill
    2 bay leaves
    1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
    3 cups sliced mushrooms (8 oz. pkg sliced)
    4 cups diced cooked turkey
    salt and pepper to taste

    Bring 3 ½ quarts of stock to a boil. Stir in rinsed wild rice and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet; add celery, carrots, onion, and green onions and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in dill, bay leaves and turmeric. Turn off heat, and set aside. Add white rice and sauteed veggies to the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir sliced mushrooms and diced turkey into hot soup. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are cooked. Add more broth if the soup gets too thick for your taste (I added the extra 4 cups). Season to taste with salt (I used 2 tsp. Kosher salt) and pepper. This makes a lot of soup. The recipe says the soup freezes well for several months. If you do reheat the soup, it will have thickened and you will need to add more broth or water when reheating.

    You’re going to love this, I just know it!  Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.

    16 Nov 2010 Sweet Potato Pie

    A friend asked me, “How does Sweet Potato Pie compare to Pumpkin Pie?” and I answered, “Sweet Potato Pie is Pumpkin Pie’s richer cousin.” How about that? Sometimes words don’t fail me! I got it exactly right!

    I looooooove me some Sweet Potato Pie.  The best Sweet Potato Pie I ever tasted was from Everett & Jones BBQ in Jack London Square, Oakland.  I wish I had their recipe, but since I don’t, I’ve worked hard at creating the best darn possible recipe for Sweet Potato Pie that I can.  It’s been years of trial and error.  Well, no error.  I’ve never met a Sweet Potato Pie I didn’t like.  It’s been years of upping spices and enriching the filling.  The latest enrichment has been to add a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger.  I saw that Cat Cora put fresh ginger in her Sweet Potato Pie, so decided to add it to mine.  I still like Everett & Jones’ Sweet Potato Pie better, but just a bit!  I suspect they must put at least double the brown sugar in their pie than what I put in my pie, but I don’t know for sure.  I think a field trip is in order.  I need to investigate this further.  After all, I am a serious food blogger now! As for Cat Cora’s pie, I think mine is better.  I don’t remember maple syrup, dark brown sugar, or whipping cream being in her pie.

    Here’s MY best recipe for Sweet Potato Pie, and here’s an oddity; this recipe is not made with sweet potatoes, it’s made with yams!  Use Beauregard yams; the long yams with the purple skins and orange flesh. Sweet Potato Pie is a “must have” on our Thanksgiving dessert table.   Walk away from the pumpkin pie, and say “Hello” to its richer cousin!

    Sweet Potato Pie

    • 1 unbaked pie crust in a 9 inch glass pie pan, chilled
    • 1½ cups cooked, mashed “sweet potatoes” / Beauregard Yams, about 2 large (To cook the sweet potatoes: microwave whole potatoes [don’t forget to prick them] about 6 minutes on each side OR bake in a 400º oven for about 1 hour. Cool and scrape the flesh out. I prefer to bake the potatoes, rather than microwave.)
    • ¼ cup pure maple syrup (Grade B has a more robust flavor)
    • 1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
    • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
    • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
    • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream

    In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix cooled mashed sweet potato with brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, spices, fresh ginger and salt.  Stir well to combine.

    Whisk in eggs and cream.

    Pour pie filling into prepared pie crust.

    Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until filling is set in middle and slightly puffed around the edges.

    Cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate.  Can be made up to two days ahead.

    Serve with slightly sweetened whipped cream-some people will declare their undying love and affection for you if your beat 1-2 tablespoon of Bourbon or Rum in with the sugar to each cup of whipping cream-or, better yet, cinnamon ice cream (see recipe on this blog).

    I hope you enjoy Sweet Potato Pie as much as I do 🙂  If you are ever in the vicinity of Everett & Jones, pulllleeeese  bring me back one of their sweet potato pies.  I’ll love you forever!

    15 Nov 2010 Glazed Pork Chop for One

    My nineteen year old daughter whipped this up for her dinner–over high heat–in her on-campus apartment over the weekend.  The firefighters came to call, in their big red truck, with the sirens blaring.  She set off the smoke alarm.  With one pork chop! The recipe is good, and it does deserve some fanfare, but let’s save the firefighters another trip out.  When you make this recipe, deglaze the pan over a not-too-high heat!  BTW, she ate the pork chop after the firefighters left and said it was “GREAT”!

    I found this recipe a few years ago in an  NPR newsletter.  I was so excited because I was expecting all my kids to move out. I was going to be HOME ALONE for the first time in my life.  I was going to enjoy cooking for one, and this recipe for One Glazed Pork Chop was poised to be a staple. Well, life has a strange way of working out.  My last two kids at home moved out to college dorms, but my older daughter moved back, and she came back with a baby!  My kids were leaving one-by-one, but coming back in twos!

    Finally, in March this year my daughter and grandson moved out, and my younger son and daughter are still away at college so the pork chop recipe is now front and center. I’ve never had the firefighters come to call while I am making this, sadly…

    If you still  have family at home, my friend Kayte makes “Glazed Pork Chops for Three” using this recipe, so feel free to double and triple the quantities below.

    One Glazed Pork Chop

  • 2 tablespoons jam, any flavor (marmalade does not work, the bits get burned)
  • 2 tablespoons mustard, preferably Dijon or any stone-ground mustard
  • 1 center-cut, bone-in pork chop, about 3/4-inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar, preferably white-wine (plain white vinegar, cider vinegar or sherry vinegar would all be fine)
    1. Mix the jam and mustard in a small bowl, with a fork. Season the pork chop with salt and pepper on both sides.
    2. Preheat a small, heavy skillet over high heat until it is hot enough to make a droplet of water dance or evaporate on contact. Add the oil, swirl around to coat, and immediately add the pork chop. With the heat still on high, brown on one side, about 3 to 5 minutes, and turn over. Spoon the jam-mustard mixture onto the browned side of the pork chop. Lower the heat to medium and cover with a plate or lid while the second side browns, another 4 or 5 minutes.
    3. Remove the lid, raise the heat to high, and turn the pork chop a few times to coat evenly. (Since cooking times can vary widely with pork chops, you may want to cut into it with the tip of a knife to check; the meat may be pink but not rosy; moist but not soft).
    4. Remove the pork chop to a plate. Scrape jam mixture off although it’s fine if a bit of glaze clings to it. With the heat on low to medium, keep cooking down the jam and mustard a little more, scraping with a wooden spoon, until the mix is very dark and concentrated and quite dry. If it burns a little, that’s fine.
    5. Lower the heat to medium, add the vinegar, and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to release any delicious brown bits. You may need to add a little more vinegar to achieve a heavy, smooth sweet glaze.
    6. Put the pork chop, along with any collected juices, back in the pan and raise the heat to high (gently, unless you too want the firefighters to stop by…)while you turn the chop with a fork to finish glazing it.

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, and thank YOU, firefighters,

    for stopping by my daughter’s kitchen yesterday.  She’s going to be dropping off some thank you treats soon.  Not to worry! I’ll send her some no-bake recipes!

    15 Nov 2010 Poached Pear Salad

    My friend Louise made this wonderful Poached Pear Salad for Cookbook Club last weekend.  Louise, one of the best cooks in the world,  has been making this salad, to much acclaim, for her family’s Thanksgiving dinner for the last I-don’t-know-how-many years.  I am so glad Louise shared this with us!  You have your hands on tried-and-true family recipe! The Poached Pear Salad is ideal for any fancy meal. It would also be good for a light lunch when paired (peared! now there’s a joke in the making… Hmm, no light bulbs going off here…, obviously someone more talented than I needs to come up with it 🙂 ) when paired with a bowl of soup or a sandwich. The salad looks elegant, tastes great and is dead easy to throw together at the last minute (as longs as the pears have been made and chilled ahead of time).

    The green salad surrounding the poached pear can be customized as  you wish.  Louise used a bag of mixed salad greens, including some of that bitter stuff, and a sprinkling of feta cheese (some pomegranate seeds might have been a  nice addition, too).  I am going to use mixed lettuces with a sprinkling of blue cheese, some sweet and spicy pecans and some dried cranberries.  My daughter is thinking about baby spinach, macadamia nuts and goat cheese.  What will you come up with?  Arugula, walnuts and orange bits?  Bibb lettuce and almonds? Let me know!

    Three cheers for Poached Pear Salad!! Easy, customizable, good looking, and great tasting! I have a feeling this salad will become a staple in my, and your, dinner party and elegant lunch repertoire.

    Poached Pear Salad

  • 6-8 Bosch Pears, with stems left on, peeled (Bosch pears are the ugly brown skinned pears.  I’d suggest using smaller pears so your guests aren’t too full after the salad to enjoy the main meal)
  • 2 cups Port, Shriaz or Zinfandel (The choice of wine will affect the taste of your pears.  Louise prefers a good port.  I liked the pears poached in Zinfandel)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 slices orange
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 bag of salad greens
  • Cheese of choice, about 1 T. per plate (feta, blue, goat)
  • Extra toppings of choice, if desired: chopped nuts, candied nuts, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds…
  • In a large pan with a lid, combine wine, sugar, water, and star anise.  Turn heat to high and bring mixture just to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.

    Add peeled whole pears-with stem intact-to hot liquid turning to coat well.

    Stir in orange slices

    Cover pan and simmer pears on low for 10 to 15 minutes, turning pears occasionally, until pears are tender, but still hold their shape.

    Discard star anise.  Remove pears to a bowl and set aside to cool.

    Turn up heat under the wine mixture, heat to boiling, and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.  Liquid should thicken and reduce to 1 ½ cups. (Pour liquid into measuring cup every once in awhile to measure progress).  When pears are cool, cut in half lengthwise, and carefully remove core.

    Pour reduced wine and the orange slices over halved pears.  Cover and chill for at least 4-6 hours, and up to two days.

    When ready to serve, cut pear into a fan and the bottom(see picture above), and keeping intact at the narrow top end.  Place pear in the middle of a salad plate and carefully spread out the fanned bottom part.

    Discard the orange slices. Reserve the wine syrup and pour into a serving bowl to pass at the table (will be extra dressing).

    Circle the fanned pear with a desired amount of salad greens.  Sprinkle greens and/or pear with approximately 1T. of the crumbled cheese of your choice and any desired “gilding the lily” toppings.

    Pass the reserved wine syrup at the table as a dressing (or serve with a light champagne vinaigrette).

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today…, and I am so glad you were able to meet my good friend Louise.  Maybe one of these days she will share some more of her recipes with us!