Potato chips for dinner

Seriously. You’re allowed.

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Before

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After

Crispy Potato Roast (from Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Martha Stewart

About the baking dish: My dish in the first photo is on the small side because I discovered that I’d only bought 2/3 of the potatoes I needed and scaled the recipe down. However, I found when I had the full amount of potatoes (retesting this) that it didn’t fit quite right in the 9-inch round baking dish Martha suggested (though it might for someone else). So, I’m going to make the somewhat annoying suggestion that you slice up all of your potatoes, grab a few dishes that may potentially work (a cast iron skillet would be great here), play around with the potato slices and when you figure out what dish you want to use, then put the butter/oil in the bottom and set it up. It sounds a bit insane but will ensure that your potato dish ends up looking exactly the way you want it to.

3 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)(I used aleppo, which is milder and can therefore be used more generously)
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled (smaller diameter potatoes are great, if you can find them)
4 shallots, peeled
8 sprigs thyme
Garnishes (optional): Bits of goat cheese, crumbles of bacon and/or bits of crisped pancetta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine butter and oil. With a sharp knife or manoline, slice potatoes crosswise very thinly. Figure out what baking dish you’d like to use [see Note above]; Martha suggests a 9-inch round baking dish (a deep dish pie pan would fit this bill) though I think you could go an inch bigger, an oval 1 1/2 to 2 quart casserole dish might also be pretty.

Once you’ve picked the dish that seems the best fit for your slices, pour a tablespoon or so of the butter/oil mixture in the bottom and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the oil mixture with a few pinches of coarse salt and red pepper flakes, if using; this will allow you to season both the top and underside of the potatoes. Arrange your potato slices vertically in the dish.

Thinly slice shallots with your mandoline and slide shallot slivers between potato wedges, distributing them as evenly as possible. Brush with remaining oil/butter mixture. Generously season your dish with salt; go easier on the red pepper flakes, if using. Bake 1 1/4 hours, then arrange thyme sprigs on top and bake until potatoes are cooked through with a crisped top, about 35 minutes more. If casserole seems to brown too fast, cover it with foil to slow it down. Add any garnishes, if using, and serve immediately.

Happy Birthday, Dr. R!

A favorite.

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Strawberry Country Cake (Barefoot Contessa)

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the filling for each cake:

  • 1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy cream, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans. Then line them with parchment paper and butter and flour the lined pans.

Cream the butter and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature. If using 1 cake, wrap the second well and freeze.

To make the filling for one cake, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until firm. Slice one of the cakes in half with a long, sharp knife. Place the bottom slice of the cake on a serving platter, spread with 1/2 the whipped cream and scatter with sliced strawberries. Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream. Decorate with strawberries.

Three veg night

Three for three!

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Stir-Fried Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter and Sage (New York Times)

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and grated, 4 to 6 cups
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 stick butter, more to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 20 sage leaves

1. Put oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add sweet potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until they change color and begin to brown, then stir more frequently until they are tender but not at all mushy.

2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sage; shake pan occasionally. When butter turns brown, turn off heat.

3. Use tongs to remove sage and garlic from butter. Serve potatoes drizzled with butter and garnished with a few sage leaves. Garlic can be served alongside, though it will not be super-soft.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

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Rosemary Roasted Potatoes (Barefoot Contessa)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds small red or white-skinned potatoes (or a mixture)
  • 1/8 cup good olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the potatoes in half or quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary; toss until the potatoes are well coated. Dump the potatoes on a baking sheet and spread out into 1 layer; roast in the oven for at least 1 hour, or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking to ensure even browning.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, season to taste, and serve.

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Snap Peas with Pancetta (from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?)

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound sugar peas, trimmed
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, sliced
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 5 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring 2 to 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Fill a large bowl with ice water and have a sieve or colander ready in the sink. Put the snap peas into the boiling water for only 10 to 15 seconds, drain, and put immediately into the ice water. Cool completely and drain. Cut each snap pea in half lengthwise and place in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, place the pancetta and 1 tablespoon of water in a medium saute pan and cook over medium heat until the pancetta is browned and crisp, tossing occasionally to brown evenly. The water will evaporate and the pancetta will render some of its fat. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to cool.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar. Pour enough vinaigrette on the snap peas to moisten. Add the red onion, crumbled pancetta, Pecorino, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.  Toss well, season to taste, and serve.

Terrible, horrible Jews

We ate pasta on the first night of Passover. Not jewy pasta. Real pasta. (Since our Super Jew night, I’ve discovered that it actually is Passover.)

But it was damn good! I think the matzo balls the other night balance things out for us…

Make this. Now! (Or in eight days.)

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Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Garlic Chips (Smitten Kitchen)
Gourmet, November 2008

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise though I am sure crosswise would work as well
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried currants (we skipped this)
2 pounds green Swiss chard, stems and center ribs finely chopped and leaves coarsely chopped separately
1/2 cup water
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, cut into slivers
6 ounces feta, crumbled (1 1/2 cups)

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook garlic, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer garlic with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Cook onion in oil remaining in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add currants and cook, stirring, until plumped, about 1 minute.

Stir chard stems into onion mixture with water and 3/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook, covered, over medium-high heat until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in chard leaves and cook, covered, until stems and leaves are tender, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 5 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water and drain spaghetti.

Toss spaghetti with chard, olives, and 1/2 cup cooking water, adding more cooking water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with feta and garlic chips.

Old fave, new take

See pictures of french onion soup. Make french onion soup. Take picture of french onion soup. Devour french onion soup.

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Onion Soup [Soupe à l’Oignon] (Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1 1/2 pounds (680 grams or 24 ounces or about 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons (42 grams or 1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt, plus additional to taste
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) granulated sugar (helps the onions to brown)
3 tablespoons (24 grams or 7/8 ounce) all-purpose flour
2 quarts (8 cups or 1.9 liters) beef or other brown stock*
1/2 cup (118 ml) dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons (45 ml) cognac or brandy (optional)

To finish [Gratinée] (Optional)
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
1 to 2 cups (to taste) grated Swiss (I often use Gruyere) or a mixture of Swiss and Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter, melted
12 to 16 1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard

Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a 4- to 5-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over moderately low heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to real low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes. They don’t need your attention; you can even go check your email.

After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they have turned an even, deep golden brown. Don’t skimp on this step, as it will build the complex and intense flavor base that will carry the rest of the soup. Plus, from here on out, it will be a cinch.

After the onions are fully caramelized, sprinkle them with flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the wine in full, then stock, a little at a time, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 more minutes, skimming if needed. Correct seasonings if needed but go easy on the salt as the cheese will add a bit more saltiness and I often accidentally overdo it. Stir in the cognac, if using. I think you should.

Set aside until needed. I find that homemade onion soup is so deeply fragrant and flavor-rich that it can stand alone, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the graitinéed top once in a while. Here’s how to pull it off:

Preheat oven to 325. Arrange six ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Bring the soup back to a boil and divide among six bowls. To each bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon grated raw onion and a tablespoon of grated cheese. Stir to combine. Dab your croutons with a tiny bit of butter and float a few on top of your soup bowls, attempting to cover it. Mound grated cheese on top of it; how much you use will be up to you. [Julia Child, in another era, felt that 1/2 cup of grated cheese could be divided among 6 bowls. I can assure you that if you’d like your gooey bubbling cheese lid to be anything like what you get at your local French restaurant, you are looking to use more, such as a generous 1/4 cup.]

Bake soups on tray for 20 minutes, then preheat broiler. Finish for a minute or two under the broiler to brown the top lightly. Grab pot holders, and serve immediately.

* Porcini or mushroom stock are a robust vegetarian substitution.

 

Strange craving for olive oil cake, satisfied. The doubtful attractive nuisance liked it!

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Lemon Olive Oil Cake (Epicurious)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additional for greasing pan
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • Special equipment: a 9-inch (24-cm) springform pan; parchment paper

Preparation

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease springform pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.

Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons and whisk together with flour. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.

Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.

Super Jews!

And it’s not even Passover. (Wait, it’s not Passover, right? Lil’ help…)

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Chicken Stock (Smitten Kitchen)

The single most helpful thing you can keep on-hand if you wish to make your own soups and stocks is a stock bag, a concept I picked up from Sara Moulton way back when. This is a bag you keep in your freezer with ingredients you’re saving to flavor a soup base. It’s especially awesome for those of us who hate throwing things away–you never have to. Chopping leeks tonight? Throw the tough green ends in your stock bag. Discarding mushroom stems? Add them too. Only using half that onion? Don’t let it grow old and forgotten in your fridge.

This works for chicken as well. When you go to buy chicken for a dish, grab a whole one and ask the guy behind the counter to chop it for you. It costs a lot less and you can then save the back and wings (because who eats wings?) in a separate stock bag, so they’ll be ready when you are.

Yield: Approximately 3.5 quarts

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds chicken necks, backs and wings
3 celery ribs, cut into big chunks
3 carrots, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
2 parsnips, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
2 onions, unpeeled and quartered
1 head garlic, cut horizontally in half
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
4 quarts cold water
–and/or–
Any vegetables you have stashed in your Stock Bag (described above)

Bring all ingredients to a boil in an 8- to 10-quart heavy pot. Skim froth. Reduce heat and gently simmer, uncovered for 3 hours.

Pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard solids. If using stock right away, skim off and discard any fat. If not, cool stock completely, uncovered, before skimming fat, then chill, covered. Reserve a few tablespoons of the skimmed fat if you wish to use them in matzo balls (below).

Stock can be chilled 3 days in the refrigerator or frozen 1 month.

Matzo Ball Soup (Smitten Kitchen)

There are two matzo ball camps: those that like them heavy and leaden at the bottom of a bowl and those that like them light and fluffy–these are the latter, and in my mind, the better ones.

If you can’t find matzo meal, pulse a few pieces of matzo in your food processor until it is a coarse powder. If you can’t find matzo, well, you obviously do not live in New York City.

Makes 8 to 12 matzo balls

Matzo Balls
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons reserved chicken fat or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chicken stock or seltzer (which both of our mothers swear by for making the balls extra light)

For soup
2 to 3 quarts prepared chicken stock (recipe above)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
A few sprigs of dill

Mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts of well-salted water to a brisk boil in a medium sized pot.

Reduce the flame. Run your hands under water so they are thoroughly wet. Form matzo balls by dropping spoonfuls of matzo ball batter approximately 1-inch in diameter into the palm of your wet hands and rolling them loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 30 to 40 minutes.

About ten minutes before the matzo balls are ready, bring prepared chicken stock to a simmer with the sliced carrot in it. Ladle some soup and a couple matzo balls into each bowl and top with a couple snips of dill. Eat immediately.

Going in for Japanese

Instead of going out for sushi and udon… we went in!

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Udon with Chicken and Scallions (Tori Nanba Udon) (Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 8 cups dashi
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons each: dark soy sauce and light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths and halved lengthwise
  • 6 to 8 fresh shiitake mushroom caps, crisscrossed on top with knife
  • 1/4 head Napa cabbage cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1 pound fresh, refrigerated or frozen udon noodles

Directions

In a large pot, bring dashi just to a boil, then add the salt, soy sauces, sugar and mirin. Stir to dissolve, then bring the broth back to a gentle boil, and add the chicken pieces. Simmer until the chicken is tender, about 10 minutes, skimming any foam. Add the onions, mushrooms, and cabbage and simmer another 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of unsalted water to a rapid boil. Add the noodles, bring back to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Drain noodles in a colander and rinse under cold running water while rubbing noodles to remove surface starch. Serve immediately, placing noodles in individual warm, deep bowls. Ladle hot broth over the noodles, and arrange pieces of chicken, onions, and mushrooms on the noodles. Serve immediately.

Dashi (Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 1 piece konbu (approximately 5 by 6 inches)
  • 1 cup bonito flakes
  • 5 cups cold water

Directions

Wipe konbu with a damp cloth to clean.

In a stock pot, place konbu and cold water over medium heat. Just before the water begins to boil (DO NOT BOIL!) pull off heatand let stand 5 minutes.

Remove konbu, and bring back to heat. Again, right before stock begins to boil, remove from heat and add the bonito flakes. When flakes sink to the bottom, strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. Dashi can hold in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

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Sushi rice

  • 1 1/2 cups sushi rice
  • 2 cups water

Rinse rice until water runs clear.
Bring to boil, then cook on low heat for 20 min.
Remove from heat, keep covered for 10 min.

Fluff with fork and then mix in magical syrup (but first heat it up til sugar dissolves):

  • 5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt

Nigiri! Much easier to make than rolls. (Although I’ve learned that sushi rice is very sticky. Keep your hands wet when playing at home.) Recommend. We had salmon and yellowtail. Magical.