mashed potatoes with kale

This dish reminds me of one of the great things about my husband. As we sat down to eat roast chicken served with kale and mashed potatoes, never once did he ask “um…what’s the green stuff in the potatoes?” or even look sideways at it. And not because he’s being polite, but because he’s so extremely unpicky. And maybe he trusts me to serve him good food? (Or at least warn him with prolific whining if I don’t think the food will be good.)

And why should he worry? Kale has a great savory flavor that it goes perfectly with mashed potatoes, almost like gravy does. Plus there’s a pool of butter on top. You can’t go wrong with a pool of butter.

The recipe comes together relatively easily. The potatoes are peeled, diced and boiled just liked normal mashed potatoes. (Oh, except I’m anal about mashed potatoes, so I actually steam the potatoes instead of boil them. You should try it – they taste amazing, just like potatoes should, even without salt, because they don’t absorb water.) The kale is cooked separately, slowly braised with onion, which is a common cooking method for kale. After mashing, the two are combined, along with some milk that’s been steeped with carrot and bay.

I have to admit, I didn’t taste any evidence of the carrot or bay. Also, while it seems that pooling the butter in the potatoes is traditional for this dish, I think I would prefer it mixed in. For one thing, otherwise it’s like “whoa, that’s a pool of butter”, but also, I like how butter in mashed potatoes keeps them nice and moist. Come to think of it, if you go the pooling method, you should probably use salted butter, or add a pinch of salt to the butter while it’s melting. Then your butter will at least have some flavor, which mine really didn’t.

Still, though, this was great. Dave and I have decided that we both really like kale. I don’t think the original recipe is quite as kale-y as it looks here, because I wasn’t measuring closely, but either way, it tastes great. And what a healthy addition to standard mashed potatoes.

Mashed Potatoes with Kale (Bon Appetit May 1996, but really epicurious.com)

1 cup milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1 small carrot, peeled, diced
1 large bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bunch kale, rinsed, coarsely chopped (about 8 cups)
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

1. Combine milk, 2 tablespoons butter, carrot and bay leaf in medium saucepan; bring to simmer. Remove from heat; let steep while preparing kale and potatoes.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until light brown, about 8 minutes. Add kale; cover and cook until tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well. Return to same pot; mash with hand masher.

4. Add kale mixture to potatoes. Strain in enough milk to produce moist, fluffy potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in small saucepan. Mound potatoes in large bowl. Using spoon, make well in top of potatoes. Pour butter into well. Serve hot.

country egg scramble

In my mind, there are basically two kinds of breakfasts – there are savory breakfasts, which are generally based around eggs, and then there are sweet breakfasts, which include pancakes and waffles and the like. The best savory breakfasts involve potatoes in addition to the eggs. And bacon of course, unless you’re saving the bacon for BLTs and have to use sausage instead.

This skillet scramble is a simple but tasty example of a savory breakfast.  I did make some changes to the recipe here and there. Like most Betty Crocker recipes, this one tries to trick you into thinking it’s easier than it is by calling for cooked bacon in the ingredient list, rather than including the instructions for cooking bacon. Like I’m going to have cooked bacon laying around, just waiting to be sprinkled over breakfast. And why would I brown the potatoes in butter when there’s bacon fat right there?

Still, this recipe for a great savory breakfast is not complicated. You pretty much cook some tasty breakfast meat, then brown some par-boiled potatoes and add beaten eggs, cooking until they set. Easy though it might be, it involves most of my favorite breakfast ingredients – eggs, meat, and potatoes – and thus makes for a delicious and classic meal.

Country Egg Scramble (adapted from Betty Crocker)

Serves 4

1 pound (6 to 7) new red potatoes, cubed
6 slices (6 ounces) bacon (or breakfast sausage), chopped
6 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
4 medium green onions, sliced (¼ cup)

1. Place potatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt in 2-quart saucepan. Add water until it reaches 1 inch above potatoes. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Once the water boils, cook for 6 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender, then drain.

2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet.

3. Beat eggs, milk, ¼ teaspoon salt, the pepper, and the green onions with fork or wire whisk until it’s a uniform yellow color; set aside.

4. Cook potatoes in bacon fat over medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned. Stir in reserved bacon.

5. Pour egg mixture into skillet. As mixture begins to set at bottom and side, gently lift cooked portions with spatula so that thin, uncooked portion can flow to bottom. Avoid constant stirring. Cover pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until eggs are thickened throughout but still moist.

hash browns with sauteed vegetables and poached eggs

I’ve become enamored with poached eggs lately. They’re such a great topping for so many breakfast ideas. Besides eggs benedict, I like to serve them on toast with a bit of cheddar cheese sprinkled over. Hash browns and a bed of sautéed vegetables is my favorite poached eggs base.

The trick to great hash browns is to use starchy potatoes like russets, but to rinse some of the outside starch off of the shreds, then thoroughly dry them before starting to cook. Because I consider this breakfast one of my healthier options, I use olive oil for cooking both the vegetables and the potatoes, although vegetable oil and butter are also good choices. How often you stir the potatoes depends on how you like your hash browns. If you want a crispy base and a tender interior within a bed of potatoes, pack the shreds into a medium-size pan and leave them alone until the bottom browns, 5-6 minutes. Then flip the whole mound over and brown the second side. I tend to put the potatoes in a large skillet and stir every few minutes. After 10-15 minutes, they’re pretty evenly split between crispy browned and tender.

The vegetables you use are completely adaptable. My favorite combination is red onion, red peppers, and mushrooms. This time I used spinach instead of the red peppers, and I loved it. I like the vegetables chopped so that I can get some of each in one bite, so pretty small. (I’m particular about how vegetables are chopped anyway.)

Mound some cooked potatoes on a plate, spread the sautéed vegetables over it, and top with a poached egg – it’s a perfect combination of flavors and nutrition. Once the egg is cut into, warm yolk drips down and blends with the potatoes, and your morning is off to a terrific start.

Hash Browns, Sautéed Vegetables, and Poached Eggs (Poached Egg recipe from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 2

1½ tablespoons olive oil
6-8 cremini or button mushrooms, halved if large and sliced thin
salt
½ small red onion, halved and sliced thin
1½ ounces spinach, cleaned and chopped very coarse
ground black pepper
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and washed
2-4 eggs, each cracked into a small handled cup
2 tablespoons white vinegar

1. Heat oven to 200 degrees, then turn it off. Place 2 large plates in warm oven.

2. Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When shimmering but not smoking, add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid released by mushrooms has evaporated. Add onion and cook until browned at edges. Add spinach and cook, stirring constantly, until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a bowl. Put bowl in warmed oven.

3. While vegetables cook, shred potatoes in food processor with shredding blade or on large holes of box grater. Rinse thoroughly in a strainer, then move to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze and pat dry.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same skillet (no need to wash) over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add potatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt and mix thoroughly. Cook potatoes, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until slightly browned and cooked throughout, a total of 15-20 minutes.

5. While potatoes cook, fill an 8- to 10-inch nonstick skillet nearly to the rim with water, add 1 teaspoon salt and the vinegar, and bring the mixture to boil over high heat. Lower the lips of each cup just into water at once; tip eggs into boiling water, cover, and remove from heat. Poach until yolks are medium-firm, exactly 4 minutes. For firmer yolks (or for extra large or jumbo eggs), poach 4 ½ minutes; for looser yolks (or for medium eggs), poach 3 minutes.

6. While eggs are cooking, divide potatoes between warmed plates. Top with sautéed vegetables. With a slotted spoon, carefully lift and drain each egg over skillet, then lay each over vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.