Hassleback Potato Casserole

Acclaimed food science writer, J. Kenji López-Alt has developed this sort of “mash-up ” ( if you will ) of a classic French gratin, and a beautiful Hassleback potato recipe. The idea is to stand the slices of potato vertically, rather than laying them flat. This ensures each serving receives both a creamy potato serving and a crispy edge in each bite.

This is my adaption.

You’ll Need:

4 to 4 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick slices with a sharp knife of on a mandoline 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup chicken stock

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves removed for the stem

Kosher salt and black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 cups finely grated Gruyère cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 bunch chives, chopped for garnish

Here’s How:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400’F degrees. Combine cheeses in a large bowl. Transfer 1/3 of cheese mixture to a separate bowl and set aside for garnish.

Add cream, stock, garlic and thyme to the cheese mixture, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, add white pepper, and red chili flakes– stir to combine.

Add potato slices and toss with your hands until every slice is coated with cream mixture, making sure to separate any slices that are sticking together to get the cream mixture in between them.

Prepare a 2-quart casserole dish with butter. Place on a high sided baking sheet.

Pick up a handful of potatoes, organizing them into a neat deck stack, lay them in the casserole dish with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing potatoes in the dish, working around the perimeter and into the center until all the potatoes have been added. The potatoes should be very tightly packed. If necessary, slice an additional potato, coat with cream mixture, and add to casserole. It is important the potatoes are very tight.

Pour the excess cheese mixture evenly over the top of the potatoes in the casserole dish until the mixture comes halfway up the sides. You may not need all the excess liquid.

Cover dish tightly with foil– sprayed on the inside with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer to the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes longer.

Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to oven. Bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for a few minutes,  garnish with chopped chives and serve.

Enjoy!

The Brussel Sprout Files!

Below is a formula sure to make your Brussel sprouts are a success no matter what flavor profile you’re after. Sweet, salty, or tangy!

Brussel sprouts are aggressive in flavor. You either love them or hate them. So many ways to cook them too– from baked chips to chopped salads. At my home we love our sprouts pan-fried with crisp pancetta– caramelized with lots of butter and my homemade infused olive oil, & lots of crispy fried garlic cloves.

Brussel sprouts caramelize naturally. On special occasions we make a few variations. Addition of maple syrup, or a sprinkling of brown sugar with a handful of candied walnuts will make your family roar! Sometimes we like to add crispy bacon, a nice citrus finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and lot of lemon zest– then an good dousing of parmesan cheese. I add a fair amount of fresh cracked black peppercorns!

Here’s How : 

To properly sauté brussels sprouts, you’ll need a fair amount of fat in the skillet. While bacon is a classic pairing, use your families favorite flavor. Ground pork sausage,  Italian sausage, apple sausage, duck fat, or –If you’re a vegetarian, good quality olive oil is perfect. As mentioned, I use pancetta. So delicious and I love the little crispy, crunchy salty nuggets. How much to use is up to you- I personally like a lot of Pancetta floating around in my dish- so I use a least a pound or two ( shhhh) per stock/stem of Brussel sprout! about 40- 50 spouts.

If using something like bacon or sausage, start by browning the meat in a very large skillet  – I use two of my largest skillets, and split the recipe between them. (Brussel sprouts contain lots of water– so, if you over-crowd the Brussel spouts in the pan, they will steam not caramelize. Tragic.)  Always halve the sprouts and trim the root-end clean.

Sauté the pancetta or your choice of fat, over medium-high heat. Render the fat. Once the meat is cooked, remove it with a slotted spoon set it aside for later addition. Add the halved brussels sprouts to the fat, shaking the skillet so that as many as possible landing cut side down or use tongs to ensure the sprout is positioned for optimum caramelization. Now, step away from the pan. Resist the urge to move them around. Distribution will prevent them from cooking through and becoming crispy golden brown  and delicious. They need to stay in contact directly with the surface heat. Cook until they have a nice  brown sear on one side, about 8 to 10 minutes. If a knife runs easily through, they are done.

Just before removing from the heat, add in  your favorite seasonings–like chopped garlic, sliced onions, fresh thyme, sprinkling of brown sugar, maple syrup, honey  or lemon juice  with lots of zest. Return the sautéed meat you rendered the fat from and toss to coat nicely. Cook for an additional 1- 2 minutes. If making an addition of candied nuts, now is the time to do so. Toss well and serve. (The candies nuts will remain crunchy if not added to the cooking process.)

Salt and pepper. Serve!

Steaming Method: 

Clean Brussels sprouts and slice in half lengthwise. Fill a large stock pot with about 2 inches of flavored stock and water combination– place a metal steamer basket on top. Bring the water to a simmer, add the brussels sprouts to the basket, season with salt and pepper and cover. Steam until the brussels sprouts are bright green and just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid from pot and let them cool slightly before removing. I like to shock my sprouts in cool ice water so they retain a bright green color. Then right before serving I dunk in hot boiling water or toss quickly in a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper until warmed trough. About two minutes. See my method here for retaining color and nutrition in steamed veggies.

Baking Method:

Halve brussels sprouts (or quarter them, if they are especially large), making sure to hold on to any leaves that fall away (these get the crispest) and toss with plenty of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and scatter them onto a rimmed baking sheet, making use of every inch. Brussels sprouts contain a good bit of water, and if they’re too crowded on the tray, they’ll steam instead of brown. If you need to use two or three sheet pans, do it.

Roast in a hot pre heated 450’F degrees oven, tossing every 10 minutes or so, until the outer leaves have begun to almost char, and the innermost part of the sprout is just tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Finish growing by making sure the cut side of the sprint is face down on the baking sheets surface so they get nicely caramelized. While they caramelize well on their own, tossing the sprouts with a tablespoon or two of maple syrup, honey or light brown sugar will give them a bit of holiday flavor. Remove from oven– add your favor flavors to finish, like lemon zest and fresh thyme, or fresh rosemary, or pine nuts with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese — toss well and return to the oven for an additional five minutes. Remove, set aside to cool. You can even toss with a bit of reduced balsamic reduction –. Whatever flavors you’ve decided on — enjoy– it’s all you!

I’d love to hear about your favorite way to make Brussel sprouts. Leave me a message and tell me how.

Happy Holiday!

10 Minute Umami Fried Rice 

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During the week families need meals that are fast, cheap and easy.

If I make rice I ALWAYS make additional and set some aside just for this recipe. My family loves this fried rice and I do too because it is practically a meal-in-itself.  Add sautéed shrimp or grilled chicken to the dish, and there you have it…. dinner. Using day old rice is not only to speed the preparation process, it’s important because fresh cooked rice  can continue steaming itself to mush during the stir fry process. Still good, but even better if the rice sits in the fridge overnight.

If you can’t get your hands on Japanese rice, feel free to substitute with other types of short grain rice. You can also use Jasmine or Basmati. To save additional time, I often use my mini food processor to chop the onion, garlic and the carrot.

Ingredients:

6 Tablespoons butter or butter substitute

1 large yellow onion, very finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrots, peeled and diced very small

6 cups day old short-grain Japanese rice, room temperature

2 eggs, beaten

½ teaspoon garlic salt

1/8-1/4 cup soy sauce

1 cup frozen green peas, cooked and held warm (optional)

3-4 green onions, sliced in 1/4 inch diagonal slices

Sesame seeds for garnish

 

Method: 

In a large stove top wok or 12-14 inch large sauté pan, heat the butter. Add the onions and carrots. Sauté until the carrots and onions begin to brown and the natural sugars start to caramelize. About 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 1 minute.

Add the day old cooked rice and stir until the carrot, onion and garlic are incorporated well. Add the beaten eggs and toss  the rice quickly to cook through —stir well. After everything is incorporated turn up the heat to high and allow the rice to begin browning string constantly. About an additional 3-4 minutes.

Season to taste with the soy sauce and add fresh cracked black pepper if desired. Remove from the heat, add the cooked peas, and scallions – toss to fluff the rice up and serve immediately. Garnish with sesame seeds.

To enhance the umami flavors ( our fifth taste sensation ) use Dashi broth instead of water when making rice!

Makes approximately 6 to 8 servings.

Traditional Vanilla Bean Pot De Crème

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Doesn’t come anymore traditional than this! Time consuming, but if you have the time to spare- you will learn why this recipe is a classic ! Deliciously rich, creamy and elegant.

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tablespoon

1- vanilla bean

Pinch salt

1teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

1teaspoon good quality instant espresso powder

Unsweetened whipped cream,for serving

Method:

In a medium saucepan, combine the whole milk with the heavy cream and 1Tablespoon of the sugar and the pinch of salt. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape the vanilla seeds into the cream, and drop in the empty pod. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Set aside, and allow the vanilla to steep in the cream for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining1/2 cup of sugar until thick and creamy, about 1 minute.

Re-heat the cream just until warm, and slowly whisk 1/2 – 1 cup of the hot milk, into egg yolks while whisking vigorously; do-not to curdle the eggs. Bring the egg yolks close to the same temperature as the milk. We call this stage: Tempering. Once the cream is tempered into the egg yolks, transfer the tepid egg mixture to the saucepan with the remaining flavored cream. Begin cooking to form a custard.

Over moderate heat, whisk constantly, until it is slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large glass measuring cup or bowl to help you poor into smaller serving vessels or molds.

Preheat the oven to 300’F Degrees. Place rack in center of oven. Bring a teapot filled with water to a boil.

Place the serving molds in a large high-sided casserole baking dish. Place the baking dish onto two sheet pans line the top sheet pan with a non slip silicon baking sheet or parchment paper. (This will provide double the insulation so the custards can cook evenly and slowly and non slip surface when you remove it from the oven.) Place the sheet pans with the molds on the center rack in the pre heated oven.

Gently stir the custard on the stove, remove the vanilla bean pod and discard. Carefully fill each mold with the custard mixture while in the oven.

Once the molds are filled with the custard- carefully pour the hot water from the teapot around the molds. ( try not to splash) Bring the water level up halfway – two-thirds up the sides of the molds.

Bake for 30 to 55 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the molds. To test for doneness, reach into the oven and using a tea towel to protect your hand, gently shake one of the molds. The custard should be set, but will still jiggle slightly, like gelatin.With tongs carefully remove the molds one at a time onto a tea towel and then onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Serve the pots de crème with lightly sweetened whipped cream and white chocolate shavings or a dusting of cinnamon sugar.

Makes approximately 8-10 servings depending on the size of your molds.

Note: If eggs begin to curdle in tempering stage immediately cool cream before and further additions and immediately run the mixture through a sieve before proceeding to the next step.

Loaded – Jalapeno Popper Potato Skins!

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Ingredients:

3-4 jalapeños

2 pounds small round baby potatoes, about 2 inches in size.

2 Tablespoons organic canola or vegetable oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 pound pancetta or center cut strip bacon, cooked crisp, drained of excess fat, and crumbled

Garnish Toppings

1 cup sour cream

1 bunch chives, chopped fine

1 tomato, small diced

10 black olives, chopped fine

Lime wedges

Method:

1-Place oven rack to top position and preheat your broiler to high.

2-Place the jalapeños onto a foil-lined baking sheet and broil,turning occasionally. Broil until skins are black and blistered on all sides. Or place on your outdoor grill for the same affect. Once skins are blisters and blackened,remove peppers to a brown paper lunch bag, or a plastic gallon- sized food storage bag. Seal.

3-When peppers are cool enough to handle, peel away skin with the sharp part of a paring knife scraping away from you onto a paper towel. Slice open and remove seeds. Discard skin and seeds. ( I wear gloves when handling peppers and seeds- do not touch your face. If you get caption on your skin and it is burning, wash with whole milk or anything high in fat. )

4-Dice peppers fine, and add to a small mixing bowl. Add cream cheese and mix well. Set aside at room temperature.

5-Place an oven rack to center portion of your oven. Adjust temperature to 400′ F degrees.

6-While oven is warming. Wash and dry potatoes. Place into a large food storage bag or bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and the garlic salt. Toss to coat all sides.

7-Place potatoes on a foil lined, high-sided baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center goes in easily. Remove from the oven and set to cool.Turn oven heat up to 450’F degrees.

8-When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise. With a teaspoon gently scoop out warm potato flesh, leaving 1/8″ potato inside the skin — ( save potato flesh, and use for mashed potatoes  during another mealtime)

9-Brush the inside of each halved potato with remaining oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper and place facing up on the foiled lined high sided baking sheet again and place back into the hot over for an additional 10 minutes until dry and edges are getting crispy. Remove and cool slightly.

10- Fill each potato skin with 1 teaspoon roasted jalapeño cream cheese mixture, top with pancetta or bacon and grated cheddar cheese.

11-Broil for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

12-Remove from oven, and serve with sides of sour cream, chopped chives, diced tomatoes, black olives and lime wedges

Serve warm and crispy!

*Make variations by adding grilled and finely chopped, Carne Asade steak or ground taco seasoned cooked ground hamburger to the bottom of the potato skin before filing with cream cheese mixture.

The Faux-Re-O! Homemade Vegan Oreo Cookies. Clean ! No additives, preservatives or shelve-stabilizers! 

Aside from the slightly bizarre flavors of the past few years, Kraft Foods – the parent to the Oreo, a Nabisco brand; has a dynasty into the worlds best tasting cookie!  A large corporate box chain foods  company–but, this means highly processed, refined food ingredients. Also, foods contain additives; that might not be so healthy If you are feeding your family clean. Here is my adaption to the beloved, “Oreo” Cookie!

The Faux-Re-O!



Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups AP flour, Yucca flour or GF flour, sifted

1 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 ounces Vegan butter or extra virgin coconut oil, room temp, slightly softened ( extra virgin has minimal coconut flavor)

1 1/2 cups granulated cane sugar

4 Tablespoons of VeganEgg reconstituted in 1 cup water

2 teaspoons pure Madagascar vanilla extract

1/2 cup organic vegetable shortening

Non-stick cooking

Cream Filling ( recipe below)

Method:
1. In a small bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to incorporate ingredients well throughout the flour. Set aside.

 

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a medium bowl–combine 10 ounces of the vegan butter with the 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Beat on medium-high until combined and pale in color. About two minutes. Scrape sides, add 1/2 the vanilla, and beat an additional 2 minutes.

 

3. Add the VeganEgg and flour mixture in alternate batches. Mix well to incorporate after each addition before adding an additional. Once all ingredients have been added mix until dough forms a ball.

 

4. With a sifter, lightly dust a clean work surface with cocoa powder.

 

5. Turn dough ball out onto the lightly dusted cocoa powered surface. Also dust the top of the dough lightly. Cut in 1/2.

 

6. With a cocoa dusted rolling pin, roll the dough pieces to flatten into 2 – 1/2 inch round disc. Wrap both discs individually in plastic wrap- sealing airtight. Refrigerate flat for a minimum of 1 hour.

 
5. After 1 hour has lapsed – remove a disc from plastic wrap and place on a clean, lightly cocoa dusted work surface. Working while dough remains cold, roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Run the back of a long knife or palate knife under the dough to make sure it is not sticking to the work surface.

 

6. Preheat oven 350’F Degrees. Prepare two high sided baking sheets with parchment sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

 

7. With a 1 1/2 in round cocoa dusted cookie cutter begin cutting cutting 64 round 1/4 inch round cookies.

 

8. Using a metal spatula – place on prepared baking sheet with minimal movement protecting the integrity of its shape. Work quickly while cold. If dough begins to heat up, place back in the refrigerator to cool again.

 

9. Continue to ball up the cookie dough up and re-roll for more cookies until you’re completely out of dough. Repeat with the remaining disc.

 
10. Bake for 8-10 minutes until they are firm. Remove and allow to cool. Make cream filling.


Additional Cream Filling Ingredients:

4 cups powdered sugar sifted

2 Tablespoons nut milk

 
Method:

1. In a small bowl beat the remaining 2 ounces of the Vegan butter with the vegetable shortening until smooth. Add remaining vanilla extract. ( or cut and scrape one fresh vanilla bean pod * optional)

 

2. Once combine, add sifted powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of the nut milk. Mix. Check constancy. If too dry, add the additional nut milk to form a thick cookie filling like paste. Set aside.

 
3. Once cookies are cooled, spread the filling on the bottom of half of the cookies and sandwich them with the other half. Slightly squeezing to completely sandwich.
Serve with ice cold nut milk. Or use to prepare Stephen Dimmicks ( from Glossie Girl ) Oreo Cookie Pancakes. Recipe here!

Variation to filling : For chocolate filling add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and 1 /2-2 Tablespoons of additional nut milk to the already blended creamed filling recipe.

Pumpkin Spiced FlapJacks with Bacon Maple Butter

This recipe is best when made with fresh pumpkin puree. Pancakes won’t be so orange and the batter will result in a lighter, fluffier pancake. If pumpkins are not in season, or you are rushed for time– it’s fine to use canned pumpkin.

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Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour or, all purpose flour or gluten free flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup  fresh pumpkin puree or good quality canned pumpkin puree

3 large eggs, separated

1  cup whole milk or nut milk

1/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Organic Canola for the cooking pan

Maple syrup or honey, warmed

My bacon maple butter recipe ( see my recipe here )

Preparation:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda with the salt. Mix well to combine.

In a medium bowl whisk  the milk, pumpkin, egg yolks, melted butter and vanilla with an electric mixer beat on high speed two minutes to blend well.

Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin and egg mixture and beat on low speed until batter is smooth but thick. About 1 minute. Set aside. Wash beaters with soapy water and clean well of any remaining batter. In a large bowl using your electric mixer with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.

With a rubber spatular, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the pumpkin batter in 2- 3 additions.

Brush large nonstick skillet with oil; heat over medium heat.

Working in batches, with a large ladel pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls into skillet. Use the back of the ladle to make a circular motion in the batter and shape the pancake to about a 4-5 inch circle.

Cook until bubbles form on surface of pancakes and bottoms are brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with oil between batches.

Top with my recipe for, Bacon Maple Butter and serve with warm maple syrup or honey.

 

Spicy Gingered Chicken Bites, with Honey-Orange Glaze! 

These bite-sized appetizers own it! The flavor parings are a match made in food heaven – garlic, ginger, orange, and honey. Oooo yeah ! Perfect to carry off to a game day tailgate party! 

Ingredients
1/2 c local honey, warmed ever so slight 

3 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger 

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice 

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce 

2 Tablespoons sesame oil 

Juice and zest of one orange  

6 garlic cloves, minced 

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 8 pieces per breast 

Cooking spray 

1 teaspoon Kosher salt 

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 

1 teaspoon cornstarch 

1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice 

2 teaspoons orange zest

2 teaspoons local honey

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

5 scallions cut diagonally in 1 in chucks for garnish ( optional ) 

Method: 

Combine first 9 ingredients at room temperature with the warm honey in a large zip-top plastic food storage bag; seal and shake well. 

Remove 1/2 the liquid –including 1/2 the garlic and set aside in additional container. Seal and set aside.

Place the chicken pieces inside the first plastic food storage bag containing the honey marinade. Seal and toss to coat. Refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

When ready to cook. Preheat oven to 425°F ( or outdoor grill would be optimal just make sure the chicken is cut large enough not to fall through the grill grates or use special grill equipment intended for this purpose ) remove chicken from marinade and disguard and reserved liquid. 

Cook Chicken to 160’F internal temperature about  10-12 minutes depending on the size of your pieces. 

While chicken is cooking, strain the reserved marinade through a sieve into a high sided saucepan. Discard any solids. Bring to a boil. Cook 1-3 minutes to slightly reduce. 

Combine cornstarch and orange juice in a small bowl-stir with a fork to remove any lumps. Add cornstarch mixture to pan, stirring with a whisk; cook 1 minute until sauce thickened.

Brush glaze onto chicken during final three minutes of cooing time –on the grill, or in oven -turn to coat well and brown to caramelize. 

Place on serving plate, sprinkle with black sesame seeds. Serve skewered with trendy cocktail sticks and a diagonal cut scallion ( optional ) ! 

Yum!