Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gratin Dauphinois' Healthy Cousin

Everyone loves potatoes! Mashed, boiled, fried or baked, they are usually loaded with butter and heavy cream, not exactly good for you. So, when you want a creamy potato dish that isn't loaded with fat, make "Pommes de Terre a la Boulangere", or "Boulangere Potatoes". This is an old French classic. The story goes that you would take your pan of potatoes to the local baker's oven (once the daily bread was finished) and roast your meat on a higher rack, letting the juices flavor the potatoes. How resourceful! The result is a creamy potato dish layered with sweet onions, slowly roasted in beef broth until slightly crisp on the edges. It's so savory, you won't miss the cream!

Boulangere Potatoes

Serves 6


3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 onions, sliced
2 pounds thinly sliced potatoes (a variety of potatoes looks nice, too)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful chopped fresh thyme
2 cups beef stock or chicken stock (beef is more authentic)


Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Melt half the butter with the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and gently fry the onions until soft and lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Spread half of the onions in the bottom of a medium shallow casserole. Layer half of the sliced potatoes on top, season with salt and pepper, and scatter over the thyme. Build another layer of onions, then a final one of potatoes, and finally pour in the stock. Dot with the remaining butter. Cover with foil, and bake until all the liquid has been completely absorbed, 2 to 3 hours, removing the foil for the last hour.

Recipe from French Taste: Elegant Everday Eating, by Laura Calder.  For Gratin Dauphinois, click here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dolphin Potatoes?

"Gratin Dauphinois" is a specialty of the former Dauphine region of France. Dauphine was located in southeastern France (now Isere, Drome, and Hautes-Alpes), and was an independent state from 1040 to 1349. After joining France, it maintained autonomy until 1457. Dauphine was ruled under the Counts of Albon, whose coat of arms bore a dolphin, thus the name. This luxurious potato dish, loaded with butter, cream, and Gruyere cheese, is definitely as extravagant as it is delicious! This is a classic, you should know! 

Gratin Dauphinois

Serves 6


2 1/4 pounds baking potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold potatoes!)
1 garlic clove, crushed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra softened butter for the dish
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
Kosher or sea salt, to taste (about 2 teaspoons)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded Gruyere (use really good imported Gruyere, if possible)


Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

Peel the potatoes and slice them thin using a mandoline or a food processor. Place the potato slices in a large bowl of cold water and move them around to get rid of excess starch. Drain well and dry thoroughly; use a salad spinner or else put the slices in a kitchen towel, gather the corners together, go outside, and swing your arm as fast and vigorously as you can. (I get my husband to do this for me, which makes me laugh, everytime!)

Rub a large shallow baking dish with the garlic clove and a little butter.

Put the butter with the cream in a large saucepan and bring just to a boil. Finely dice what's left of the garlic and add it to the butter and cream, along with the sliced potatoes, salt, and pepper. Gently simmer for 8 minutes.

Transfer to the prepared dish, spread evenly and top with the Gruyere. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until golden brown and bubbly. 

Recipe from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. For Boulangere Potatoes, click here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"One-Pan" and a Fire Extinguisher

I had good intentions. In fact, I'd already written a spiel about eating Thanksgiving in a restaurant, table for 2, how sad. So, I wanted to show you how to make a "One-Pan Thanksgiving Dinner", for people in small kitchens or without family nearby. However, after nearly burning up my kitchen in a cognac blaze, (I should have removed the pan from the heat before adding the cognac), maybe reservations aren't such a bad thing! The recipe I made was Turkey Paupiettes with Chestnuts and Brussels Sprouts. It wasn't very good, tedious, bland, and had a "brainy" appearance. I don't recommend it.

However, the recipe suggested serving the paupiettes with a squash or pumpkin puree. My husband detests pumpkin, so I made roasted sweet potato puree. Honestly, they are simple (and not hazardous), and were the best thing on the plate! This picture isn't Bobby Flay's "Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes", but; were made the same way (without the chipotle) and plainly mashed with a potato masher. After realizing I was going to have to replace my burnt and shriveled range hood, grease filter, screen things (if you find the need yourself, Lowe's carries them in the stores - thankfully), I just didn't care anymore. Wine?

Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

Serves 8-10


5 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon (1 1/2-2 chiles) minced chipotle chiles in adobo, or to taste, mashed to a paste (these are sold in small cans at the store)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt


Adjust the rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and butter a shallow, 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish.

Pierce each potato several times with a fork, place on the baking sheet, and bake until very soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the potatoes from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, halve them and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Beat the potatoes, chile paste, butter, and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed just until smooth. Spread in the prepared baking dish. Bake until hot, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fine! I Give In!

I was reading one of my new cookbooks the other day, and there it is AGAIN: "Spaghetti Aglio E Olio," a.k.a., "Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic" or "Spaghetti with Garlic, Chili, and Oil." I think I've seen this recipe in at least 6 or 7 of my cookbooks; but, have never made it because I thought, "How good can that be?" Well, I sat down my book and made a bowl for my lunch. I have to admit, it is an alluring pasta dish. So simple. So pure. You really do focus on the flavor of the pasta, and the heat is nice, too. This would be elegant as a first-course in an Italian menu, or even just for lunch. This dish is served without cheese, but a tablespoon of seasoned breadcrumbs makes a nice addition.

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio

Serves 6 (as a first-course)


1 pound spaghetti
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2-1 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (use the best you've got, it's important here)
2 handfuls flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Seasoned breadcrumbs, for serving (optional)


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti, until al dente.

Meanwhile, fry the garlic gently in the oil over medium-low heat until the garlic is yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the chili pepper flakes, and turn the heat to low until the pasta is done. Remove the garlic.  As soon as the pasta is done, drain it and tip it into the pan and toss with the oil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lazy Daze

Where I live, we've already had our first freeze. Brrr! I've been packaging rescued green tomatoes, wrapping each individually in newspaper, and putting them in a cardboard box with an apple (emits ethylene gas which helps stimulate ripening). I put the box in a cool spot and wait for the tomatoes to ripen. But you have to check them everyday, inevitably, one will go bad, just toss it. It all seems so sudden. My basil's gone, geraniums gone, trees are bare, and the days are shorter. It makes me long for the season past. At times like these, I make Spaghetti with Tomato Confit, Basil, and Parmesan. It reminds me of those lazy hours, lingering in the sunshine.

Spaghetti with Tomato Confit, Basil, and Parmesan

Serves 4 (This begs for a crusty baguette.)


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more (about 1/4 cup) for serving
1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
18 fresh basil leaves, plus 1/4 cup for serving (if large, cut into thin ribbons)
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
About 50 cherry tomatoes, rinsed and patted dry
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound spaghetti
2 cups loosely packed arugla or baby spinach
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan for serving


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Heat the 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the whole basil leaves and red pepper flakes and stir well.

Toss the tomatoes with the 1 teaspoon of the salt and the sugar and place in a 8"x12" roasting pan, lined with foil. The pan should be large enough to hold them in a single layer. If they won't fit, use another roasting pan and more oil. Spoon the onion mixture over the tomatoes. Add enough oil to come halfway up the tomatoes. Roast until the tomatoes are very tender, about 2 hours. Stir once, gently, during the roasting. You can roast the tomatoes up to 6 hours ahead.

Bring a large pot of water with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the spaghetti and stir constantly until the water returns to a boil. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the tomatoes and onion in a large saucepan over low heat. When the pasta is done, drain and transfer to the saucepan with the tomatoes. Add the arugula or spinach. Toss well. Add the basil and toss again.

Serve immediately in warm shallow bowls with Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Adapted from The Tomato Festival Cookbook, by Lawrence Davis-Hollander. I love this!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary

I've heard rumors, but is it really possible to make hollandaise sauce in a blender? The answer is YES! All these years, I've been whisking and carefully trying to create this beautiful sauce over a water bath, gently monitoring it's progress, hoping I wouldn't curdle or split the sauce. No wonder I only make it on special occasions! Well, not anymore! Try it, you won't believe it!

Blender Hollandaise

3 egg yolks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Pinch of cayenne or Tabasco sauce (optional)

Put the egg yolks, salt and pepper in a blender. (An immersion blender/cup works even better!) With the blender running, slowly drizzle (literally drop by drop) in the butter until emulsified. Stir in the lemon and chives. Taste and adjust seasoning. Hold the sauce in a bowl of hot water or thermos, until ready to serve. Seriously, it's that easy!

*You must use very fresh eggs, as this is a raw sauce.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm A Sucker For Cow's Doing The Jig

Concluding my "Irish Dinner Night", I finished the meal with Ben & Jerry's Dublin Mudslide ice cream.

Who knew that this ice cream shop, which opened in 1978, in a dilapidated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, would last this long, and make some of the best ice cream, EVER! Normally, I'm a purist and insist on making everything from scratch, but sometimes you just have to let go and serve something easy. In fact, I don't think I could beat this decadent flavor! There's no shame in serving this; in fact, do the jig and serve it proudly! Yum!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Save your Palate! Go Green!

Now you know they're good for you, but what do you do with tomatillos? A lot! These tangy little beauties are primarily used to make salsa and sauces in three ways:
  1. Briefly boiled for a bright, green salsa and sauce, perfect for chips, chicken, fish, tacos, tostadas, and enchiladas;
  2. Roasted for a rich, slightly browned salsa and sauce, perfect for beef, pork, and lamb;
  3. They are also great for braising things, e.g., pork and even brisket!
When I was in California, recently, I was astonished to see some of my extended family devouring a tomatillo salsa, and not having a clue what it was or how to make it. Well, let's make a basic simmered tomatillo salsa, a.k.a, salsa verde!

Simmered Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde Cocida)

Makes 2 cups. Salsa will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. If frozen, whiz it up in a blender or processor to restore it's smooth texture.


1 pound green tomatillos
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 serrano chiles, or more to taste
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup white onion, roughly chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, or to taste
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil


Remove the husks (usually a little sticky) and pull off the stems from the tomatillos. Wash them.

Bring the tomatillos, garlic, and serranos to a boil in a medium pot of salted water.

Lower the heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until the tomatillos have softened slightly and lost their brightness everywhere except on the indented stem, like this:

Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and drain everything in a colander, allow to cool slightly. Cut the stems off the serranos and place everything, along with the 1/2 cup cooking liquid, in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt, pulse a few times. (You don't want to completely lose the onion texture.)

Heat the oil in the pot you used for boiling over medium, medium-high heat. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle, stand back, and pour it all in at once. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly for about 6-7 minutes, until it thickens and deepens color. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the cilantro, taste to see if it needs salt, usually does, about 1/2 teaspoon or so. Now, it's ready to serve!

Adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen (one of my favorite cookbooks, EVER!)