Posts Tagged ‘potato’

Twice-baked potatoes

So, here I sit, unwilling to eat a great many things.  Many of my previously known “favorites” are sadly neglected, and I’m searching desperately for something that appeals.  It’s rather disconcerting-you know.  I’m a food person, and it seems that I’m not so interested in food, of late.  And the larger problem is this: yesterday’s interests are thoroughly uninteresting today.  Leftovers?  Nope.  I keep trying to pawn them off on Scott.  I try to avoid opening the fridge if I can, because of the refrigerator smell- do you you know what smell I mean?  It never used to be so offensive, but now, now, with my over-sensitive nose, I steer clear of the fridge if I can… “Scott, will you look in the vegetable drawer and see what we have in there?”  “Scott, do we have enough milk for my cereal?”  “Scott, what are you making me for dinner tonight?”  And by the way, thank goodness that guy can cook a great meal!  I’d be lost and starving without him!  (Well, I seem to be starving anyway, but not for lack of eating…)

Last night I found myself cooking dinner for the first time in a month-and-a half.  Start to finish- I did it all!  Perhaps it wasn’t a complete meal, but it tasted good to me and I figure, that counts for a lot right now!

A friend of mine was telling me about his trists with twice-baked potatoes.  “Oooh”  I said, “that sounds really good.  Maybe I’ll do that for dinner tomorrow night”.  And I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I dreamt about it that night and shopped for the ingredients first-thing the next morning.  He said he used triple-cream cheese (one that contains at least 75% butterfat)  in the filling rather than the commonly used sour cream/ chedddar combo.  Mmmm.  I followed his lead and made these really yummy stuffed potatoes.  And you know what?  I made five of them, hoping, hoping, hoping that I’d be interested in the leftovers.  And you know what?   I am!

I had the idea to throw olives into the mix because of the super-delicious twice-baked potatoes of my childhood.  Has anyone ever been to Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola? My best-friend’s parents used to take us on day-drives down to Capitola and Santa Cruz where we’d nibble, browse and play our summer days away.  Those twice-baked potatoes have never left my consciousness, emblematic of “the golden life”- to be sure!

Twice-baked potatoes a great idea from Ken!
yields 5 servings

  • 5 medium russet potatoes
  • 6 ounces triple-cream cheese (I used our locally made Mt. Tam)
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 15 each medium sized olives, pitted and roughly chopped (anything but the American canned black olive will do!)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • kosher salt to taste
  • a drizzle of pure olive oil or vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes and lightly coat them with oil.  Pierce each one with a knife (to prevent explosion in the oven!) and set them on a cookie sheet.  Bake for about 1 hour, or until they are easily peirced with a knife, showing no resistance.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

When they are just cool enough to handle, slice off the top 1/4 of each potato and set the “hat” aside.  Using a spoon, gently scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl, leaving about a 1/4-inch of “shell” behind.  Lightly scoop the “hats” too, using the same premise.  Lightly sprinkle the shells and hats with salt and put them back in the oven to crisp for about 10 minutes, while you mix the stuffing.

With a large fork, break the potato flesh down and begin to mix in the cheese, scallions, melted butter, olives, salt and lots of pepper.  Remove the shells and hats from the oven and carefully fill each shell with the stuffing.  As for the hats, you can do a couple things…give them a shmear of the stuffing for “potato skins” or throw them in the freezer for a mid-day snack later on!  (I froze mine, and have cheddar cheeze and bacon bits in mind!)

Choose a saute pan or baking dish that can go in the oven.  Drizzle a bit more oil in the bottom of the pan, and place the potatoes on top of the oil (this will help to make their bottoms nice and crispy!).  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 more minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees for 5 more minutes.  They’ll brown lightly on the top and form crispy bits.

I highly recommend letting them cool for about 5 minutes before digging in- they’ll be like molten lava!


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Feather Buns

I’ve been thinking about a certain issue of late…why is it that grandmother’s have the best recipes? After pondering for a good, long, while, I’ve come to a conclusion.  They have their whole lives to find them! I’ve got a good recipe here, a crappy one there, but see, I’m only 31.  Just wait til I’m 80!  Hooo, boy.

Of course, upon further pondering, a different thought occurs to me.  This is not a universal rule. One of my grandmothers was capable of whipping up a dinner party for 10 officers with no planning, at the drop of a hat, while my other grandmother’s specialty was Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese with hot-dog rounds stirred in.  Hmmmm.  Oh well, she had other specialties, I guess.  Like horseback riding.  And cooking broccoli in the pressure cooker ’til it was brown.  Oh, and Frosted Flakes.

Anyway.  These lovely feather buns have been at every family holiday for a great many years, and I’ve taken it upon myself to continue the tradition since my grama’s hands have a hard time mixing and shaping.  They are truly lovely.  I generally eat at least 3 the moment they come out of the oven.  With jam.  Or butter.  Or nothing.  I especiallly love them as mini ham or turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving.

Grama B’s Feather Buns
yields approx 3 dozen

Warning: silly me– I attempted to make a 1-1/2 batch in my kitchen-aide mixer.  Ha!  Overflow! I’d stick to one batch at a time if I were you!

  • 1 cup hot mashed Russet or Idaho potato- reserve the cooking water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter or shortening (I use Spectrum Organic)
  • 2 cups whole milk, scalded and cooled
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cakes fresh yeast or 2 pkgs instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm, not hot, potato cooking water
  • 8 to 8-1/2 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl, mash the potato together with the sugar and shortening.  Stir in the milk, salt and eggs.  You’ll be left with a fairly sloppy batter.  Separately, dissolve the yeast in the reserved warm- not hot- potato water.  Stir into the potato mixture.  With a whisk, stir in 2 cups flour.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise for one hour.

Transfer to batter to the bowl of an electric mixer and add about 6-1/2 more cups of flour.   (Unless it’s a particularly dry day, I always use the extra 1/2 cup of flour.)  Knead for about 8-10 minutes to make a soft dough, stopping to scrape down the dough as needed.  At this point, the dough may still feel a little sticky, but the moisture will even out during the next rise.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise until double in bulk, about one hour.

Place your *oven rack in the center-most position and turn on the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly sprinkle your work counter with flour.  Using a bench-scraper and scale portion out the dough into 1-3/4 to 2 ounce balls.  (Alternately, eyeball it!!  Each finished ball should measure approx. 2-inches in diameter).  To roll the balls, cup your hand over the piece of dough as it sits on the counter.   Begin moving your hand in a clock-wise motion (think: wax on, wax off”), until the piece of dough becomes a ball.  You’ll notice that the underside of the dough has formed a little belly-button.  Place the dough balls on a baking sheet- 12 per sheet- and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 12- 15 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and try your darnedest to not eat them all at once.

*I find that these cook more evenly when baked one tray at a time.  If you are short on time and must bake 2 trays at the same time, place your oven racks in the upper third and bottom third of the oven.  Be sure to swap the trays, top to bottom and bottom to top, midway through the baking time.

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chicken bake #1Another fun “find” from my beloved Mr. Oliver.  I love finding ways to use a variety of veggies in one dish, and chicken thighs are practically a staple around here ’cause they’re so darn cheap and delicious.  This was so good the first time around that I promptly called my parents to suggest that I bring it over for the upcoming Birthday Extravaganza-part deux (Laura, Dave and a belated Father’s Day).  And happily, they accepted.  It’s a great one for dinner parties because it can be fully prepared earlier in the day and then popped in the oven at dinner time.  We served it with thick slices of bread to sop up all the extra juice.  Yum.

Baked Summer Chicken Stew adapted from Jamie at Home
serves 4

  • 2 pounds new potatoes, washed and partially peeled (I like a little skin!)
  • 4-8 each, boned, skin-on chicken thighs, depending upon their size
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, stemmed, cut in half, and drizzled with olive oil
  • 1 medium heirloom tomato or 1/2 pint plum-sized tomatoes, cored and scored on their bottoms
  • 1 medium hand full green beans or yellow wax beans, trimmed
  • 4-8 sprigs oregano, leaves plucked
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Trim the chicken thighs of excess fat and slice each thigh into 3 strips.  Preheat a saute pan over medium heat, and brown the chicken, skin-side down until golden.  Set aside.

Place potatoes in a medium-large pot of cold, salted water, and bring to a simmer.  Cook until they can be easily pierced with a paring knife.  They’ll need about 20 minutes to cook, depending upon their size.  When they are done, remove them from the water, and set aside. While the potatoes are cooking, you’ll prepare the rest of the veggies….

Dump the heirloom (or plum tomatoes) into the simmering potato water  for 5-10 seconds, to loosen the skin.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. When cool, remove the skin and discard.  If using a large heirloom tomato, you’ll need to dice it.  Leave plum tomatoes whole.

Dump the beans into the simmering potato water and cook until tender.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

By this time, the potatoes should be nearly done.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Choose a baking vessel that will easily hold the stew ingredients in approximately one layer. First add the potatoes, crushing them lightly with a spoon, then add the chicken, skinned tomatoes, beans, and oregano.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over, and toss everything very gently with your hands, distributing it evenly in the baking dish.

Place baking dish in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

Carefully remove from the oven and sprinkle the cherry tomatoes over the top.  Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened and the chicken is cooked through.

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Attending the Saturday farmer’s market is good for my soul.  I love it no matter the season.  It just always seems to fill whatever void needs filling.  I welcome the rain and wind in the winter, when fewer people attend and a sense of peace and quiet pervades.  The crowds are lighter and I can wander easily.  In the fall, I find the crisp air refreshing, and the vibrant root vegetables a glory to see.  The spring brings the crowds, but it also marks the beginning of short-season crops like asparagus, peas, and cherries.  I always buy as much as I know we’ll eat, not wanting to waste a moment of their short-lived bounty.  And here we are on the eve of the summer solstice.  Summer squash is everywhere, as is basil, and the first tomatoes are making an appearance.  It’s this time of year when I know that I must put a limit on the amount of money I bring with me, because I tend to want to buy one of everything.  And I love coming home and spreading it all out on the kitchen counter and thinking about what I’ll do with it all.

This past week, we put together a wonderful summer vegetable stew, inspired by a recipe I found in Local Flavors, by Deborah Madison.  The ingredients can and should vary, depending on what you find.  It’s a perfect place to use up late-season, starchy peas, tough, mature, green beans, or little odds and ends that don’t have another home.  Choose enough veggies to accommodate the number of people you plan to serve.  Use things like potatoes, peas, green beans, carrots, onions, summer squash, fresh shelling beans (need to be precooked), garlic, herbs, sweet peppers, and tomatoes (fresh or canned). It looks fairly ordinary, but all the flavors meld together and become absolutely delicious.


Summer Vegetable Stew

  • Prepare your vegetables depending upon their shapes and sizes.  For example,  young carrots might be split down the center, patty-pan squash could be cut into wedges, green beans cut into bite-sized lengths,  young potatoes halved, and onions sliced into wedges held together by their roots.
  • Warm some good olive oil with a bay leaf in a non-reactive dutch oven, or large casserole.  Add onion wedges, a few garlic cloves, a few sprigs of herbs, and a sprinkle of salt.  Cook gently, covered until they just begin to soften.
  • Add the dense, longer-cooking vegetables like carrots and potatoes.  Give them a sprinkling of salt.  Add a little water to help them steam, cover and cook for, maybe, five minutes.
  • Add the remaining vegetables and give them another sprinkling of salt.  If you’ve used canned tomatoes, you’ll want to use some of the liquid.  Cover again, and allow them to stew.  Check it in a few minutes to make sure that there is enough liquid in the pot.  If not, add water and maybe a little white wine.  There should be liquid that comes at least 1/2 way up the depth of the vegetables.
  • Allow the vegetables to stew gently until everything has become tender.  Pay special attention to things like carrots and potatoes, which will take the longest to cook.  It’s okay if the green peas and beans become drab in color.  This isn’t an al dente dish.  Their texture will become smooth and tender
  • When the stew is ready, taste it for salt and stir in a handful of roughly-chopped basil.  Spoon it into bowls and enjoy.

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