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.


Salmon with Dried Shiitakes in a Marsala Cream Sauce; Potato and Carrot Chips

This is a variation on a classic French dish made with Madeira wine and heavy cream that I found while thumbing through Larousse Gastronomique. I like Marsala wine a bit better and it is what I had on hand. For the dish you will need:

Two salmon filets



Olive Oil

1 tsp. of butter

4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms

1/2 cup of Marsala wine

1/4 cup heavy cream

Juice of one lemon

Parsley and/or chives for garnish

First, salt the salmon well and set aside. In a bowl, pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms and let them soak for at least half an hour. You can use fresh mushrooms of your choice here. I like to use dried now and again because they have an earthiness and depth of flavor not found in fresh mushrooms. They can overwhelm a dish if you’re not careful, but since I was dealing with a rich fish with sauce I felt they could really add something.

Remove the mushrooms from their bath and remove the stems. Slice the caps in about 1/4 inch slices. Heat some olive oil and the butter on medium high heat. Dredge the salmon in the flour, add it to the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add the mushrooms and sauté a few minutes on each side. You want a nice crust. Remove the salmon from the pan. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Be sure to scrape the pan to get all the flavor from the salmon. Reduce the wine by about half and add the heavy cream and lemon juice with the pan off of the heat. Whisk continuously to avoid separation and curdling. Add the salmon back to the pan and cover in the sauce. Plate with some green garnish (I used chopped flat-leat parsley) and potatoes on the side.

For the potatoes:

On a mandolin (or with a knife if you have way more patience than I do) slice a potato on the thinnest setting possible. You should be able to see through them. Chop a carrot finely and put a bit of carrot on a slice of potato. Take another slice of potato and sandwich in the carrot. Fry these in vegetable oil until crispy. Salt and serve on the side. The carrot here is more for visual accent. You can try this with just about anything (meat, shrimp, mushrooms etc.).

This dish is gluten-free other than the dredging flour. You could easily use gluten-free flour as a dredge.


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About Real Potatoes: A Memo to the U.S. Potato Board

 Big Food is watching.

The Real Potato has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few months, but in the food blog world it’s still a tiny player (we just got our ten thousandth hit!).  Which is why I’m surprised by the amount of attention we’ve received from the food industry.

When I posted about diacetyl poisoning and microwave popcorn, a rival popcorn company jumped up to let you readers know that their product doesn’t contain diacetyl (at least, not anymore). The ongoing debate about foie gras has attracted some attention from representatives of the industry, both on the site and in my email inbox. And when I asked readers to submit recipes that have personal meaning to them, I got instead a response from the U.S. Potato Board. (I’ve deleted it, in an attempt to discourage further spamming.) “Alona” submitted a tasty-looking recipe and a plug for the Potato Board’s new blog, thepotatounderground.com.

Let’s talk about the U.S. Potato Board, then, shall we? After all, why would I delete something from the U.S. Potato Board? I like potatoes, they like potatoes, what’s the problem? Read the rest of this entry »

Pennsylvania Omelettes with Fingerling Potatoes

I was going to call this a California omelette, since it’s all about the flavors of avocado and tomato, but then Joe pointed out that the tomatoes, cheese, eggs, potatoes and onions were all locally raised in Pennsylvania.  (The avocadoes are from Mexico, by way of Trader Joe’s, and they were mostly overripe.)  So Pennsylvania omelettes it is.

This is a great dish for a lazy Saturday brunch.  Really, this is how Saturdays should be spent.  The way I see, it, our foremothers and fathers in the union movement of the 1930s fought and sometimes died to win us the weekend, and we ought to enjoy it fully.  (Ditto for lunch breaks.)

By the way, don’t skimp on the tomatoes here, because the whole dish depends on their quality.  If you use fresh, ripe, organic tomatoes that are in season, you will not regret it.  Good cheese is also crucial here.  We used some amazingly sharp, funky Colby from the Headhouse Market.

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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Shepherd’s Pie

This dish was a standby when I was growing up; in fact, I think this was the first dinner I ever learned to cook completely by myself.   It’s mild– OK, bland– and comforting, and easy to make.  Pittsburgh meat-and-potatoes comfort food at its finest– and, added bonus, gluten free.  (And no, this version does not involve actual shepherds.)

Shepherd’s Pie, Cheswick style

2-3 cups mashed potatoes

1 lb ground beef

cheddar cheese


I’m listing ingredients as a formality– this is a free-form dish, to be customized according to your tastes.

First, make mashed potatoes.  (If you don’t know how, there are abbreviated instructions here.)  It’s best, if you have time, to let them sit for an hour or two so they’re a little more solid.  As a kid I used to use the kind from a box.  It still works if you’re low on time.

Next, brown some ground beef in a skillet.  You can season this however you like.  Once it’s cooked, drain off the fat and layer the meat in the bottom of a pie plate (ceramic is best). 

Then comes your middle layer.  I prefer to slice cheddar cheese and layer it on top of the meat.  Cover this with a layer of mashed potatoes, making sure not to leave any holes.  Put a few pats of butter on top and bake in a 350-degree oven until the peaks of the potatoes start to brown. 

Here are a few potential customizations:

  • Cook the meat with chopped onions, a bit of cinnamon and pine nuts.  Omit the middle layer, but sprinkle the top of the potatoes with feta cheese.
  • Replace the cheddar cheese with stewed vegetables– green beans and carrots are popular with this.
  • Add bacon.  Sure, it’s a heart attack on a plate, but what doesn’t taste better with bacon in it?
  • Replace the meat with slightly seared chunks of cod, a bit of heavy cream, and some black pepper, and omit the cheese.  This one’s really good.

But you all are creative, I’m sure you’ll come up with some good variations.  By the way, the leftovers are great heated up for lunch the next day.

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Lamb Chops in Yogurt with Whole Spices; Potato Patties (aloo-ki-tikiya): Take 2

Back in June, I found myself with four lamb chops and some potatoes, and decided to make these two Jaffrey recipes.  It turned out well, so when we bought lamb chops again (Trader Joe’s, people, seriously!) I decided to revisit the recipe. 

I won’t go into great detail about the technique, since I covered that pretty well in the last post.  I did, however, learn a few things this time.

The lamb recipe was, as before, easy but time-consuming.  You just brown your lamb chops, fry your spices for a minute, pour in a yogurt/water mixture and let the whole thing simmer for an hour.  Once again, my yogurt curdled.  The recipe has you pouring yogurt water into hot oil, so even vigorous whisking doesn’t really solve the problem.  The good news, however, is that this isn’t a yogurt sauce meant to be served with the lamb chops; it’s more of a straight-up simmer sauce.  It’s mostly there to soak into the lamb chops, keep them moist and infuse them with the flavor of the spices– which it does admirably, whether or not the yogurt curdles, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  (Although reader tips are more than welcome!)  Also, one change I did make was to used smoked peppercorns.  The flavor difference was subtle, but I think it added something to the meat overall.  Man, those things are potent.

The potato patties definitely turned out better this time around.  It’s easy in theory but difficult to do well; you form cooled mashed potatoes into a ball, flatten it, add a center of fried dal/onion/fenugreek (methi) mixture, form it into a patty, and fry it slowly till it get a nice red-brown crust.  Last time, I didn’t have time to let the potatoes thoroughly cool before making the patties.  The result was that they didn’t hold together well and kept trying to break apart in the pan.

This time, Joe made the potatoes before I got home from work, so they sat for about two hours in a covered bowl.  This helped, but when I went to form the patties they were still warm and sticky, and kept breaking apart in my hands.  I was really worried about their ability to hold together. 

As it turned out, they behaved just fine.  A crack or two formed when I flipped the patties, but they held together and were delicious.  Next time, I’d like to make the potatoes a day in advance and keep them in the fridge, and see if that helps.  Also, I added just a bit of chopped green chilli to the dal mixture, which gave the patties a nice little kick.

Last time, we had two patties left over, and we kept them in the fridge and made them the next day.  They held together well and were an easy side dish.  We have two left over this time as well, so I’m looking forward to having them tonight or tomorrow.

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