Sunday, May 23, 2010

Salt potatoes

If you've never made salt potatoes, you're in for a treat. How do you turn regular old potatoes into something new and exciting? Loads of kosher salt!

I don't want to know what this does to your sodium levels, so let's just say this is something to eat in moderation and never to feed to a slug, okay?

Salt potatoes are credited to salt miners in the 1800's in New York, near Syracuse. As they boiled briny water to evaporate the water and then scrape up the salt, they would toss in their potatoes and cook them for lunch. Seems like a reasonable thing to do when you've got a bunch of heat just going to waste. Apparently it's the rage to serve them with butter. I tend not to serve anything with butter. Butter, in our house, gets kept in the freezer so it doesn't spoil and usually is only broken out to make a roux. In other words, butter just doesn't occur to me.

I read about salt potatoes in this month's edition of Food Network Magazine. Have I mentioned how much I love this magazine? Thanks, Mom! For that matter, thanks also to Uncle Richard and Patty, because they offered to get the subscription for us and had to be graciously turned down since Mom had already done it. Yay!

They are a snap to make. Start by scrubbing a pound of small potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, Ruby Red or (my favorite) Ruby Gold. I suppose you could use little white ones, too. These are all waxy type, which I tend to prefer, and I think work better in these recipes. Put them into a pot of heavily salted water. How heavily salted? 4 to 1, water to kosher salt. The salt brings the boiling point up and therefore the potatoes cook at a much higher temperature. This leaves the insides ultra creamy. Bring the potatoes to a boil, boil for 20 to 30 minutes (until they're done) then drain them into a colander and let them air dry. A yummy, salty crust will be on the potatoes.

They were great as-is, as the creamy insides cuts the saltiness of the outside. Darling Husband and I both agreed they would make awesome smashed potatoes, too.

Brief Introductions

Just wanted to let you know who we are...


Darling Husband!

Baby Girl!

The whole family. Nice to meet you.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cookout! Beans and sliders

I love that sliders are now such a normal thing that you can buy Wegman's brand slider buns and not have to use dinner rolls which, while often recommended, are just too heavy. Usually, Wegman's even sells little pre-made raw sliders, but last night they were out of them. No bother! We just made our own.

For the burgers, we kept it very simple and made 8 equal lumps of meat from a package that was just over a pound. From these lumps I made meatballs, attempting to handle as little as possible, then squished down until just larger than the bun. Salt and pepper on the outside and they were ready for the grill. They cook up very quickly, so you have to be sure not to overcook your sliders. During the last minute, we put a mound of finely shredded cheddar/"mexican cheese mix" and let it melt.

Darling Husband made a sort of red onion pickle, with shaved red onion in a lime, cilantro and sugar mixture. The whole house smelled awesome. This pickle had crunch but not the strong taste of the onion, with a pleasant sweet/sour taste and a great herby note to elevate it.

We built the burgers as follows: bottom bun, bit of store bought guacamole, burger, thin slice of tomato, onion pickle, top bun. No need to add any other condiments! Spicy, sweet, sour, savory, bitter--we covered them all.

As a side dish, we made a very quick bean dish. Darling Husband doesn't eat baked beans, but this might become our next best thing. Might even be better. We sweated some diced yellow bell pepper and red onion in olive oil, then added a can of drained black beans. Salt, pepper, a bit of cumin and some crushed red pepper flakes comprised the seasoning. We just let this cook and marry the flavors. It was fabulous with a dollop of sour cream. It had that black bean soup quality to it, but the beans really retained their integrity. I wish we'd made more so we could have left overs.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cook more

I was listening to sports talk radio (a slightly inexplicable guilty pleasure of mine. It used to be wacko right wing Republican talk radio) and the one guy was feeling guilty about eating out 3 meals in one day. His basic tone was horrified at himself, but was quickly bolstered by oodles of callers discussing how often they eat out, why, and how much they spend. Someone did the math that $35 a day meant a $13,000 annual food bill.

When I was growing up, eating out was a rare event. Not because we couldn't afford it, or because our family was unruly, but because it just wasn't what you did. Mom cooked. She cooked very well. We had no real reason to go out.

I do remember going to DeDad's, which has long been torn down and turned into a Burger King. I recall a few visits to Rax at the Mall, right next to what is now Pier One. ChiChi's was a big one, too, and my dad would grumble about all the food coming out of the same three 55gallon drums in the back. When I had the day off of school, my mom would take me to the Peking Restaurant for lunch, which was on Peach Street near El Canelo but on the other side of the street, but I can't recall just where. It was just a mommy/daughter thing. I'd get the chicken with oyster sauce, usually. Mom was friendly with the owner and she'd teach us a word here and there of Chinese. I think they (or, possibly, their children) opened up Golden Wok on Pittsburgh and 22nd (ish) Street, which is awesome, by the way. But at the Peking, they had a little gift shop and there was a tiny carved pagoda and dragon made out of cork and encased in a small globe, like a snow globe without the water and sparkles. I coveted it. I would visit it. I dreamed about it. One day I got it. It was everything I could've wanted.

Darling Husband and I eat out more than I did growing up, and now that we have Baby Girl, that's more turned to take out. She's best at Eat & Park for brunch, and good at a bunch of other places, but our eating has gotten a bit strange since she was born. And, now, mobile.

But 3 times in a day? That's like when you're on vacation and you can't wait to go home and have fresh vegetables cooked right.

The guy made a good point, which was that he's divorced and doesn't have the inclination to cook. I started thinking about people who say they don't cook. In a lot of ways, I don't believe them because I think, well, but how do you eat? Although between frozen pizzas, skillet meals, rotisserie chicken, ready made sides, take out from Applebee's and Max and Erma's and TGIFriday's and Olive Garden and a ton of other places, I guess it's pretty easy not to cook.

If you make yourself PB&J, is that cooking? If you heat up soup?

When it comes down to it, I feel each person (or family) needs to do what's right for them. As for the price? Eh, if you have it, what do I care? You might spend that much at the grocery store, I guess. Frankly, I still like to eat out. I'm unlikely to do it 3 times in a day, though. I like cooking too much.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Genius, perhaps?

I have two things to share tonight, and while neither is earth shattering, both have some merit which borders on genius.

Firstly, what to do with the dilemma of leftover queso dip with soggy and/or stale tortilla chips. The solution? Some chicken stock, a little cornstarch slurry and a dash of hot sauce and you have tortilla soup. Leftover chicken (or, even, a can of it) would make it hearty enough for a meal. I didn't happen to have any pollo and so my Cinco de mayo soup was supplemented by a salad.

Side note: my mother is from France, and my loyalties lie that way when a choice is to be made. It helps in how to choose World Cup qualifying teams to cheer for. I found out today that the battle celebrated by Mexicans on this day was in defeat of the French. So, why does this country celebrate a battle which was lost? Silly Americans. :o) Of course, I'm not exactly sure how much history or even patriotism is celebrated on this day in this country. It's a little like St Patrick's Day. In Ireland, it's no big deal. Here, it's a reason to start drinking beer with food coloring in it at 7am. Also, have you noticed the curious affinity for Mardi Gras beads that these holidays seem to have picked up? St Patrick's Day, Cinco de mayo, actual Mardi Gras, uh... okay, I've run out of examples. But surely you've noticed it, too. Or is it just bars in Erie that do this?

Anyway, the second kitchen tidbit is a technique I picked up from Alton Brown. Instead of scoring, blanching, then shocking tomatoes to remove the skin, if he's making sauce he recommends using a box grater. Just cut the tomato in half along the horizon, seed it, then grate it on the coarse side of the box grater. The pulp is efficiently removed and you're just left with the skin. Works quickly and is fun to do, too.