Category Archives: Vegetables and Sides

Holiday Party Part 3: Potato Gratin

Alrighty, by now you’ve read all about chicken liver pate and meyer lemon tart, the first and last courses in my holiday menu.  Since a potato dish is requisite at any big family meal, I’ve suggested a potato gratin.  How can anything composed of potatoes, cream, and cheese be bad?  Think of these as fancy scalloped potatoes.  You’ll notice that the amount of potatoes in the recipe is fairly vague.  Sorry!  I didn’t weigh my potatoes when I made the recipe.  You can use the photos as a visual guide to the the cream to potato ratio.  Thankfully, the recipe is forgiving and should work over a wide range (the consistency will just be a bit different).  You can easily scale this recipe up or down depending on the number of guests.

Gratin Dauphinois

adapted from Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain

Ingredients

Yukon gold potatoes, sliced 

2 c heavy cream

5 garlic cloves, crushed

1 sprig rosemary

1 sprig thyme

salt and pepper

nutmeg, preferably freshly ground

1 T butter

4 oz. grated Gruyere (or other good Swiss cheese)

Procedure

1.  Add sliced potatoes, cream, 4 garlic cloves, and herbs into a pot.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.

potatoes-cream

potatoes-cooking2.  Meanwhile, butter a baking dish large enough to hold the potatoes and cream, cut the remaining garlic clove and rub it inside the dish.

3.  Transfer the potato/cream mixture to the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with the grated cheese.  Bake in a 350 C oven for about 40 minutes, until the cheese is browned.

potatoes-cooked

Yum!  During the time in the oven, the cream and starch from the potatoes (along with evaporation I assume) thicken the mixture into a mass of creamy goodness.  The flavors of the herbs and nutmeg really come through to highlight the potatoes and cheese.  I’ve never tried it, but I suspect that you could separate the boiling and baking steps by a few hours if necessary.  If you are making my whole holiday menu, you can work on this while the roast is in the oven, and then bake this while the roast is finishing.  I have made this for several groups of people and haven’t had to take leftovers home yet.  Enjoy!

Next up: Standing rib roast

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Rosemary-Orange Cranberry Sauce

They don't grow in cans!!

They don't grow in cans!!

Although you may have repressed the memory, if you try hard you can probably remember a time, probably at an otherwise lovely holiday meal, when a reddish purple, gelatinous, can-shaped abomination was presented as food by someone who ostensibly cared for you.  Your first reaction was probably confusion (what is this?), followed by revulsion (I am NOT eating that mess), and finally horror (OMFG I’m going to have to eat it).  Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about canned cranberry sauce.  I’m quite sure that until the around the age of 20 I thought that cranberries were grown directly in the can so they could have that nice, industrial, ridged shape when they were served.  I’m not sure who first decided that this disgusting, jiggling mass was food….as far as I am concerned it is most certainly NOT.  Thankfully homemade cranberry sauce is totally different.  It is absolutely delicious.  Below is my favorite recipe for a cranberry sauce with hints of rosemary and orange.  It is combines the tartness of cranberries, the sweetness of orange, and an herbal note from the rosemary to make a complex accompaniment for almost any meal.

Ingredients

12 oz. fresh cranberries

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c orange juice

1 spring fresh rosemary

1 pinch salt

Procedure

1.  Mix cranberries, sugar, orange juice, rosemary, and salt in a saucepan.  

cranberries-in-pan

2.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  (optional) Remove from heat, leave the cover on, and allow the sauce to sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

4.  Discard the rosemary, taste for seasoning/sweetness, and serve!

It looks (and tastes) better in person...trust me

It looks (and tastes) better in person...trust me

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Scary foods #2: Artichokes

How can any food related to the thistle not be scary?  Ok, so artichokes aren’t the scariest thing in the world.  In fact, if someone else makes them for you or if they come in a jar (eek!), they aren’t scary at all. But preparing a fresh artichoke, straight from the market, that can be a bit intimidating to the uninitiated.  For some reason it is something I had never done until recently.  However, on my latest trip to the farmer’s market there were some beautiful baby artichokes for sale (sure, they clearly weren’t from northern Indiana; I’ll temporarily give up my liberal elite, hippie, locavore status)  After cooking them I found that artichokes aren’t scary at all.  Sure, there is a bit of cutting and trimming, but once you know how it is trivial.  Before you begin there are a few things to remember:

1)  Artichokes oxidize faster than any vegetable (and most chemicals) I’ve ever seen.  If you want your artichokes to stay green and pretty (you do don’t you??  Remember that we eat with our eyes first.  You wouldn’t want your friends to laugh behind your back at your sad, brown, oxidized artichokes) immediately rub the cut surfaces with a cut lemon.  After you are done preparing the artichokes deposit them in a bowl of acidulated water (see below).

2)  The only time in my entire career (chemical or culinary) I’ve seen the the word ‘acidulated’ is in reference to artichokes.  It is just a fancy way of saying ‘put the artichokes in a bowl of water that has something acidic added’.  Typically I squeeze half a lemon into a bowl of water; you could also use a bit of vinegar.

3) Artichokes are related to thistles.  If you don’t have baby artichokes there will be some stuff in the center (the choke) that you don’t want to eat.  Scoop it out with a spoon and throw it away.  You won’t see this below because I had baby artichokes.

4)  Fun fact:  Baby artichokes are fully mature artichokes that grow at the base of the plant and just happen to stay tiny and choke-free.

Now, onward to the good stuff!  Since I had never prepared artichokes before, I relied on a fellow blogger for some help.  Recently, Orangette published a delicious recipe for braised artichokes that I have adapted only slightly.

Braised Artichokes

adapted from Orangette who adapted the recipe from  Chez Panisse Vegetables, by Alice Waters

Ingredients

1 lemon, cut in half, 3-4 slices reserved

1 dozen baby artichokes

a 1:3 mixture of olive oil:water

3 cloves garlic, smashed

2 springs thyme

1 spring rosemary

Procedure

1. Prepare the artichokes for cooking

     1a) Cut the top 1/3 from each artichoke (don’t forget to rub the cut edge with a lemon, vide supra).

     1b) Remove the outer leaves from each artichoke until the pale yellow inner leaves are exposed.

If it's green you must preen?

If it is green, you must preen??

     1c)  Trim the stem close to the base of the artichoke.

     1d)  If desired (you know you want to, you’ve come this far)  trim away any ugly edges that remain near the base from removing the outer leaves.

     1e) Deposit the completed artichoke into a bowl of acidulated water to prevent discoloration (I really hate that term).

2) Bring the oil/water mixture (about 1/2″ in the bottom of your pan), smashed garlic, thyme, rosemary, and a few slices of lemon to a boil in a saucepan.

3) Add the artichokes, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender.

Cooking away

Cooking away; see what happens if you don't rub the ends with a lemon?! I warned you!

4) Serve the artichokes warm, finished with a squeeze of lemon and/or some freshly grated Parmesan.

And this is the result…The result (inelegant Parmesan grating aside)...

The result (inelegant Parmesan grating aside)…

Yum!  Very tasty indeed!  Other than my heavy handed Parmesan application and mediocre photography, the dish tasted really good.  See, cooking fresh artichokes is not scary at all!  Just go out and do it, they don’t bite!  See you next time….

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Scary foods #1: Brussels sprouts

A few weeks ago I had a group of friends over for dinner. I think I mentioned that I was making roast chicken, but I didn’t mention anything about the side dishes. Upon arrival, one of my excellent friends casually asked what we were having. “Roast chicken, potato gratin, and brussels sprouts” was my reply. The instant the last two words passed my lips, looks of sheer horror and revulsion appeared on the faces of everyone in the room. Perhaps I’m a walking freak show, but I’ve never had a problem with our tiny cabbage-like friends. How can such a tiny, spherical nubbin of a vegetable cause otherwise normal adults to instantly revert to a group of three year olds who are horrified of putting anything green in their mouth? Admittedly, I am being a bit dramatic about the reaction, but what is the resistance many people have to eating brussels sprouts? Is there some widespread childhood trauma people have undergone that I somehow avoided? Thank goodness I am around to dish out tasty helpings of therapy. By the end of the night, all of my sprouts were gone and everyone went back for seconds.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

adapted from Gourmet, January 2001

Brussels sprouts, fresh from the farmer's market

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts

2 oz. pancetta, chopped

2 T olive oil

salt and pepper

Procedure

  1. Trim and half brussels sprouts (quarter them if they are really large)
  2. Toss the sprouts with the pancetta and olive oil, salt and pepper liberally.
  3. Roast at 450 F for about 20 minutes, until the pancetta is cooked and the sprouts are lightly caramelized.  

    Ready to roast

  4. If the sprouts seem dry, stir in 1/4 cup of water.

    Therapy for cruciferous childhood trauma

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