Tag Archives: potatoes

When Irish stomachs are growling…

21 Mar

Although not well known as a culinary giant, the food of Ireland is delicious. Simple and rustic, the traditional dishes of the emerald isle are perfect for entertaining. In the past week I’ve catered 2 events that wanted an Irish menu. One of the best things about Irish cooking is that there are lots of potatoes and everyone loves potatoes.Irish food has a great way of getting the most flavor out of basic ingredients. My Potato Leek soup is easily transformed into the traditional Irish soup, Colcannon, by adding bacon and cabbage. Lamb Stew is given a classy make-over by adding tri-tip and O’hara’s Irish Red Beer. And, while the Irish are big on desserts, an apple oatmeal crisp with whiskey anglaise pays tribute to the warm and sweet flavors celebrated in their beverage of choice.

The first even I did this week was a luncheon for the teacher’s at my mom’s school in Orlando. The menu was simple and classy and did not lack in flavor. Here’s what I served:

Potato leek soup with cabbage and bacon

Pub Salad
Mixed greens with tomatoes, cucumbers, fried onions and Irish cheddar, served with creamy herb dressing and roasted shallot vinaigrette

Banger Sandwiches
Irish sausage on rolls with whiskey glazed onions and Guinness mustard

Traditional Breads
Irish soda and brown bread served with Guinness butter and jam

Apple-Oatmeal Crisp with Vanilla Irish Whiskey Sauce
Apples baked with brown sugar, cinnamon, and oatmeal and topped with a creamy vanilla sauce infused with Irish whiskey

Irish Punch
Lime sherbert and 7-up

The event was really great. I love seeing the teacher’s so happy to have food. There were about 65 fed and I just made it with the food. I really thought that my numbers were right on the money, but I guess those teachers were hungry! Anyway, it the event went off without a hitch. Like I always say, the best events are when the food is gone and people are still talking about it. Next year’s event will have to be even better.

The second event I did was for a good friend in Harrisburg. They asked me to do a traditional Irish dinner for about 12 of their friends. Even though I have cooked Irish food for awhile, and I got a little bit of practice from the luncheon, I was nervous. I mean these people are Irish through and through. They’ve been to Ireland and they know when the food is right and when it’s just not. I was intimidated but I pressed on. Here’s the menu for the dinner party:

traditional potato leek soup with cabbage and bacon

Bangers and Boxties
potato pancakes with Irish sausage and whiskey glazed onions

Chicken and Mushroom Hand Pies
miniature pies filled with chicken and mushrooms, served with a savory dipping sauce

Braised Lamb and Beef with Guinness
Slow roasted lamb and tri tip with root vegetables

Soda Bread with Guinness Butter

Apple Crisp
Apples cooked with cinnamon, brown sugar and oatmeal with Irish Cream Anglaise Sauce

Shamrock Cookies
Decorated sugar cookies with royal icing

This menu is a little more intimate and fun. I could add more details since I didn’t have to do as much volume. Again everything was a big hit. Although my boxties were not quite what they were expecting. There’s a rhyme is in Irish folklore that says: “Boxtie on a griddle, boxtie in a pan, if you can not make a boxtie, you’ll never get a man.” Well, thank God I don’t live in ireland and thank God I’m already married, because my boxties just weren’t right. They tasted good, but they needed to be thinner, more like crepes than pancakes. Lesson learned…

Whenever I do cater jobs I get asked the same thing, can I have the recipe or are these kitchen secrets. Personally I think that a good chef has nothing to hide. I share all of my recipes. Although, I’m mid-book writing and some recipes will have stay mine for a little while longer 🙂

As requested by a few of my clients, here’s the recipe for my apple crisp.

Apple Crisp with Whiskey Creme Anglaise

For the crisp:

2 red delicious apples, large dice
2 granny smith apples, large dice
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the apples with the white sugar, half of the cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of flour and the raisins. Put the apples in a baking dish. Combine the rest of the ingredients and top the apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are bubbly and the top is brown.

for the anglaise:

1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
1 oz Irish Whiskey or Baileys
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In a sauce pan, combine the milk and cream and heat until wisps of steam are visible. While you are waiting for the dairy to heat, wisk together the sugar and egg yolks. Whip until the yolks are thick and pale yellow. Add in the vanilla and whiskey. When the milk is hot, slowly add it into the egg mixture, wisking the whole time. Add everything back into the saucepan and stir gently until the anglaise thickens to the point that it coats the back of a spoon. Chill and serve over apple crisp.

Enjoy my friends

Always thinking of the next meal


A Classy Simple Soup

25 Jan

Potato leek soupI love potato leek soup. It’s filling and warms you right down to your toes. It’s a classic soup that sometimes gets overlooked when it’s time to decide what to make for dinner. My recipe is not only elegant, but easy to make.

Katie’s Potato Leek Soup:

2 large or 4 small leeks, sliced into 1/4 in pieces, dark green tops reserved
1 pound red bliss potatoes, washed, skins left on, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
5 cups leek broth (recipe below)
salt and pepper to taste
chives and bacon to garnish

Start by melting the butter in a pot. Then add the leeks and stir. Let the leeks cook until translucent. Keep an eye on them since they have a tendency to burn if not stirred every so often. When the leek are softened, add the leek broth to the pan, reserving about a 1/2 cup just in case you need to adjust the consistency at the end. Add in the potatoes and stir. Let the soup cook for 30-45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. (You want the potatoes to slide right off a knife when they are pierced) Using a blender or an immersion blender, puree until the soup is thick and velvety. Season and garnish with chives and/or bacon. It is also great with fried onions or potato chip crumbled on top.

Leek Broth:

Dark green leaves reserved from the leeks, roughly chopped into 1 inch pieces
6 cups water

Put the leaves and the water in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let cook for 45 minutes. Strain the liquid out and set aside for the soup.

Chef’s Note: You can use other varieties of potatoes but the texture will vary, sometimes resulting in a mealy soup texture. If you use russett potatoes, be sure to peel them

I love how versatile this soup is. You can serve it hot, or serve it chilled as vichyssoise. Either way this soup is a simple way to get your veggies in, and because of the potatoes, the soup is luscious and creamy. For an even lighter version, use olive oil instead of butter. If you want to go the other direction and make something more decadent, use bacon fat instead of the butter.

Always thinking of the next meal


Glorious Gratins

4 Oct

Anytime you see something exiting the oven with a crispy golden crust you can’t help but smile. Your brain knows that the bubbling, steaming goodness is finally finished baking to perfection and is that much closer to arriving on your plate. Did you know that these bubbly, crispy wonders have a name? Well they do, they are called gratins.

You have probably made one or two of these in the past without even knowing that you had made it. Here are a few examples of popular gratins:

1. Scalloped Potatoes
2. Baked Macaroni and Cheese
3. Any casserole that is topped with breadcrumbs or cheese and baked, like potato casserole or broccoli casserole

See, things that you have been making forever and calling casseroles could actually be much fancier than you originally thought. Plus, if your dish does fall into this category, you could switch the name to gratin and all your friends will think you are trés chic and very gourmet.

I personally use the term gratin to define a more specific casserole. I think that gratins should have items that are layered. It doesn’t really matter if they are sliced, or diced, or chopped, as long as they are assembled in layers. My zucchini gratin for example is thinly sliced zucchini layered with roasted red peppers, ricotta cheese and parmesan.

IMG_0853Zucchini Gratin

1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 large roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of butter

Rub the butter on the inside of a small crock or ramekin. Layer the zucchini, pepper, and cheeses in 3 layers or until the vessel is filled. Top with parmesan and optional breadcrumbs if you want. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes until cheese on top is brown and bubbling. Serve hot.

As I said before gratins can come in all shapes and sizes. I love making potato gratins as a nice change to mashed potatoes and plain old pastas. The key to making a perfect potato gratin is to make sure that potatoes are cut to the same size so they cook evenly, and making sure the gratin is seasoned well. I always heir on the side of over seasoning when it comes to gratin cooking, simple because it’s very difficult evenly season after the gratin is cooked. Remember that the potatoes will absorb the seasoned liquid while the gratin is baking and that is where the flavor is coming from.

Another key to perfect gratins is the correct amount of liquid. When doing a potato gratin, use enough liquid to just cover the top layer of potatoes. If you use more, you will wind up with soup, use less and your potatoes won’t cook.When it comes to other vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, or parsnips, you have to use your own judgement. Zucchini has a lot of water in it, so it’s not necessary to use a lot of liquid. The vegetable with contribute most of the necessary cooking liquid. For eggplant, you want to use some extra liquid. Eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb like potatoes, but unlike potatoes, they do not have and starch to help thicken the liquid. Use just enough liquid to flavor, without creating soup. Parsnips are similar to potatoes. They are root vegetables that taste like spicy carrots. They work well with a creamy base with gruyere or an aged goat cheese like Midnight Moon.

Give gratins a chance. If you’re tired of the same old side dish or just want to make your contribution to the pot luck seem fancy a gratin can come to the rescue without much work.

Always thinking of the next meal


School Lunch throw-back

16 Sep

“Woke up in the morning
Put on my new plastic glove
Served some reheated salisbury steak
With a little slice of love…”
Adam Sandler’s Lunch Lady Land

One of my favorite lunches when I was I was in grade school was baked potato bar. The concept was simple. You got a baked potato, and had the option of topping it with any number of things. Depending on my mood, I would go with chili and cheese, or broccoli, cheese, and bacon. Tonight I choose to recreate the the latter.

IMG_0805First, start with the broccoli. As mentioned in a previous blog entry, start with fresh broccoli. Blanch and shock the broccoli as needed. Set aside and start with the cheese sauce. Here’s the recipe:

Cheese Sauce:

1/2 cup of milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cheese with the cornstarch. Then bring milk to a simmer and stir in the cheese. Bring to boil and continue to stir. Keep warm until you’re ready to use.

Make the potato however you’re most comfortable. I did mine in the microwave simply because it cooks faster and I was hungry. But you could certainly bake them in the oven with a little olive oil and salt.

If you want to go completely old school, (pun intended) top with Bacos. Those are the little “bacon” bits that you can find in the aisle with the salad dressings. For me though, nothing beats the real deal. I used bacon that I cooked earlier in the week. I also garnished with torn parsley.

You’re never too old to enjoy something from your childhoodIMG_0804

Always thinking of the next meal


Sprechen Sie Deutsches?

31 Jul

Nine. But I can cook a darn good German meal. Last night we have Ryan’s brother and girlfriend over for dinner. The menu?

Schweinefleisch Schnitzel (pork schnitzel)

Apfelmus (applesauce)

Grüne Bohnen mit Knoblauch (green beans with garlic)

Himmel und Erdekartoffeln (Heaven and Earth potatoes)

Sauerkraut (sauerkraut…that’s a hard one)

Brezelbrot (Pretzel bread)

So how was it? Delicious. In fact, I meant to take pictures to post here, but it was eaten so fast I didn’t get a chance.

How do you make schnitzel? It’s super simple…

Schitzel for 4

4 pieces of veal, pork, or chicken approximately 5 oz each pounded to 1/4 inch thickness

Standard breading procedure:

1 1/2 cups seasoned flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs

Dip the pounded meat into the flour, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. Add 3 tablespoons of canola oil into a hot sauté pan. Add the breaded meat and brown on both sides (approx. 1-2 minutes on each side) Put the schnitzel into a 325 degree oven and cook until the meat is cooked through. (8-12 minutes depending on the meat) Serve hot.

German food is very high ranking on my list of favorites to make. Having German relatives and German blood running in my veins, there is nothing in my mind that couldn’t be improved with a good strong mustard. Here’s the thing I find really interesting…

Almost every culture has a very similar menu. If you were making Italian, you’d be making Pork Milianese. (i.e. breaded pork chop) If you were making American, Shake and Bake. (just kidding on the last one.) Anyway, the point is that sometimes you think that you aren’t going to like something, when in reality you are already eating it. It’s all about knowing how dishes are made. Doing a little research and making small substitutions like roasted rosemary potatoes and sautéed escarole, leaving out the applesauce and pretzel bread and you’d have a classic Italian meal. Give it a try.

Always thinking of the next meal


The Chain Gang

30 Jul

So last night Ryan and I ate at Outback and it got me thinking. Ever since graduating culinary school, people ask me if I can eat at places like McDonald’s and Panera Bread. The truth of the matter is that education does not make (or at least should not) make you better or above what you once enjoyed. What education does for you is give you the sensibility to know what to expect and how to gauge a great experience from a poor one.

For example, McDonald’s promises fast, hot food. Beyond that there isn’t much. So if I go to McDonald’s and I get a cold burger that takes a long time. I have the right to feel disappointed. McDonald’s had failed to live up to the promise of a fast, hot meal. At a place that is a little fancier, say Le Bec Fin, the promises are a little higher and involved. Understanding what to expect is the biggest part of being happy with your meal out.

Last night, we were unfortunately disappointed. Outback promises a uniquely spiced steak at a reasonable price in an “Australian Outback” theme. So, why were we disappointed? Besides the slow service, the steak was not seasoned, not cooked  to the right temperature, and the sweet potato I had ordered as my side was closer to a dessert than a potato. And the amount of cinnamon butter on top of this so called tuber was melting all over the plate. This made everything taste like cinnamon and brown sugar. Not exactly the spices I was expecting on my meat. Ok ok, so I’m a little picky when it comes to my steak and I probably should have known better, but for 9.99 a 6oz steak is a deal.

I feel like in general that most chain restaurants fall into this category of disappointment. The food stylists and photographers that are hired to make the food at these place look amazingly mouth-watering do their job to the “T”. They get you in the door and then fill your plate with average, uninspired food. Don’t get me wrong, how can you miss the soup and salad at Olive Garden or the fried food at Friday’s during a game? But the honest answer is that you shouldn’t order the pasta at Friday’s, or the seafood dish at Olive Garden. If you do, you are just asking for trouble.

From now on Ryan and I will be sticking to the local individually owned places. They are always better. Or going to those places that we know to order the right things. Pasta at Maggiano’s, nachos or quesadillas at Chili’s, and burgers at Champps. Sorry Outback it will be a very long time before we return.

Always thinking of the next meal,