Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jess Potatoes

I have made and eaten potatoes in almost every conceivable form.  Mashed, baked, boiled, riced, gnocchi, pancakes, gratineed, escalloped etc.  So you can imagine my delight when I was first presented with this incredibly easy and tasty way to prepare potatoes.

I first had these potatoes at the home of a friend named Jess.  Her family owns a large organic strawberry and vegetable farm in central North Carolina and I like to imagine this recipe comes from her mom, preparing a large pan of these for everyone after a long day of work on the farm.  They are a cross between crispy hash browns and a baked potato and are incredibly delicious.

I love how gorgeous these potatoes look on a plate.  They make you just want to dive in.  That's why we call them Jess Potatoes (because it sounds like "just potatoes" until the time you see your plate).

Q:  "What's for dinner?"

A: "Jess potatoes, beef and some spinach"

Translation:  Blue cheese-stuffed steak with creamed spinach and Jess Potatoes

Jess Potatoes
serves 4

4 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and washed
1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
sea salt, pepper and garlic powder

Pre heat oven to 375 F.

Cut potatoes in half.  With a large knife score deeply into the potato to make a grid pattern (do not cut completely through.

Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and coat with olive oil.  Place potatoes face down in the oil, then turn over and season with sea salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Turn potatoes face down again.  place pats of butter around potatoes.

Bake 45 minutes until cut face of potatoes are golden brown.  Let rest 10 minutes before carefully removing potatoes from baking sheet.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sea Salt Caramel Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chips

So last weekend we had the "fun" task of trying to use up a lot of our leftovers from the holidays.  Not that these things had been sitting around decaying and getting nasty, but my freezer space was filling up and it was time to "use or lose" a few things.  We made a delicious Jambalaya with Portuguese linguica sausage and the last container of Turkey Gumbo from Thanksgiving, and I used the frozen leftover sourdough bread and croissants from Christmas to make this really tasty bread pudding.

The original recipe came from a Williams Sonoma catalog a couple years ago.  This dessert is perfect for January, rich and sticky but not cloyingly sweet.  It is actually a fairly elegant bread pudding and is the perfect foil for a scoop of ice cream.  I particularly like to serve this with a good coffee ice cream because I love the combination of coffee and caramel.

This is a messy recipe.  It uses a lot of bowls and pots and pans, but is really worth the effort.  It is also a very exciting (if not terrifying) recipe to make.  When the hot milk is added to the molten caramel, the resulting release of steam is a lot like when a river of lava meets the ocean!  If you use proper caution and work methodically, this can be done without injury!  Make sure to cook the caramel to a very deep amber or the caramel flavor will not be detectable.

Amazingly this recipe has no booze in it!  It certainly tastes like it is loaded with good bourbon or rum, but there is none in the cooking.  I however would not be averse to pouring a little Kahlua or Baileys over this to make a perfect companion sauce.  I usually like to serve this with a good coffee ice cream because I love the combination of coffee and caramel.  If you want to make your own coffee ice cream, here is my recipe: coffee ice cream.

Sea Salt Caramel Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chips
serves 8

4- 5 cups leftover stale bread (challah, croissant, pannetone, sourdough etc) cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
1 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 cups whole milk
8 Tbsp butter (1 stick)
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place Bread cubes on a baking sheet and dry in 350 F oven for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Remove from oven and cool.

 In a large glass bowl combine milk and butter and microwave on high until milk is hot and butter is melted. 

In a large heavy pot (a dutch oven is perfect), combine sugar, water and corn syrup and salt.  Place over high heat and stir just to combine.  Bring to a boil and continue to cook over high heat until sugar has caramelized and is a deep amber color.  Remove from heat.

VERY CAREFULLY add the hot milk mixture to the caramel, a little at a time.  This will VIOLENTLY  bubble and froth!  Stir continuously, adding milk a little at a time until all the milk has been added an the mixture has stopped violently boiling.  The milk solids will curdle slightly, but don't worry this is normal.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla until well mixed.  Add caramel mixture to eggs, a little at a time, whisking constantly to prevent cooking the eggs, until all the caramel and eggs have been combined.  Add the dried bread cubes and toss to coat.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Transfer  1/3 of the bread pudding to a well-buttered 3 quart baking dish and sprinkle with 1/2 of the chocolate chips.  Add another third of the pudding on top and sprinkle with remaining chocolate.  Cover with remaining bread mixture.

Transfer baking dish to a large baking pan with high sides and pour hot water around baking dish until it reaches half-way up the sides.  Bake, uncovered at 350F for one hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.   Serve hot or warm with fresh fruit, or ice cream (I love coffee ice cream with this).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Portuguese Kale and Chorizo Soup

Happy New Year!  We had a wonderful holiday here, lots of friends, family, food and fun!  I received a lot of really amazing food gifts for Christmas including fig balsamic vinegar, porcini olive oil, artisinal chocolates,a grown your own oyster mushroom kit, spice infused sea salt and beautiful handmade Portuguese chorizo and linguica sausage from Chave's market in Fall River, Massachusetts.

When we moved Emma to Fall River in the fall, I took some time to peak in Chave's, the local Portuguese market around the corner from Emma's apartment.  What an amazing store!  An incredible selection of fresh and frozen seafood, an entire aisle dedicated to Port, and a meat counter that made me weak in the knees.  All the aisle signs are in both English and Portuguese.  I begged Emma to bring me either some of their hand-made chourico or linguica, and for Christmas Emma surprised me with both!

So today I decided to make something with the chorizo.  Since Fall River is the hometown of chef Emeril Lagasse, I decided to make his Kale and Andouille soup.  In the prologue to this recipe, Emeril waxes poetically over the portuguese chorizo from Fall River and how this soup was his favorite childhood food.

Beautiful local organic kale and Chave's Portuguese chourico from Fall River, Massachusetts!

I have made a few minor modifications, but here it is, the ultimate January food.  Simple and earthy and rustic.  The chorizo makes a beautifully red-hued broth which looks incredible with the deep green kale and, and chunks of pale potato.  We sopped this delicious soup up with bug chunks of crusty sourdough bread for a satisfying winter meal.

My Portuguese friend Maria, who lives in Asheville, NC tells me that she orders excellent Portuguese chourico from Gaspar's, a Portuguese online market in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, just up the road from Fall River!  Thanks Maria!

OMG look at this AMAZING chorizo!

Portuguese Kale and Chorizo Soup
serves 8

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs portuguese chorizo, skin removed and cut in 1/2 inch slices (or andouille)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
2 large potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
12 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
3 large bunches kale, rinsed, stemmed and leaves hand-torn into pieces
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh-cracked black pepper
6 Tbsp chopped fresh mint.

In a large pot, heat olive oil over high heat.  Add chorizo and onions and saute for 5 minutes until onions are tender and chorizo sweats.  Add garlic, parsley and potatoes and toss with onion mixture.  Cook for 3 minutes, tossing occasionaly.

Add stock, bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes, black pepper and salt.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Add kale and stir into hot broth to wilt kale.  Return to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, cover pot and simmer until potatoes are tender. about 40 minutes.

Serve hot, garnished with minced mint in large soup bowls with chunks of crusty bread.