Posts filed under ‘potatoes’

Christmas menu for one

Salted caramelsI’m spending Christmas the way I generally prefer to: By myself. Least I sound like a latter-day Scrooge or some sad shut-in, let me state for the record that I love the winter holidays, every single one of them, that I spend most of December in the company of friends, and that I always wind up with multiple invitations to other people’s Christmas dinners.

But my own family – down to just us four siblings now – has never made a Big Family Deal out of getting together for the holidays. Since we’re scattered all over the Western US, that spares us foul-weather travel at the busiest time of year. And because I have a play in production that closes the Sunday after Christmas, my sweetheart and I decided to do our celebrating together at New Year’s, when I’ll take the train north to Seattle for a long weekend together.

So really, at the cost of protesting too much, I love having Christmas to myself. It’s a chance to wind down a bit from the madcap seasonal socializing. I can sleep in, turn on some rock-and-roll, and indulge myself in the pleasures of cooking for one, which are quite different from the pleasures of cooking for a crowd (for one thing, there’s a lot less worry about getting everything to the table at once. For another, I can dine in my jammies if I want.)

This year’s menu is still coming together in my head, but it’s bound to be full of locally sourced goodness, thanks to the new Corvallis Local Foods online market and my own freezer, which is full of good things I put up all summer and fall.

Here’s what I’m planning, although it could change on a whim.

  • Roasted duck, probably spatchcocked and roasted at high heat with a glaze of apple cider* syrup (a simple reduction of apple cider in a wide pan until it’s thick and syrupy). I’m pondering the notion of adding either ground chipotles* or smoked paprika* to the glaze for some smokey heat.
  • Roasted fingerling potatoes* (or perhaps roasted pumpkin* – or both!) and leeks*
  • Something green. Probably just a simple salad of Romaine dressed lightly with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a lot of pepper.
  • Pie. Because (a) there must be pie and (b) I have in the freezer five pounds of beautiful white lard* from ethically grown pigs, bought for the entire purpose of making the best pie crusts ever. I’m pondering a hazelnut pie, built on my canonical pecan pie recipe, since I also have a pound of lovely roasted filberts*. Maybe with the addition of chocolate and bourbon?
  • And, no doubt, I’ll sustain myself through the day  on more than a few of the buttery-sweet-and-salty sea-salt caramels I made this week for gift-giving.  Because what’s Christmas without a sugar buzz?

* Local ingredients (which, among other things, means I don’t have to throw out my filberts for fear of  salmonella, yay!)

And then on Saturday I’ll render off all that good duck fat for future cooking use** and use the leftover duck and the last of the chanterelles* to make a decidedly nonvegetarian version of my friend Whit’s amazingly good wild mushroom pie, with some chopped dried apples* and pears* in addition to the cranberries and sour cherries*.  That hearty, savory main-dish pie has become my post-Christmas staple, and it’ll feed me for a week. (If you’re meat-averse or feeding those who are tomorrow, consider the original version of this recipe. It’s a terrific vegetarian main course – even vegan if you use an oil-based crust.)

** New readers of this blog may be blinking at all this talk of animal fat. Isn’t that supposed to be bad for us? But I’m anything but a fat-o-phobe, and my primary motivation for eating close to the ground is neither health nor politics – it’s because I find locally grown, seasonal foods taste a whole lot better than most of what I can buy in the supermarket. And, as it turns out, the whole animal-fat-is-evil message is yet another of those overblown nutrition myths.  As in all things, moderation is a grand idea, but a slice of pie on a heavenly lard-based crust isn’t going to send you to the emergency room.

December 24, 2009 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

End-of-the-season stews

Autumn harvest still-lifeOur farmers’ market is … diminished. With just three weekends left this season, the number of vendors was down sharply this weekend, filling just half the municipal parking lot where the thing is held. It always makes me a little sad, and fills me with “hurry up and buy stuff before it’s all gone” fervor.

On the bright side, lots of the produce available now keeps well, with a little care. Apples, garlic, hard-skinned winter squash can last for a month or more, unrefrigerated, if you keep them in a cool, well-ventilated place. I’m reminded of the tornado shelter at my grandfather’s north Texas home – I’m not sure he ever used it to shelter from the weather, but his wife called it the root cellar, and stored vegetables and home-canned goods there year-round, because it was dark and cool and dry.

Root cellars have gone out of fashion, but I’ve kept apples for months by wrapping them individually in newsprint and setting them in a big, shallow cardboard box, not too closely crowded and unlidded, down in the garage that occupies half the daylight basement under my 1908 home. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a winter squash go bad on me, even sitting for 5-6 weeks in the basket on my kitchen counter. They’re pretty much built for storage.

This weekend, though, I’m focused on the short term, not the winter ahead. I’m in rehearsals through December, which means I leave the house for work at 7:30 in the morning and don’t get home till after 10 at night. If I don’t spend my Sundays cooking, I’ll spend a whole lot more money than I want to eating during the week. So I’m getting back in the habit of preparing good, hearty dishes that reheat well and lend themselves to portioning into containers I can carry to work for lunch and dinner. I try to come up with strong-flavored dishes, packed with nutrition and taste, so I don’t get bored before the week is over.

Stews serve the purpose – and also lend themselves to slow simmering while I go about my other weekend domestic maintenance.

Here’s what’s on the stove today: A rich autumn stew of pork, winter squash and apples, and a spicy vegetarian chili that’s quick to make and wonderful served over brown basmati rice or homemade cornbread. The first is almost entirely made with food I bought at the market yesterday; the second uses local turtle beans I put on to soak before bed last night, but could just as easily be made with canned black beans. These are both nutritionally dense, low-fat dishes, and easy to adjust to suit your own tastes.

The number of servings depends on how hungry people are and whether you’re serving the stew as a one-pot meal or a dinner course.  It looks like I’ll get 6-7 meal-sized servings from of each pot of autumn goodness. With cornbread and rice, I’m set for the week.

End-of-the-Season Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 acorn squash (or other winter squash of your choice
  • 1 lb lean pork, cut in cubes. Most stew recipes call for pork shoulder; I tend to buy tenderloins (because they’re small enough for one person). But you could just as easily use the meat off a few thick-sliced pork chops. Just trim off most of the fat so you don’t wind up with greasy soup.
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2-10 cloves of garlic, minced (I’m using a whole head’s worth, but I love garlic and got a lot of it at the market).
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups good chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary (or 1/2tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp minced fresh sage (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled (if you want) and cubed
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into discs
  • 2 tart apples, cored and cubed

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the squash in half; use a spoon to scoop out the seeds surrounding fiber. Oil the cut halves and place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the skin can be pierced by a fork. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle; peel off the rind (it will come off easily with your fingers) and cut squash into cubes. This can be done the day before.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the cubed pork in flour and cook in small batches until browned on all sides. Add the garlic and onion, lower the heat if needed to keep it from scorching, and continue cooking until the onion has softened. Add stock and stir to free any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add salt, rosemary and sage, potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add apples and squash. Return to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, until potatoes and apples are tender, about 20 minutes more. Taste, correct seasoning, and serve.

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup applesauce (mine’s homemade)
  • Spices: This is where you get to shine. I like a lot of cumin in my chili, and I like heat; I still have fresh herbs in the garden. You know what you like. If your spice cabinet is modest, a couple of tablespoons of commercial chili powder would work. Here’s (approximately) what I used:
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 tsp dried ground chipotle pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 tsp fresh oregano (1 /2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1 tsp fresh rosemary (1/2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (1/4 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups black beans, soaked overnight (or two cans of black beans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (I’m using my oven-roasted tomato goo)
  • 2 -6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms (optional, but they add a nice heartiness to the dish. I’m using chanterelles)
  • Vegetable stock or water to cover.

Method:

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the applesauce with all the herbs and spices. Stir until well-blended. Stir in remaining ingredients, adding just enough stock or water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s not thick enough for your taste, stir in a handful of cornmeal late in the cooking. Serve with cornbread and your favorite chili toppings (chopped onions, grated cheese, sour cream, etc.)

As with most chilis, this is better the second day – and I’ve found the heat doesn’t fully develop until then, so don’t get carried away if it doesn’t seem spicy enough to suit your tastes.

 

November 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm 3 comments

Cooking from the larder

Two months till the farmers’ market opens for the season, and I’m in “OK, time to start polishing off the things I put in the freezer last fall” mode. Including, this week, a 4-pound boneless pork shoulder from Wood Family Farms.

Four pounds is a lot of pork roast for one person. But pork shoulder is a lovely cut. More fatty than the overrated tenderloin, but slow-roasting melts most of the fat away, basting the meat as it goes and leaving a tender, flavorful meat that’s not only lovely on its own – with a side of potatoes, perhaps, and some of the remarkably cheap California asparagus that’s been showing up in Safeway – but also useful in wonderful second- and third-day meals that turn the word “leftovers” into something magical. Cuban pork sandwiches, for instance, or a hearty, spicy New World stew.

Slow-roasted Pork Shoulder

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 pound boneless pork shoulder.
  • Rub:
    • 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
    • 2Tbsp cumin seeds
    • 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
    • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
    • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
    • 4 Tbsp brown sugar

Method:

Make the rub by grinding together the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns and salt. I keep an old electric coffee grinder for grinding spices; a food processor or mortar and pestle will do, too. Mix in the brown sugar.

Rinse the pork roast and pat dry. Turn the fatty side up and use a sharp knife to score it in a diamond pattern, making sure the cuts go clear through the fat and into the meat.

Using your hands, pat the rub firmly all over the pork, bottom side first; turn it over and massage the rub deeply into the cuts in the fat (the salt content will help draw moisture away from the surface and create a nice crust.) Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate from 3 hours to overnight.

When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator, take off the plastic wrap and place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour a little water in the bottom of the pan to prevent smoking, and cover the pan with aluminum foil Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Roast, covered, for two hours; then remove the foil and continue roasting for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until an instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest point of the roast reads 170F. Remove from oven; let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cuban-Style Pork Sandwiches

Now, that's what I call a sandwich.It’s been years since I had a real Cuban sandwich, bought from a stand-up roadside joint in Florida. I have no idea if this is authentic, but it’s the result of a good deal of Googling and some experimentation that led to the flavors I remember. I’m told that in Cuba, the mojo would be made with the juice of sour oranges, which aren’t available here, but lime juice is terrific.

Ingredients

  • Roast pork, sliced thinly.
  • Onions, sliced thinly
  • Hearty bread or Panini-style rolls, split. You want bread that’s substantial enough to stand up to the juiciness of the filling; I’d just made a loaf of the infamous New York Times no-knead bread, and it was perfect.
  • Mojo sauce (see below)
  • Butter

Mojo sauce

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Juice of a lime

Method

In a very small saucepan, combine olive oil and garlic. Heat till oil is bubbling, then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cook 10-15 minutes until garlic is golden and soft. Stir in cumin and lime juice. Remove from heat.

Making the sandwiches

Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet. Add onions and sautee until they begin to soften. Add thinly sliced pork and stir until the meat is hot.

Brush both halves of a roll or two slices of bread generously with Mojo sauce. Pile meat on one slice of bread or half a roll; top with sauteed onions and the second piece of bread/roll

Wipe skillet clean and return to burner. Add a small amount of butter and heat till melted. Grill the sandwiches, pressing down with a spatula and turning when one side is done, until golden brown. Serve with beer and lots of napkins.

New World Pork and Pumpkin Stew

New World StewI had a lone sugar pumpkin left from my last market trip in the fall; stored in the cool basement, it’s kept well but I noticed a spot of mold forming on the skin and decided it was use it or lose it. Google turned up a number of recipes combining pork and pumpkin, many of them Thai or Burmese, along with an interesting-sounding stew that contained ingredients I’m not crazy about (turnips) or didn’t have on hand (kale). Improv time! I went for flavors native to the Americas, and what resulted was easy, relatively quick (as compared to starting from raw pork) and extremely tasty. That’ll be lunch for most of the week.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs roast pork, cubed. If there are fatty bits, render them to substitute for:
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp crushed dried red pepper (I used some peppers I bought at the market last year and threaded on heavy thread to dry. Hot, but not too incendiary).
  • 1 cup good vegetable or chicken stock (from the freezer)
  • New potatoes, scrubbed but with the peel left on, cut into bite-sized pieces to make about 1 cup
  • 1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut in 1–inch chunks
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Put oil or rendered pork fat in the bottom of a heavy, lidded pot or dutch oven. Heat and add onions and garlic; cook until golden brown. Stir in the cumin and chiles. Add the cubed pork, and cook, stirring, till thoroughly heated (if you roasted the pork with a rub, the yummy browned crust will come off and incorporate into the onion/garlic/spice mixture. This is a feature, not a bug). Remove meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

Add potatoes and pumpkin to the pot. Stir to mix well with spices and onion. Add stock; bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or so, until vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes and pork, stir well, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes to combine the flavors.

Like most good stews, this one’s even better the second day. Serve with a green salad and hearty bread.

February 15, 2009 at 7:54 pm 1 comment

Leek and potato soup

The leeks I brought home from the market yesterday went straight into the soup pot, and we were so hungry that the soup didn’t survive long enough to get its picture taken.

Never mind; this is one of my favorite easy winter soups, subtly flavored but hearty enough for a meal and easily converted for a vegetarian or vegan diet. Total prep time is perhaps 45 minutes, tops, and most of that’s time spent simmering.

Ingredients

1 slice of bacon, chopped into small dice (or a tablespoon of olive oil to make this vegetarian)
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 large leeks, white part only, split in half lengthwise, rinsed of any residual sand and then sliced across the stems into small pieces. You should wind up with about two loosely packed cups of leek bits
3 cups of good, low-salt chicken or vegetable stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves and a few springs of Italian parsley (make a bouquet garni by choosing one of the longest green leaves from the leek, wrapping it around the herbs and tying with kitchen string to make a tidy little packet that will be easy to fish out when the soup is done)
3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice. I used red potatoes, but any variety that doesn’t turn to mush when simmered would be fine.
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns OR 1/4 tsp ground pepper (if you don’t like stumbling across peppercorns in your soup)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream (omit for a vegan version)
Minced Italian parsley, for garnish

Preparation:

Heat the bacon a heavy-bottomed stock pan until most of the fat is rendered out; add garlic and stir until it softens (reduce heat if necessary to keep garlic from scorching).

Add leeks and stir to coat well with fat, then continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the leeks begin to soften.

Add stock, herb bundle, potatoes and peppercorns; bring to a simmer and continue cooking until potatoes are tender, approx. 30 minutes. Remove herb bundle and discard.

At this point, if you want a thicker soup, ladle 1/3 to 1/2 of it into a separate container and use a wand blender to puree it, then return the puree to the pot. If you don’t want any chunks at all, just blend directly in the pot until it’s all pureed.

Taste; correct seasoning. Stir cream into the soup if you want a rich, silky finish, or not if you don’t want the dairy. It’ll still be delicious. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Makes about 6 cups of soup, so if you don’t have a big family, I hope you like leftovers as much as I do.

I like my soup with buttered saltines, but homemade bread or a good salad would be nice, too.

November 18, 2007 at 6:52 pm Leave a comment


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