mashed potatoes with root vegetables

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Isn’t that turnip the cutest little thing? Like an old crazed bald man, with just a few errant hairs.

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In truth, when I was planning this dish, I had to call a friend to give me some root vegetable knowledge. Which is the one that looks like a white carrot? (A parsnip, it turns out.) Which one should I try first? She recommended turnips, and thus dictated my first ever turnip purchase.

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Of course I took the wussy way out and mixed them with potatoes. Still, I enjoyed the extra dimension of flavor they provided – kind of licoricey and fennel-like. Now I’m looking forward to introducing myself to other root vegetables with this recipe – celery root in particular sounds interesting.

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One year ago: Chanterelle Salad with Speck and Poached Eggs

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Mashed Potatoes and Root Vegetables (from Cooks Illustrated)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces carrots, parsnips, turnips, or celery root; carrots or parsnips cut into ¼-inch-thick half-moons; turnips or celery root cut into ½-inch dice (about 1½ inch cups)
1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices; rinsed well in 3 to 4 changes of cold water and drained well
⅓ cup low-sodium chicken broth
table salt
¾ cup half-and-half, warmed
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
ground black pepper

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add root vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter is browned and vegetables are dark brown and caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes. (If after 4 minutes, vegetables have not started to brown, increase heat to medium-high.)

2. Add potatoes, broth, and ¾ teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Cook, covered, over low heat (broth should simmer gently; do not boil), stirring occasionally, until potatoes fall apart easily when poked with a fork and liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. (If liquid does not gently simmer after a few minutes, increase heat to medium-low.) Remove pan from heat; remove lid and allow steam to escape for 2 minutes.

3. Gently mash potatoes and root vegetables in saucepan with potato masher (do not mash vigorously). Gently fold in warm half-and-half and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve immediately.

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pumpkin risotto

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Everyone’s goal for their food blog is different. Are you keeping a log of recipes you make for your own sake – to store them somewhere, or to track your progress as a cook? Do you only publish recipes that you recommend others make? Do you have a blog just to cook along with various groups? All are perfectly fine reasons to maintain a food blog.

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Periodically I have to ask myself what my stance is. The question only comes up when I make something that I’d like to share, even though it wasn’t necessarily my favorite dish ever. And I think I’ve decided that, for me, my food blog is somewhere I get to talk about cooking to people who are also interested in food. Basically it’s to offload my food thoughts to people who actually care, saving my friends and family from hearing about cooking nonstop. Not that the topic doesn’t still come up…let’s just say, periodically.

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So, let us discuss, then, this risotto. I’ve made risotto plenty of times before, but usually following the same basic recipe and just adding in whatever extra ingredient I wanted (peppers, peas, greens, etc). This time I decided to follow a different recipe.

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You probably know the basic risotto process – sauté onions and garlic, add the rice, then the wine, then the chicken broth, gradually, and ending with parmesan cheese. This recipe is a bit different. It starts with substantially more butter than I would normally use, in which the onion (supposed to be leeks, but I always forget to buy them) and pumpkin are sautéed. Then the rice is stirred in, like normal, but next is the chicken broth instead of the wine. The broth and wine are added alternately as the rice cooks. Mascarpone is stirred in at the end along with the parmesan.

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It was quite a bit winier than I’m used to risotto tasting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was also quite a bit cheesier, which I suppose should have been a no-brainer with all the mascarpone, but somehow I was expecting it to add richness without the cheesy flavor.

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Overall, it was…fine. Good? Not necessarily great. I just like my regular risotto better. Some foods are already rich enough that you don’t really need to add twice the butter and a dollop of the creamiest cheese ever. So maybe I don’t strongly recommend this recipe, but I thought it was interesting, and when it comes to choosing recipes to blog about, I guess interesting (to me, and if I’m lucky, to you) is what I’m most concerned with.

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One year ago: Mulled Cider

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Pumpkin Risotto
(copied with no changes from Cucina Italiana April 2001)

3.5 cups chicken broth
1 small pumpkin (about ½ pound)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
¼ cup Mascarpone
⅓ cup (.67 ounce) grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Heat broth in a small pan and keep it hot. Cut off the pumpkin stem. With a vegetable peeler, remove the skin. Cut the pumpkin in half, and remove and discard the seeds and stringy flesh. Dice enough of the pumpkin to make 1 cup. (Save any remaining pumpkin for another use; soup is a particularly good possibility.)

2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the pumpkin and leek, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat it with the butter. Cook, stirring, until the rice begins to crackle, about 5 minutes; do not let the rice brown.

3. Slowly add ½ cup of the broth and stir constantly until the rice absorbs all the liquid; add 2 tablespoons of the wine and continue stirring until it is absorbed by the rice. Continue adding broth and wine alternately to the rice, stirring all the while, until the rice is al dente and has a creamy consistency, about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the Mascarpone and Parmigiano, blending well and stirring until the Mascarpone melts. Serve immediately.

herb-roasted onions

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I’m pretty sure I’m the worst yoga-er ever. I think it provides a pretty good workout, but, honestly, it kind of bores me. I know I’m supposed to get all meditative and stuff, but I don’t, and I end up bored, and I end up not doing yoga at all, and that’s no good.

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So my new trick is to watch the Food Network while I do yoga. See? Worst yoga-er ever.

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But if I think of yoga as “ooh, I get to watch Barefoot Contessa!” instead of “bleah, exercise”, I actually look forward to it. I recently saw her make chicken piccata, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and roasted onions, and I decided right there, in the middle of the warrior series, that I was making the whole meal that weekend.

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The buttermilk mashed potatoes were just as good as you’d expect (in other words, very, although I didn’t follow her recipe to a tee), and the chicken was actually a big failure, but the onions were what really stole the show. They get two major hits of flavor, a quick soak in lemony herb mustard vinaigrette before baking, and then another dip in the same dressing after they’re cooked.

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This was my first experience serving onions on their own instead of as a support to a dish’s main flavor, and, damn! I’ve been missing out. I really do love onions when they’re soft and caramelized, and the dressing brightened and enhanced the onions’ own sweetness. All that and stretchier muscles. Not bad for half an hour of watching television.

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Herb-Roasted Onions
(from Barefoot Contessa)

2 red onions
1 yellow onion
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup good olive oil
½ tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Remove the stem end of each onion and carefully slice off the brown part of the root end, leaving the root intact. Peel the onion. Stand each onion root end up on a cutting board and cut the onion in wedges through the root. Place the wedges in a bowl.

3. For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the onions and toss well.

4. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a sheet pan, reserving the vinaigrette that remains in the bowl. Bake the onions for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender and browned. Toss the onions once during cooking. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the reserved dressing. Sprinkle with parsley, season to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

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twice-baked potato cups

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Bad habit: I cook new recipes at a much faster rate than I get around to writing about them here.  By the time I’m ready to put them in the blog, I can’t remember what motivated me to make them in the first place.  So instead of including some sort of personalized story that hopefully makes blog a little interesting, I end up writing about something lame like how I have nothing to say.  Um.

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Anyway, twice baked potatoes!  You can’t go wrong, you know?  But these are way cuter than regular ones, because they stand up on their small sides and form little cups.  Love!

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Also, shallots – so good.  So sweet and flavorful.  And charred, in this case, so watch out for that.

Harvati isn’t a cheese I’m too familiar with, but mmm, it was good.  Tasted a bit like a good cheddar, but it was softer and smoother.

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These were exactly as good as you’d expect based on the ingredients.  They’re also as good as any other twice baked potatoes, but they’re more interesting, not just in their shape, but with a nontraditional cheese choice and wonderful caramelized shallots.  Maybe something as good as this doesn’t need a personalized story.

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One year ago: Banana and Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast

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Twice-Baked Potato Cups with Caramelized Shallots
(from epicurious.com)

Serves 4 generously

I skipped the vegetable oil.  Also, I think you could substitute buttermilk for some or all of the sour cream.

4 12-ounce russet potatoes, scrubbed
Vegetable oil
1 cup coarsely grated Havarti cheese (about 4 ounces)
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup whole milk
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1½ cups thinly sliced shallots (about 8 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce potatoes in several places with fork, then brush lightly with oil. Place potatoes directly on oven rack and bake until tender when pierced with fork, about 55 minutes. Cool potatoes slightly.

2. Cut off thin slice from both short ends of each potato and discard. Cut each potato crosswise in half; stand each half on its small flat end. Using teaspoon, scoop out cooked potato pulp from each half, leaving ⅓-inch-thick shell and forming potato cup. Place potato cups in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place potato pulp in medium bowl; add cheese, sour cream, milk, and cayenne. Using potato masher or fork, mash until well blended and almost smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound mashed potato mixture in potato cups.

3. Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until tender and deep brown, about 12 minutes. Top potato cups with shallots. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake potato cups until heated through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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pickled coleslaw

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Salads can be tricky, because if I’m eating a big bowl of vegetables, it better be healthy, you know? But there’s the whole salad dressing issue. Vinaigrette is the standard lighter option, but even it’s usually based on olive oil.

Coleslaw is no exception to the salad dressing problem. Many coleslaws are simply cabbage, mayonnaise and seasoning. Not only is this a little plain for my taste, but it turns coleslaw into a full-on indulgence. Even my favorite buttermilk coleslaw recipe includes a bit of mayonnaise and sour cream (which could probably be replaced by plain yogurt), although the base of the dressing is lowfat buttermilk.

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A lot of people don’t even like creamy coleslaws, preferring vinegar-based slaws instead. I like both types, and at first I thought these vinegar dressings were the no-fat answer for coleslaw, until I found out that most involve oil, like a typical vinaigrette does.

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The solution, it turns out, is pickled coleslaw. The cabbage here is mixed with nothing but vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Those ingredients have to be heated to dissolve the sugar, then cooled so they don’t wilt the cabbage. Then they’re mixed with the shredded cabbage and a few other vegetables (sadly, I didn’t have a cucumber around when I made this, so I had to skip it), and refrigerated overnight – or for longer, if need be.

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What a great way to eat a big bowl of vegetables. Since I’m not worried by a wee bit of sugar, there’s nothing for me to feel guilty about here. And it isn’t just about being healthy – it tastes great too. It’s tart without being too sour and has a wonderful crunch. Even Dave, pickle-hater that he is, enjoyed it. Gotta love a salad without compromise.

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One year ago: Mashed Potatoes with Kale

Pickled Coleslaw (from Deb Perelman for NPR)

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Brine:
1½ cups distilled white vinegar
1½ cups water
⅓ (2.33 ounces) cup sugar
2½ tablespoons kosher salt

Slaw:
1 small head green cabbage
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 kirby cucumber, thinly sliced

Bring brine ingredients to a boil in a 2-quart nonreactive saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. (Use a pan of stainless steel, glass and enameled cast iron; avoid pure aluminum and uncoated iron, which can impart an unpleasant taste to recipes with acidic ingredients) Transfer to a 3- to 4-quart nonreactive bowl and cool completely. To speed this process up, you can set the bowl over a second bowl of ice water, and stir, which will quickly chill the brine.

Halve, core and halve again the head of cabbage, then finely slice it with a knife, or run the quarters through a food processor fitted with a slicing blade.

Toss sliced cabbage, bell pepper, carrot and cucumber in bowl with brine. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate, tossing the ingredients once or twice in a 24-hour period. After one day in the brine, the coleslaw is ready to serve. It keeps for up to 1 week, chilled.

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mushroom salad

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I used to read cookbooks like novels. I don’t require pictures, and I don’t like to skip around – I’ll be annoyed making the chocolate cake from Chapter 10 if I’m still reading through Chapter 2’s salads. It feels like a spoiler; like when I was sad to see Gandalf die in The Fellowship of the Ring, and Dave tried to make me feel better by telling me that he comes back in the next book/movie. I hate spoilers.

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These days, though, I can’t seem get through an entire cookbook. I think I need a new method – like accepting that it’s okay not to read every step in every recipe. I’m only on Chapter 3 (Eggs, Dairy and Cheese, yum) in Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which I got for Christmas. I’m still very happy with the cookbook – everything I’ve made from it has been great, and the recipes get me excited to cook. But right now, it’s just sitting on my shelf while I focus on other things. Since I haven’t read much more than the soups and salads chapters, that’s all I ever make from the book.

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These mushrooms, from the salad chapter, made a handy side dish for meatball sliders. They’re nice and easy – after sautéing the quartered mushrooms with some aromatics, you mix them with vinegar and olive oil. Then just set them aside to marinate.

The simple mixture was surprisingly good. I was worried that Dave wouldn’t like them, because he doesn’t like pickled anything, but they weren’t sour, just a little tangy. It makes the big green cookbook on my shelf that much more enticing.

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One year ago: Cappuccino Cream Puff Rings

Mushroom Salad, Italian-American Style (from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

I didn’t actually measure anything, which is normal for me for a Bittman recipe. He presents his recipes more as ideas to get you started than rules to follow. I’m guessing I used less oil, and I just added vinegar to taste.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound butter or other mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup minced onion
1 tablespoon slivered garlic
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup chopped parsley leaves for garnish

1. Put 3 tablespoons oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until they give up their liquid and begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat a bit and add the onion, then cook until the onion softens, another 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cool, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat.

2. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and stir in the vinegar and remaining tablespoon of oil. Let cool to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Garnish and serve or let sit at room temperature for another hour or two before serving.

aligot (french mashed potatoes)

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When I saw this recipe is a recent issue of Cooks Illustrated, it was immediately registered as “for special occasions only.” Seriously, I consider regular mashed potatoes fairly decadent, much less the cheese-laden variety. But then I managed to create a special occasion: Dave and I found a cheap, good bottle of Pinot Noir! In Pennsylvania even! (Don’t get me started on PA’s inane liquor laws.  Drives me. Up the. Wall.)

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This is a great recipe for learning about the chemistry of potatoes. Have you ever heard that “mashing” boiled potatoes with a mixer will result in gluey mashed potatoes? This recipe goes one step further and processes them in the food processor. The resulting texture is fascinating – very stretchy, even before any cheese is added. Then the potatoes are mixed with garlic and milk, and shredded Gruyere (for flavor) and mozzarella (for texture) are vigorously stirred in.

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I love how little changes in technique can make such a big difference in the outcome. I’m not giving up on regular mashed potatoes, but I also enjoyed the smooth texture and rich flavor of these. It’s hard to go wrong with potatoes and garlic and cheese.

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One year ago: French Chocolate Brownies

Aligot (French Mashed Potatoes) (from Cooks Illustrated)

CI note: The finished potatoes should have a smooth and slightly elastic texture. White cheddar can be substituted for the Gruyere. For richer, stretchier aligot, double the mozzarella.

My potatoes did end up too salty, so that’s something to watch out for.

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (4 to 6 medium), peeled, cut into ½-inch-thick slices, rinsed well, and drained
table salt
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1-1½ cups whole milk
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
Ground black pepper

1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, add water to cover by 1 inch and add 1 tablespoon salt. Partially cover the saucepan and bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender and just break apart when poked with a fork, 12 to 17 minutes. Drain the potatoes and dry the saucepan.

2. Transfer the potatoes to a food processor; add the butter, garlic, and 1½ teaspoon salt. Pulse until the butter is melted and incorporated into the potatoes, about ten 1-second pulses. Add 1 cup milk and continue to process until the potatoes are smooth and creamy, about 20 seconds, scraping down the sides halfway through.

3. Return the potato mixture to the saucepan and set it over medium heat. Stir in the cheeses, 1 cup at a time, until incorporated. Continue to cook the potatoes, stirring vigorously, until the cheese is fully melted and the mixture is smooth and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes. If the mixture is difficult to stir and seems thick, stir in 2 tablespoons of milk at a time (up to ½ cup) until the potatoes are loose and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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potato galette

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You know the expression, “your eyes were bigger than your stomach?” Yeah, that never happens to me. I have quite the stomach. What I do instead of over-anticipating my appetite is over-anticipate my desire to cook. When it came time to actually make the meal that included these potatoes, I was just not in the mood. The meal itself – strip steak topped with shallot butter and Brussels sprouts braised in cream were the other dishes – sounded delicious, but the path there just seemed like a pain.

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At least the steak and vegetables were easy. This potato dish was significantly more involved. The ingredient prep alone is an investment in time, with potatoes sliced as thin as you can get them, and five ounces of cheese that the original recipe instructs should be finely grated. After grating about half an ounce, I gave up and shredded all of it on the medium-sized holes of a box grater.

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The recipe recommends layering and baking the uncooked potatoes, but Jen says the potatoes never cook through all the way for her when she follows this method. She parboils the potatoes before baking. I remembered a Cooks Illustrated’s recipe for pan-fried sliced potatoes that calls for microwaving the sliced potatoes with a bit of butter first, and that sounded easier.

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Once the ingredients were prepared, and the shallots were softened, and the potatoes were cooked a little, I could finally start layering the ingredients. Then the tart is baked until it’s a beautiful red-gold, with crispy edges and a creamy center. In the end, this dish was exactly the flavor and texture I wanted from it, and I will certainly make it again. Just hopefully only when I’m in the mood to expend the effort.

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One year ago: Traditional Madeleines. I need to remake these now that I have a madeleine pan.

Potato Galette (adapted from Fine Cooking #53 via Use Real Butter)

Looking at the recipe again, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t add the shallots and the rest of the butter to the potatoes and microwave the whole mixture together.

3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup shallots, finely chopped
16 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, lightly chopped
kosher salt
½ cup (1 ounce) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 cup (4 ounces) Gruyère cheese, shredded

1. Heat oven to 400F. Grease bottom and inside edge of 7½-inch tart pan (who in the world has a 7½-inch tart pan?) with removable bottom. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the shallots are softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible, no more than 1/16 inch thick. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large bowl in the microwave. Add the potatoes and a pinch of salt to the bowl and toss to coat the potatoes with butter. Microwave, uncovered, for 4 minutes, stirring every minute. The potatoes should bend, but they don’t need to be cooked all the way through. Remove the potatoes from the microwave and add the shallot mixture, thyme, and ½ teaspoon salt.

4. Layer the bottom of the pan with potato slices, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle ¼ of each cheese type on the potatoes, then repeat the layering three more times, ending with cheese.  (You’ll probably need to scrape some of the shallots and other goodies over the potatoes as you form the layers.  The don’t cling to the potatoes much.)

5. Bake until the top of the galette is golden brown and the potatoes are tender, 30-40 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the tart ring from the galette. Use a thin spatula to transfer the galette to a cutting board, cut into wedges, and serve.

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roasted baby artichokes

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Dave and I have gotten into the habit of choosing a nice bottle of wine to open on Saturday, and then I plan a meal around it. The last two times, I’ve scheduled ambitious main dishes and starches, and then planned to get whatever vegetable looked good at the store that would be easy to cook while I focused on the rest of the meal.

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And then I’ve come home with artichokes, which are certainly not known for being low-maintenance. But now that I’ve cooked artichokes a few times, I’m not nearly as intimidated by them. I especially love roasting these baby artichokes, which is the easiest and definitely the best way I’ve ever prepared artichokes.

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A lot of fuss is made about prepping artichokes, but now that I’m familiar with the process, it isn’t so bad. And the baby artichokes are quite a bit easier, because the fuzzy inedible choke inside the artichoke isn’t developed. There are basically three steps. 1) Pop off the leaves that are mostly green. 2) Cut off the top of the leaves and the bottom of the stem. 3) Trim off the dark green remnants of the leaves near the top of the stem. It really only takes maybe a minute per artichoke.

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And then it’s just like roasting any other vegetable. I quartered the artichokes, seasoned them and sprinkled a bit of olive oil over them, then roasted them until they were browned and tender.

What I love about this method, besides how easy it is, is that there’s really nothing to taste except for the artichoke. It’s the most artichokey way that I’ve eaten artichokes. And they do have a great flavor on their own, with no need for marinades or gussied-up mayonnaise or whatever else. It’s the fanciest plain vegetable I’ve ever served.

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One year ago: Cheesecake Pops (these were a huge mess) and Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

Roasted Baby Artichokes

I’ve seen recipes that require the artichokes to be boiled or steamed before roasting. This may be necessary with large ‘chokes, but I had no problem with the little guys getting tender just from roasting.

This is probably very anti-foodie of me, but I just squirted a bunch of bottled lemon juice into a bowl of water to make acidulated water. I didn’t have lemons.   I considered skipping the acidulated water entirely, but the artichokes pretty much immediately started turning an unappetizing shade of brown.

3-4 servings

juice of one lemon
12 baby artichokes
1½ tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
pinch pepper
½ teaspoon lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Trim the artichokes: Put the lemon juice into a bowl with 2-3 quarts of water. Working with one artichoke at a time, pop off the outer leaves until you reach the inner yellowish leaves. Cut off the top ½-inch of the leaves and all but ½-inch of the stem. Trim away the darker green leaf remnants around the base of the stem. Quarter the artichoke and place in the bowl of water. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

3. Put the oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Dry the artichokes, place them on the baking sheet with the oil and seasoning, and stir to coat with oil.

4. Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and browned on the outside. (I usually just eat one to see if they’re done.) Remove the pan from the oven, drizzle the lemon juice over the artichokes, and serve.

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pan-roasted asparagus

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Asparagus was part of one of my worst eating experiences. I was spending a few weeks traveling, working with one of the top researchers in my field. She’s an intimidating woman, known for her arrogance and her temper. Fortunately, what little contact I had with her was generally pleasant. She even invited me to her house for dinner a couple times.

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The first time, she served chicken, asparagus and rustic bread she’d bought at a bakery. The asparagus was horrendous. It was grossly overcooked, plus too little of the woody barely chewable ends had been trimmed. It was all I could do to eat it without gagging, but I had to be polite, especially since I was sort of scared of my host.

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This is not that asparagus. This is lightly browned, tender but still crisp at the center. It’s also easy – just put the asparagus and some salt in a lightly oiled, hot, not nonstick pan, and cook it for a few minutes, giving the pan an occasional shake. Squeeze on some lemon juice, grind a bit of black pepper over the top, and try to erase all of your bad vegetable memories.

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One year ago: Sichuan Green Beans

Pan-Roasted Asparagus

Serves 2

Note: Choose thin (less than ½-inch in diameter) asparagus for this recipe, as the thicker stalks won’t cook through evenly. Trim the asparagus by bending each stalk until it snaps. To double the recipe, use a 12-inch skillet.

1 teaspoon olive oil
8 ounces asparagus, washed and trimmed (see Note)
generous pinch salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium not nonstick skillet over medium heat until it’s hot. (I judge based on the viscosity of the oil – the thinner, the hotter.) Add the asparagus in a single layer and stir or shake to coat with oil. Continue to cook the asparagus until it’s crisp-tender, 5-8 minutes.

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