Leek Mashed Potatoes, with a bonus leftover recipe

There are some beautiful leeks coming out at the farmers’ market right now.  I love the flavor of leeks, but the only recipe I really know is potato-leek soup.  Joe and I put our heads together and came up with this easy, tasty fried leek mashed potato dish.  We had it with a roast chicken and Jennie’s excellent and easy roasted green beans.

Leek Mashed Potatoes

3 leeks, with green parts cut off, split down the middle

1 1/2 lbs potatoes (we used Yukon Golds), skin on

3 tbsp light cream

2 tbsp butter

4 tbsp olive oil

Salt to taste

Dice the potatoes, leaving the skin on, and boil them until they are tender enough to poke with a fork.  Soak the leeks in water for about 20 minutes to wash out any dirt.  Remove from water; drain.  Slice the leeks into 1/2-inch strips.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the leeks.  Let them cook down until they are soft.  Remove them from the oil and put them into a food processor.  Pulse the processor just once or twice– you don’t want to puree the leeks, you just want to chop them into smaller pieces.  Return to pan with 1/2 tbsp butter and sautee until the butter is incorporated.

Mash the potatoes in a large bowl.  Add cream, remaining butter and leeks and fold in until they are incorporated.  Serve hot.

This recipe is gluten free and vegetarian.

Got leftovers?

Leftover Leek Potato Pancakes

Leek Mashed Potatoes

1/2 cup homemade bread crumbs

1 egg

olive oil

plain yogurt or sour cream

Form leftover mashed potatoes into balls and flatten.  You should have a pancake about the size of your palm and half an inch thick.  Beat the egg in a bowl and dip pancakes in egg to coat them.  Roll them in bread crumbs.  Heat the oil in a pan and fry until golden brown and delicious.  Serve with yogurt or sour cream.

This recipe is vegetarian.


Recession Food: Emergency Recipes

So the economy is crashing and burning, and with oil pushing $150 a barrel, it’s unlikely that food prices will drop, or even plateau, anytime soon.  Most people are struggling to get by (link via What to Eat), and food banks are struggling to keep up with demand as hunger increases among the working poor.

As you might expect, the food media is following suit by publishing lots of money-saving tips.  We’re encouraged to pack our lunches, stop buying prepared foods, eat legumes instead of meat and use coupons wisely– good ideas all.  Our grandparents survived the Depression, and our generation has a lot to learn from them.

But what do you eat when you’re really, really broke?  When you’re down to the change in your couch cushions, what’s for dinner?  Is Taco Bell the only option?

Well, readers, my dear husband and I are card-carrying members of the Working Poor, and we faced this question very regularly in college and then during some lean years trying to survive in New York City.  Since Joe in particular is a master at making something from nothing, we’ve amassed some lovely food-emergency recipes to share with you.  Well… lovely might be pushing it, but they’ll get you through the day.   Here are our top five day-before-payday meals. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday Roast Chicken

image from FallenSouffle.com

The chicken holds a strange position in the American diet. On one hand, we eat more chicken than just about anything else; chicken dishes are staples in restaurants, in fast food and in home cooking. On the other hand, most of those chicken dishes don’t taste much like chicken at all.

The American chicken is a monstrous, genetically modified beast, bred for maximum breast meat, without much attention to flavor (or to humane raising practices, for that matter). We eat chickens raised on feedlots, fed meal made from other chickens and laced with massive doses of antibiotics. It tends to be tough and stringy and taste like cardboard, so we fry it in grease or slather it with sauces. It’s a blank slate on which to build a meal, a tasteless carrier for cheese or breading or sauce. It’s protein without passion.

Which brings us to the Sunday roast chicken. My generation doesn’t think to roast chickens, really, since we’re not used to chickens having flavor; our grandparents’ generation, on the other hand, mostly grew up raising chickens, eating fresh eggs and occasionally killing a chicken for Sunday dinner. (My grandmother, a sweet and physically tiny woman, likes to gross out her grandchildren by telling us about how good she was at wringing chickens’ necks back on the farm in Carolina.) But today, with organic and humanely raised chickens once again becoming widely available, the roast chicken is making a comeback.

Anthony Bourdain says in his Les Halles Cookbook that you can measure a chef by how well they do a simple roast chicken. With all respect to Bourdain, though, my favorite recipe is Thomas Keller’s roast chicken, posted on Epicurious.com. It is the simplest of recipes: truss the bird, salt it, roast it for an hour or so, baste it and let it rest before serving. That’s it. No stuffing, no temperature changes, nothing fancy whatsoever. It comes out with a beautiful, crispy golden brown skin and tender, juicy meat. It tastes like chicken. And it’s delicious.

Serve with roast vegetables, potatoes or fresh bread.

Roast one of these babies on Sunday, then use the leftovers all week for chicken tacos, chicken salad, or whatever you can think of.

Spinach Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

It’s true, I admit it: I’m obsessed with spinach salads. I can’t get enough. I’m forever thinking of delicious things to do to a bowl of baby spinach. I realize this obsession is a little strange, but since most of my food obsessions tend to involve things like duck fat or pork belly or ghee, a spinach obsession is probably a healthy thing!

I whipped this little salad up last night to accompany the tasty Whole Foods mushroom ravioli Joe was making. I just grabbed some things we had in the house, but it turned out to be marvelously tasty. It was so good I had another one later, while watching Jericho (excellent show, by the way), and packed one for lunch today. It’s that good. And it’s very simple to whip up.

Spinach Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

Large handful of baby spinach, rinsed

Handful of pine nuts

A few tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese

Extra virgin olive oil (the best you can get)

Lemon juice

Pieces of leftover roast chicken (optional– use whatever you’ve got lying around)

Put the pine nuts in a dry pan and toast over medium heat until they are dark golden brown, but not burnt. They’ll be crunchy and release their oil, which is full of flavor. Crumble the feta over the spinach. Add the pine nuts, chicken, and olive oil and toss. Give it a few squirts of lemon juice and dig in. Repeat.

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Scottish Meat Pie

This recipe has been a McCoy family tradition for a couple of generations now. I’m not sure whether these are really eaten in Scotland, but they used to sell them from a roadside stand back in the 1940s, in the part of Harmarville, PA which now hosts a fast-food strip. This is infinitely better and more comforting than fast food, and if you use store-bought pie crusts (because, let’s face it, it’s December and you are busy) it’s really easy, too. This is good hot, but it’s far better if you eat it cold after letting it sit for a day. It also works beautifully with gluten-free pie crusts. And kids love it– or at least I did when I was a kid, and I was really picky. Click below for the recipe according to my mom. Read the rest of this entry »

Rice with Broad Beans (Rezz ala Fool Akhdar)

This easy and adaptable dish is from Anissa Helou’s Lebanese Cuisine.  We had a pound of fava beans and a pound of meat, so we doubled the recipe, which calls for half a pound of each.  The recipe is actually for lamb, but we had beef so that’s what we used.  We also combined onions and shallots.   I’m relating the recipe here the way that we made it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Meatloaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

If you grew up in what the politicians call Middle America, you are no doubt familiar with meatloaf.  It’s usually mentioned as the height of culinary mediocrity, the unimaginative, badly cooked Tuesday night dinner of 1950s housewives.  The fifties did produce some horrible food in this country, no question: in fact, there’s an awesome web site that specializes in it.

But meatloaf gets a bad rap.  Yes, it’s disgusting if you’re just pouring ketchup over hamburger, but done property it can be a delicious, complex and comforting dish.  Give this simple recipe a try and tell me I’m wrong.

I used Alton Brown’s method for this meatloaf, but the ingredients are mine.  I should also, in the interests of full disclosure, admit that I really, really hate ketchup.  I realize that this is a shocking admission for a Pittsburgher, but it’s true.  I’ve never been able to stand it, my whole life.  I don’t know, maybe I was permanently scarred by those big vats of nasty they used to serve in the school cafeteria.  So instead of the traditional ketchup-and-Coke glaze, I’ve updated this meatloaf with a delicious spicy-sweet tomato sauce.  It’s got a bit of vinegar to make it tangy, like ketchup, but the taste is livelier and more complex than you get with ketchup.  Screw ketchup.

(I really wish I could stop typing this as “meatload.”)

For the meatloaf:

1 1/2 lbs ground beef* 

7 slices white bread, potato bread, or plain gluten-free bread (the Whole Foods GF sandwich bread works well)

1 small onion, chopped

3 whole cloves garlic

1 egg

1 pinch cayenne pepper

2 pinches sage (I used dried, but fresh would be better)

1 generous pinch salt

1 pinch fresh ground black pepper

For the glaze:

About 1 lb crushed tomatoes

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp molasses

2 tsp red wine vinegar

*Alton recommends a mixture of chuck and sirloin; we used chuck from Haldeman’s Foods at the Reading Terminal Market.  Definitely use high-quality, fresh ground beef.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Tear up the bread and put it in the food processor with the sage, pepper and cayenne.  Blend until you have bread crumbs.  Empty into a bowl and put the chopped onion and garlic into the processor.  Don’t quite puree it– leave it a bit chunky.

In a large bowl, mix the onion mixture, the bread crumbs, the salt and the egg into the meat with your (clean, please) hands.   Mix thoroughly but don’t squeeze too hard.

Press the mixture into a 10-inch loaf pan to shape it, and then turn it out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Insert a probe thermometer into the meat at a 45-degree angle, so that the end of the probe is in the center of the meatloaf.  Set the thermometer to go off at 155 degrees, and bake.

In the meantime, heat the crushed tomatoes in a pan over medium heat.  Add the garam masala, vinegar and molasses and stir in.  Lower heat and bring slowly to a boil.  Turn off heat and let cool for a minute, then pour into a measuring cup or other good pouring vessel.  After the meatloaf has been cooking for ten minutes (by which time it should start to have a bit of a brown crust) pour the glaze onto it and brush it over the meatloaf so it’s covered.  Be generous- it’s okay to have a big thick layer on top.

When the center is at 155 degrees, take the meatloaf out and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing (a bread knife works well for this).  Serve with garlic mashed potatoes.

Joe’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 smallish Yukon Gold potatoes

Olive oil

Truffle oil

2 cloves garlic

3 tbsp butter

Fresh herbs (we used parsley and sage), chopped finely

A splash of half-and-half (optional, for texture)

Peel, dice and boil the potatoes, then mash them in a bowl.  Add a splash of truffle oil, the butter, the half-and-half and the herbs.  In the meantime, slice the garlic and brown the slices in olive oil in a small pan.  When it starts to get brown, turn off the heat.  Drain the garlic oil into the potatoes.  Chop the garlic slices and fold into the potatoes.

By the way, the leftover meatloaf makes really good sandwiches– we made this with a week’s worth of lunches in mind!

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