Straight to the Top

January 29, 2009

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I am not privy to the produce world’s inner pecking order.  But if I were, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that potatoes were the plain Janes of the lot.  While gourds sashay around in their vibrant colors (think butternut) and artichokes wow with their spicy, layer-y outfits and chard and kale splay out into bouquet-ish bundles, potatoes—with their mottled brown jackets—fade into the background.  Some potato varieties—the jewel-toned purple ones or the luxe yukon golds—might get a second look, but the good old russets, I’m guessing, are the last to get picked for a schoolyard pick-up game.

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This recipe aims to shake up that vegetable social hierarchy.  This recipe will send the baking potato straight to the top.  Like the ugly duckling morphing into the swan, if you will.  Because this recipe is undeniably luxurious and incredibly delicious.

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Perhaps it Was Fate

January 11, 2009

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I didn’t expect to check one of the New Orleans-inspired recipes off my To Make List this soon. For the biscuits, in particular, I thought I’d be searching for the perfect recipe for weeks. And, frankly, I was kind of looking forward to the buttery, flaky auditions. But they won’t be necessary: this recipe is a clear winner.

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As I mentioned last week, one of the first things Kevin and I ate in New Orleans was a big, hot biscuit, served with a foil-wrapped pat of butter at Mother’s. And it was perfect—dunked in my gumbo or standing alone. None of the other biscuits we ate during the trip quite lived up and I was doubtful that I could find a recipe to stand up to the Mother’s memory in my own kitchen.

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cran

When I arrived in Minnesota last Tuesday night, my mom promptly handed me a fat file folder full of recipes.  I flipped through them, stomach growling, and asked her which ones made the final cut for the Thanksgiving menu.  “All of them,” she replied casually.  No, I thought.  Not possible.  How would so many dishes be made in one kitchen?  With four burners and one oven?

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And I remained skeptical until I woke up on Thanksgiving morning around 8 a.m. to the sounds of the pots clattering, rutebagas banging on the counter, and the dog barking.  I made my way downstairs and into the kitchen, bleary-eyed.  There, I found mountains of peeled squashes and potatoes, enough diced onions to require an entire box of tissues, and my mom’s pile of recipes neatly divided into three stacks: those that were complete (at 8 a.m.!), those that were in progress, those  that were yet to be made.  The last of these stacks was by far the shallowest.  My mom flipped through that pile, handed me one of the recipes in it and poured me a cup of coffee.

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Not What You Think

November 6, 2008

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I’ve been feeling under the weather all week, with a cold or flu or something that I just can’t seem to shake. And it’s had me craving comfort foods: brothy soups, bowls of oatmeal, pretty much anything that can be eaten while huddled under a blanket, curled up in the corner of the couch.

Do you see those strands up there? The ones twirled around the tines of the fork? Well, they’re cloaked in a simple olive oil sauce, spiked with a heavy dose of both garlic and crushed red chiles. And they satisfied my comfort food criteria beautifully. But, they’re not what you think they are …

(Click “more” to find out what it is, see the photos & read the recipe.)

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Headlong into Potato Season

October 28, 2008

Like it or not, we are plunging headlong into potato season. Even though potato season involves unmentionables like pasty skin, runny noses and bone-chilling winds, I still find myself in the “like it” category when it comes to tubers. I love all shapes and sizes (really, no two are exactly alike, no?), all colors and all preparations I’ve tried to date: mashed (especially my step-dad’s famous recipe, but since that’s also a secret recipe (no doubt because I’d balk at the amount of butter thrown into the mix) these will do in a pinch), baked (wrapped in crinkled foil and shut away in the oven for a good, long time), roasted (with just a slick of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and, if I’m feeling crazy, a sprig or two of rosemary), fried (duh), even boiled.

For all that, though, I’d never tried salt roasting. It’s a technique that I’ve wondered at for some time. It seemed novel and somehow scientific and it was on my to-do list. After hand picking 20 or so fingerlings from the market a couple weeks ago, I decided to give it a try.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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The Sleeper Hit

October 20, 2008

My parents were here the weekend before last and we made a cozy fall feast on that Friday night: this herb-encrusted pork tenderloin (which, I’m happy to report, works really well in the oven, now that grill season is all but over), these mascarpone mashed potatoes, a big bowl of simply dressed greens and the glazed red pearl onions you see up there.


The onions were full of surprises. They were a pain in the neck to make, for one. I skimmed the recipe quickly before adding it to the menu and thought it sounded easy enough. Just blanch the onions and peel them. I can do that, right? Well, sure I can do that. But it wasn’t all that fun. It turned my fingers all prune-y, ruined a manicure and took a very long time. Luckily, I had good company (thanks, mom!) and a glass of wine. Otherwise, I might’ve scrapped the whole thing, figuring that this was just a ho-hum side dish that we could live with out.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Far From Uninspired

October 1, 2008

This recipe is a revelation—in texture, flavor, simplicity, beauty and, most of all, speed. And speed in the kitchen is something I’m prizing quite a bit since I started my job. (I know, I know. All of you out there who had full-time jobs or kids or, I don’t know, responsibilities before, um, last Monday, are probably rolling your eyes and possibly even uttering a “duh.” But I’m catching on. Bear with me.) And this recipe is lightning quick—the sort that doesn’t merely suggest a mise en place, but rather demands it.

I especially value speed, though, when it doesn’t come at the expense of a dumbed down, flavorless, uninspired end result. And, oh, that is just not the case here. Unless you consider a glistening, tangled heap of emerald green baby bok choy (cutest vegetable ever?), greens wilted and bulbs still almost crunchy to be “uninspired.” I, for one, do not. Especially when said tangled heap is enveloped in a unctuous slip of garlicky sauce, which tastes like the dregs at the bottom of your very, very favorite Chinese takeout boxes—but which, in reality, you whipped up in your very own kitchen: no take out menus, no hunger-induced over-ordering, no delivery charge.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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