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Eating down the Fridge: Day 3 (Potato Pancakes!)

Still working on Thanksgiving.  What turkey isn’t eaten yet pretty much is gone into the freezer to later be made into shepherd’s pie or soup or something.  But there were still a few mashed potatoes hanging around…

So I made them into pancakes.  Very good, very easy, give it a try!

*****

Potato Pancakes

Mix together in a bowl:

  • 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs milk (optional)
  • 1/4 cup bread or cracker crumbs (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • few shakes black pepper (to taste)
  • sprinkle of oregano, cumin, thyme, curry powder, or any other spice you like…I did just oregano and it was great

Heat skillet to medium high heat with a little oil. (Oil can be omitted in a non-stick skillet, but don’t let it get too hot without food in it, or it can release toxic fumes!) Plop spoonfuls of potato mixture into pan in whatever size you like; flatten if necessary.

Let cook about 5-7 minutes on one side (lower heat if necessary and they are getting too brown) till the bottoms are nicely brown and a little crisp.  They’ll get crisper if you use more oil, of course. Flip and cook on other side, flattening pancake with spatula.

Serve with nonfat Greek yogurt (or sour cream, if you must) and chives, or warmed applesauce, or whatever you want.

*****

This entire prep took maybe 10 minutes beginning to end.  Really easy, and if your kids are one iota less picky than mine I’d bet they’d go over famously.  Also, it should be mentioned that how you make your mashed potatoes will have a lot of impact on this recipe–I do fairly dry garlic-smashed potatoes, so I needed a little milk to make my pancakes work okay.  If you already do very smooth and moist mashed potatoes, you may not need any added liquid, and if you salt them liberally in prep you may not need to add any.  Use your judgment.  You could also probably vastly increase the amount of potato per egg, if you want to keep calories down and/or stretch your eggs. Or maybe even skip the egg all together, if you have some other vegan-ish methods of binding it all together…

These are delicious–easy and light and full of flavor; I’d make these as appetizers for a party or a brunch side dish or something like that in a heartbeat.

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Side by Side: Bourbon Sweet Potatoes

Yesterday the white potatoes, today the lovely beta-carotene-filled orange ones…

This is one of those “Thanksgiving is not complete without” recipes for me–which is why I have, the night before Thanksgiving, sent my husband out to buy me a bottle of bourbon when I discovered he’d drank the rest of our one small bottle sometime in the past 12 months.  (Remind me to post his hot toddy recipe sometime…)

Almost as easy as the garlic smashed potatoes, it just requires a little extra bake.

*****

Bourbon Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients: sweet potatoes, brown sugar, spices, bourbon, orange juice, chopped pecans (optional but awesome), currants (optional)

Cook as many sweet potatoes as desired. (Sunday I posted a crockpot-appropriate method, or you can just cut them into inch-thick chunks and boil them 15-20 minutes till soft.) You can leave the skin on if you wish, but I generally peel these–after they are cooked and cooled, the skin slips off very easily, so it’s a painless process. Unless you try it when they are still too hot–that is a pain-ful process. Which I’ve had reason to learn.

Line a baking dish (9×9 or 9×13, whatever fits your ‘taters best) with a single layer of cooked sweet potatoes.

Sprinkle with dark brown sugar (which, by the way, it’s really easy to make yourself out of white sugar and molasses)–I never measure, just take a small handful and sprinkle till it “looks right.” maybe 1/4 cup not-packed?

Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and a little clove–the cinnamon is pretty necessary; everything else can be left out if you want, or done in some combination.

Drizzle 1/4 to 1/2 cup bourbon (hic!) over potatoes, sugar, and spices.

Drizzle 1/4 cup orange juice over potatoes, sugar, and spices

Sprinkle with a handful of chopped pecans (or other nut of choice) that you kept back when you made the pecan pie. You could also (or instead) sprinkle a handful of dried currants on at this point.

Cover with foil and bake about 45 minutes at 325-ish–basically, put it in the oven about an hour before the turkey comes out.  Take the foil off for the last 10 minutes or so to crisp the pecans.

*****

A variation I discovered unintentionally one year (the year I was drinking too much wine with the Australians) when I overcooked the potatoes till they were too squishy to slice properly–smash/mash them with the bourbon, orange juice, and spices, sprinkle the brown sugar and nuts on top, and bake it that way. Easily as good.

I’m told you can do this same recipe with some other spirit–rum or brandy, or Jack, for example–and it’s still delicious.  But the bourbon adds a really great complementary flavor to the sweet potatoes…

Side by Side: Garlic Smashed Potatoes

So, yesterday I talked about how to just sort of have some cooked potatoes on hand for whatever you want to use them for–and how you can do either sweet or white potatoes very easily in the crockpot. You can as easily chop them into manageable sized pieces (I usually do inch-thick slices) and boil them for 15 minutes or so until they are tender–whatever you prefer.

But–once they are cooked, you can either just eat them however you want, or use them as the basis for some really lovely side dishes.

Now, I know everyone has their own favorite version of mashed-potatoes-without-which-it’s-not-Thanksgiving (remember that episode of Friends, where Monica had to make a different kind of potato for everyone?).  I’m not quite that picky, so I fix what my husband and I enjoy, which are lovely garlicky smashed potatoes with the skin still on. And they are amazingly easy.

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Cook as many white potatoes as you want–I like Yukon Gold because they are hard to mess up. Russets work for this too. (Small waxy or new potatoes aren’t as good, IMO.) Cut them up into fairly small pieces (this keeps you from having huge slabs of potato skin in the final product…if you don’t like skin, peel the things).

In a large skillet, heat a little olive oil (or heck, a couple tablespoons of butter–it’s your call. The fact is, the more butter you add, the better it tastes. sigh…) and saute 3-4 cloves minced or crushed garlic until golden; if desired, add a few other herbs such as fresh rosemary or thyme or whatever floats your boat.  Add your potato pieces and stir.

You can either smash them in the pan while heating, or you can stir it all up, remove it to a bowl, and smash them there. If you are using a non-stick skillet, just don’t put anything metal anywhere near that lining, or you’ll scratch it.  No, really, you will, however careful you try to be, you’ll scratch that lovely non-stick coating and then forever be worried about fragments of Whatever getting into your food.

Add salt and pepper to taste. If it’s a little too dry, add just a tablespoon or two of milk or broth, as you like it. Mash till you’re happy.

That’s what I do with mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, anyway…

Side by Side: Potatoes on hand (white or sweet potatoes)

One of my priorities in giving Thanksgiving recipes here is to make things as simple for the cook on the Day Of as possible.  The challenge for Thanksgiving every year is that most of us only have one stove and one oven, and managing turkey plus pies plus sides plus gravy plus all this stuff at once is the main headache, because all of a sudden everything is done at once and you’re not sure how to navigate it all…the slow cooker can take a lot of pressure off on that front. And this, by the way, is not just a holiday idea–try this year-round, it makes life much simpler at dinnertime!

Today I’m talking about potatoes, and prepping for both sweet and mashed: you have to cook the potatoes first before doing anything else with them, which can be either done on the stovetop in two big pots (basically, cut ’em up, boil them for twenty minutes or so or just until fork tender, and drain ’em in cold water to stop cooking) or in the crockpot overnight the night before.  Stephanie over at “A Year of Slow Cooking” has crockpot baked potato instructions that will work perfectly well for this–essentially, wash and dry your potatoes (sweet or white), poke ’em with a fork a few times, wrap each one individually in foil, and cook them on low in the crockpot for 8-10 hours or so or until soft all the way through.  Then you can take them out, let them cool, and deal with them as you wish.  Note: you are not really baking the potatoes in here, you are steaming them. Which is better for most Thanksgiving applications anyway.

Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams: the eternal debate, happens every year. Is there a difference? Yes.  Will it have any effect at all on your cooking them for Thanksgiving? Not a damn thing. According to this site, the confusion comes from mis-naming sweet potatoes as yams for a long time, alongside with the other confusion that there are tons of different sweet potato varieties–bottom line is that normally we are eating sweet potatoes even when we think they are yams, because sweet potatoes are the ones indigenous to most of our climates, and 95% of genuine yams are grown in Africa and are indigenous to Africa and Asia.

Types of Potatoes to Mash: This is really up to you. But you should know that the whiter, starchier potatoes (the ones we usually bake) like russets and Idahos (Idahos are usually Russets, actually), have more starch in them and don’t stand up to boiling as well, and the smaller waxier ones  have more moisture and tend to turn to glue if you smooth them too much. I like “smashed potatoes” better than the smooth creamy ones we all usually think of as “mashed” (really more “whipped” potatoes)–most sites I look at suggest that “Yukon Gold” is a good sort of middle-of-the-road potato…

I’m giving this potato-pre-prep thing its own post, because really this is something you can do any time–toss a few potatoes into the crockpot in foil before you go to work in the morning, and by the time you get home you can turn them into all kinds of things in a matter of minutes.  Mash ’em, smash ’em, add a little salt and butter to the white ones or brown sugar and cinnamon to sweet ones, you can do all kinds of things. And put some in the fridge for tomorrow or the next day too.

Side by Side: Brussels Sprouts that Don’t Suck!

I was going to be more polite and title this, “Brussels Sprouts that Don’t Stink”…but unfortunately when I made these yesterday I came home to a pungent cabbagey-smelling house that caused my 8-year-old–the one who farts with such odorous abandon–to spend the next half hour pretending to asphyxiate.

These are really really good, seriously–but if you make them on a non-turkey-or-other-very-yummy-smelling-cooking day, you might want to open the windows or put your crockpot on the patio while they cook. 🙂

Brussels sprouts are one of those things that have always been a Thanksgiving Must, though I have always had a tolerate-hate (as opposed to love-hate) relationship with the little things. At last, we’re learning to get along.

It’s not my recipe: Got this from Stephanie O’Dea’s “A Year of Slow Cooking” website–“The Very Best Brussels Sprouts Recipe in the World.” (Bookmark this site! It’s a gold mine! And I’m desperately grateful that she didn’t have to take it down once she published her cookbook…)

Now okay, I have to admit: I don’t think this is the best brussels sprout recipe in the world, because that honor goes to the recipe our family friend Nancy makes every year at my mom’s house.  It involves, as I recall, sauteeing shallots in like a whole stick of butter, then adding salt and pepper and sliced up brussels sprouts and then sprinkling chopped toasted pecans or something in it.  Beyond amazing, seriously.  But that stick of butter puts that recipe into the “special occasions only” category for me, plus I can’t be bothered to slice up brussels sprouts.

Stephanie’s crockpot recipe is really a good way to go–definitely, click the link, but to summarize: it involves sprouts and a little water in the crockpot with salt, pepper, a little butter (I think I only did maybe a tablespoon instead of her 3), and Dijon mustard. Very nice blending of flavors, very delicious. And it frees up a stove burner, always key on Thanksgiving, am I right?

Give it a try. Very very good stuff…

Side by Side–time to think about Thanksgiving!

Well, it’s November, which means…it’s time to start thinking about that Gastronomic Holiday of Holidays, Thanksgiving!

I have to say, of all my40+ Thanksgivings on this earth, one of the ones I remember most fondly is the one I spent with two Australians when none of us were able to get home to family, and they wanted to experience a Proper American Thanksgiving Dinner.  Part of the fondness, I suspect, came from the fact that Australians–or at least, these two–drink a lot of wine, starting at about noon and continuing till past-pie. A really big part, I also suspect, came from the other fact that I was the only one of the three of us who actually knew how to cook a Proper American Thanksgiving Dinner (or had watched my mom do it for years; I’d never done it myself), so for the first time in my life I actually sort of had sous-chefs!. I didn’t have to peel potatoes or crush pecans or do any of that annoying stuff, I could give instructions and they followed…Mostly, the fondness is because they were just awesome women and it was a lovely lovely afternoon and evening.

Since that year, I’ve done a few Thanksgivings myself, spent a few more with my mom, a couple with my in-laws…I’m sort of getting the hang of this. And it’s just kind of fun.

This is the time of year when bloggers all over the sphere are posting their favorite Thanksgiving recipes, and I figured why not get in on the fun myself? My own spin on the holiday’s cooking is not terribly unique, but it’s still very much in keeping with all the recipes on this blog: I want maximum deliciousness, maximum wholefoodiness, minimum unhealthiness, minimum cost and work.  I want a dinner I can pig out on and eat as much as I want and know that there’s not a whole stick of butter in anything I made, and that the grains are whole and the veggies fresh.  I want one day to not have to think about portion control, with no accompanying guilt. (I don’t do guilt. Guilt causes stress, which is related to weight gain and all kinds of unhealthy things. )

So my plan over the next couple of weeks is to post most of the recipes I plan to make for Thanksgiving.  The turkey recipe I probably won’t, because it comes from a cookbook and it would be sort of a copyright violation to post it–but I use the one from The New Basics Cookbook by the Silver Palate ladies–it involves a lot of port wine used to baste the bird and, especially if you forget and buy ruby instead of tawny port, produces this incredibly gorgeous almost glowy red-orange turkey–I know that sounds weird, but it’s really really pretty and very impressive to see and serve.  (That’s a great cookbook, by the way–a little more chi-chi than I normally cook, but when I’m looking for something impressive to make for an event or whatever, it’s the first place I go.  And it has lots of good basic information about staple cooking, like poultry, beans, a gajillion different squashes, stuff like that…)  Or you could skip the cookbook, use your favorite turkey and stuffing recipe, add some port to it and just baste the bird with the wine along with the normal basting juices.  (Makes a terrific gravy too…)

The other reason I’m not going to talk turkey much for these posts is that someone asked me a couple of weeks ago, “What do vegetarians do for Thanksgiving, anyway?” –the thing is, as much as Thanksgiving is theoretically structured around the turkey for many of us, the sides are (for me) what make Thanksgiving Thanksgiving.  The mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the dressing, the antipastos, even the brussels sprouts.  And of course the pies.  Okay, yeah, on some level it wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving without turkey…but on the other hand, it wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving without any one of those recipes missing. (Okay, I can sort of live without the brussels sprouts.)

In my opinion, a meatless Thanksgiving would be really easy and delicious without even resorting to a Tofurkey (I’m sorry, no offense, but why bother?)–there’s so much good stuff, how can you even miss?

So: the “side by side” series, yummy holiday dishes (holiday, heck! Eat ’em all winter!) that are healthy and easy and make good leftovers…additions in the comments more than welcome!

(Click on the links for the rest of the series: potatoes in general, bourbon sweet potatoes, garlic smashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry relish, and dinner rolls.  And maybe I’ll even post some pie recipes…)