Idaho Potato Pomme Frites

J’adore les pomme frites. J’ai toujours. Mais je ne les fait à partir de zéro, parce qu’ils étaient trop démunis. Le trempage. Buvard. Friture. Double friture. Eaiser juste ouvrir un sac de surgelés ou les ignorer complètement.

My education in Le Francais  stopped about 20 years ago.  If Google Translate is to be trusted…and let’s be honest, it’s to be trusted more than I am…I said that {translation} I adore French Fries.  I always have. But I never made them from scratch because they were too needy.  Soaking.  Blotting.  Frying.  Double Frying.  Eaiser to just open a bag of frozen or skip them entirely.  {end translation}.

Why am I going all fancy with Le Francais to talk about French Fries?  To demonstrate that something as unassuming as an Idaho potato can be transformed into a dish that feels indulgent and maybe just the slightest bit exotic.

I’m not going to lie, these are still a little needy.  You have to slice the potato tres, tres thinly and then turn those thin slices into itty bitty matchsticks.  And you can only cook so many matchsticks on a sheet pan at a time otherwise they will steam instead of roast.

But here’s the good news. A single Idaho potato will make an entire batch that can serve one happily, or two if you absolutely must share.

Curry Spiced Pomme Frites

BAH Note:  Yes, I really am going to advocate that you buy a jar of coconut oil for this recipe.  These frites are so delicate that I think olive oil would completely overwhelm them.  The coconut oil is delightfully neutral and can stand up to the super high oven temperature.  Also, if you have a smoke detector anywhere near your kitchen, you may want to remove the battery while you make these.  The high temperature sets mine off.  Every single time.

  • 1 Idaho Russet potato (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • kosher salt

Heat the oven to 415 degrees and line a sheet pan with baking parchment.

Combine the coconut oil and curry powder in a shallow dish and set aside.

Slice the potato very thinly lengthwise, into approximately 1/8 inch slices, on a mandoline or with a sharp knife. Pat the slices dry with paper towels and then cut the slices into super fine matchsticks.  Gently coat the matchsticks with the curry and coconut oil mixture.

Place a single layer of pomme frites onto the prepared sheet pan and bake for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  You want them to brown but not get completely charred.  Remove the pan from the oven and immediately sprinkle the pomme frites with a pinch of kosher salt.

Continue to bake the remaining pomme frites in batches and shoving them directly in your mouth.

{printable recipe}

Disclaimer:  This post is being entered into a contest sponsored by The Idaho Potato Commission in celebration of February being Potato Lover’s Month.  I was compensated for participating but all opinions expressed are completely my own.

Flashback Friday – V I C T O R Y

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 3/30/09 at Exit 51.

V-I-C-T-O-R-Y

Given enough time, and the right circumstances, just about any trend can come back into fashion.  Except maybe the mullet.  I don’t know when that would ever be considered a good idea.

During WWII when food was rationed, people were urged by the government to plant Victory Gardens.  All across the United States, and in Europe, citizens planted fruits and vegetables.  It was considered patriotic. In 2009, the economic recession combined with a growing consumer movement of searching for locally grown food.  One result seems to be a resurgence of the Victory Garden.  Who knew that our grandparents were such trendsetters?

victory-collage-2

Me, I’d love to be able to plant a Victory Garden of my own.  But, like many urban dwellers, I have no yard to speak of.  The back “yard” is a concrete pad.  Neither dirt nor shade can be found there. Yes, there is a small planting bed on the side of the house.  My rose bushes currently reside there.  They are rather fond of that location and I’m inclined to let them remain.

Reason #1 ….because I have the blackest thumb known to man. It is only because those roses thrive on neglect that they have endured.  They have survived in spite of me, certainly not because of me.

Reason #2 …because the animals in my neighborhood will not be deterred from using that area as their own personal comfort station.  They laughed at the cayenne pepper, the orange peels just shriveled up withered away, and I would almost swear that they dabbed that expensive potion of all things stinky behind their ears like cologne.  I even tried setting out itty bitty spikes crafted from bamboo skewers.  Guess who suffered most with those?  That would have been me.

Reason #3 …because of the meddling kids.  I feel so old saying that, but it’s true.  I can’t keep them from pulling the flowers out of the beds.  How the heck would I keep them from walking off with the (literal) fruits of my labor?

Reason #4…did I mention I have a servere case of black thumb?

So don’t look for me to be tending the garden.  Instead, I will do my best to support the local farmers and growers and stimulate the economy.  I think it makes more sense to buy something that someone else grew than to throw away good money on the idea of being thrifty and victorious.

What about you?  Are you lucky enough to be able to grow your own?  Or are you, like me, an economic stimulator?  Thing thing is, they are both important.  I just wish we, the buyers, had cool graphics like the growers.

victory-garden-collage-1

2012

2012.  A new year.  2011 defined a new sense of low for me and I haven’t been this eager for a year to end since The Mistah was deployed.   As I thought about this sense of longing for time to move, it struck me how often I wish time away.  It goes back as far as I can remember, like when I was told I couldn’t go with my brother to an Orioles game because I was too young.  Well, I didn’t want to be too young.  I wanted to be old enough to do what the “big kids” were doing.  I guess that’s the curse of being a younger sibling…having to watch from the sidelines as life goes on without you.  So it started early.

And it kept going.  I remember being 8 or 9 and wishing I was 10 already because 10 is double digits and nobody mistakes a 10 year old for a little kid.  Wanting to be 10 became wanting to be 13, because nobody tells you how hard it actually is to be a teenager.  Then that wasn’t good enough and I couldn’t wait for the day I was 16 and could drive.  I would have gladly forfeited the next two years so that I could be 18 and leave for college.   The last big “I wish it would just get here already birthday” was 21….no explanation needed.

After that, wishing away time was not about being older.  It actually became about not being.  Not being stuck in a miserable day at work.  Not being torn apart by a relationship that ended.  Not being tormented by my doubts.  And definitely not being helpless to watch a course of events unfold before me.

If I could even roughly approximate how many times I thought “I can’t wait until this {fill in the blank} is over” I bet I have wished away entire years.  What 2011 taught me is that time doesn’t work that way.  You don’t get a few extra years tacked on at the end because you wished them away earlier.  What’s more, all that time I spent fixated on not being wherever or whatever I was, I basically had my eyes closed to what actually was wherever or whatever I was.

How many opportunities did I miss?  How many shards did I ignore that could have made the most beautiful mosaic? How long will it take for me to stop wishing my time away?

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions and I never really gave much thought to why that was so.  If you would have asked me that question twenty years ago, my response would have been something like “I dunno”.  But thinking about it now, with whatever wisdom I’ve managed to accumulate, I think it’s partly because a resolution is an acknowledgment that I am responsible for making the changes I want to see in my life.  I can’t pawn that job off on anyone else.  And it’s also partly because a resolution made one day a year seems to have a pretty quick expiration date.

So what’s the alternative?  For me, it’s this: be present even when it’s uncomfortable, wish to get through the experience instead of wishing away the time, and make these affirmations to myself every day.

That’s my hope for 2012.

Tortellini Soup

So it’s January.  The holidays are officially over.  You may have overindulged in things like cookies, cocktails, and buttery treats.  Which may mean that you’re feeling a little cruddy right about now.  While I don’t have the cure for any additional pounds that may have stuck around as a reminder of cookies past, I have a lovely soup to warm you on a cold winter day.

I’m not naive, I know cookies are more fun than soup.  But a hearty bowl of tortellini soup comforts me on a cold, dark winter day.  I’ve yet to the meet the cookie that can do that.

Tortellini Soup

Adapted from Pan Anderson’s Meatless Meals

  • 1 quart vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 8 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 9 ounces fresh or frozen tortellini

Combine the broth, tomatoes and any tomato juices, and water in a medium pot and set over low medium low heat.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the onion and carrots to the dutch oven and cook about 10 minutes or until softened.  Add the zucchini, red pepper, and Italian seasoning and cook for 5 more minutes.

Add the warmed broth mixture to the dutch oven and simmer, partially covered for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the spinach and tortellini and cook partially covered for another 10 minutes.

{printable recipe}

Flashback Friday – Notes On Cooking With SFC

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 3/25/09 at Exit 51.

Notes On Cooking With SFC

Each week, SFC picks one meal that he will cook.  As hard as it is for me not to jump in and take over on these nights, I really do like the days when I’m just the sous chef.  I’m much happier sitting on the couch turning the pages of a book than standing over a stove whisking or reducing.

Chili Rub

We did have to establish one major rule though.  The first time we make a recipe, we do not deviate from it as written.  No substitutions, no omission, no tinkering with technique.  Ok, so maybe we do allow minor substitution and omissions.  But we do not deviate from technique.  It may sound a bit harsh but how can someone new to cooking know what steps are critical and what steps are negotiable?  I’ve been standing at the stove for years and I still try and stick to this rule anytime I try a new recipe.

And here’s why.  If I don’t try and create a dish as specified by the author, how can I form an accurate opinion about whether it’s worth making again?  If I don’t like the results, is it because of the recipe itself or is it because in tinkering with it, I broke something that did not need fixing?

SFC’s most recent meal is my latest case study.  In theory, it should have been outstanding.  But after dinner, we both looked at each other and said it was missing something.  I’m not sure what this elusive something is.  Maybe more spice?  Maybe more heat?  But it definitely needs the volume turned up.  And I don’t understand what the marinade really does for the dish, besides give you the 20 minutes to make the salsa.  Maybe next time we will make more spice rub and skip the marinading.

For now, this recipe is tagged with a question mark and goes back into the test folder.  It’s got one more chance to impress me because in my kitchen, a recipe rarely gets a third try.

Chili Rubbed Salmon with Pineapple Avocado Salsa

From washingtonpost.com

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 2 (4 to 6 ounces each) skin-on or skinless salmon fillets, pin bones removed
  • 1 lime, for garnish
  • 4 ounces fresh or canned pineapple, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice (1/2 cup)
  • Flesh of half a medium avocado, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 scallion, white and light-green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices (about 2 to 3 teaspoons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1 to 2 limes (to yield 1 tablespoon)

Combine the oil and vinegar in a shallow dish.

Combine the chili powder, salt and sugar in a small bowl. Use it to rub the salmon fillets all over, gently pressing it into the flesh, then place the fillets in the oil-vinegar mixture. Turn them over so both sides are coated; let them marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes while you prepare the salsa.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the pineapple, avocado, scallion, pepper, salt and the tablespoon of lime juice in a mixing bowl; toss to mix well.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet that is ovenproof over medium-high heat. (Alternatively, lightly grease an ovenproof baking dish with nonstick cooking oil spray.)

When the pan is hot, add the fillets (if skin-on, place them skin side up) and cook for 1 minute. Turn them over, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness or to desired degree of doneness.

Remove from the oven; use a wide spatula to transfer each piece to individual plates. Spoon the salsa on top of each fillet. Cut the remaining lime in half and squeeze over each portion. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Hash

No, no, you’re not caught in a time loop.  You did just see that chicken two days ago.  But this is the only photo that shows the sweet potato and Brussells sprout hash that went with the chicken.  So the photo gets to make an encore appearance.

Hash.  What exactly is it?  According to the all knowing google, it is a dish of cooked meat cut into small pieces and recooked, usually with potatoes.  The only problem is that the amount of meat vs. the amount of vegetables I consume is pretty frightening.  Ideally, the ratio should be reversed which shouldn’t be hard because I actually LIKE vegetables.  I just run out of ideas of how to fix them.  So as a result, they waste away in the fridge, or on the counter, until they are beyond possible consumption.  Yes, I am guilty of wasting food.  There, I’ve said it.

So how does hash address my status as a repeat offender when it comes to wasting food and get me to up my servings of veggies?  Simply by being.  Hash is a godsend when it comes to using up vegetables that have been neglected.  Don’t know what to do with that sad sweet potato that you didn’t use the other week?  Got a carrot or two left in the crisper?  What about an onion?  Did your plan of pan roasted Brussells sprouts not materialize?  You’ve got everything you need for hash.  What other vegetables are hash friendly?

According to Pam Anderson, in her book Meatless Meals, mushrooms, corn (fresh or frozen), eggplant, turnips, and butternut squash are all prime candidates.  She’s the one who introduced me to the concept of meatless hash.  So whether I want a side dish to go with one of my meaty meals, or I want a satisfying meat free option, all I have to do is open the fridge and see what vegetables need some love.

Sweet Potato Hash

Adapted from Pam Anderson’s Meatless Meals

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pound (one medium or large) sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts thinly sliced  (stems trimmed, outer layer of leaves removed)

Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the sweet potato, onion, and Brussels sprouts and stir to coat with the oil.

Place a lid on the frying pan and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables have softened but your thickest vegetables are still just a bit firm.  Remove the lid, stir the vegetables in the pan, increase the heat back to medium high and cook until the liquid evaporates and the vegetables begin to caramelize.

Once the vegetables have browned on the bottom, stir them gently to try and get the browned sides up.  Continue cooking, without stirring, until the vegetables are as browned as you want them.  Taste for seasoning and add kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

{printable recipe}

Chicken a la Advantium

Common sense says that anytime you start using a new tool, it takes a while to get the feel of it.  You have to learn what it’s tolerances are and how it performs.  You have a learning curve to get over before you can feel like you can use it with your eyes closed.  That’s where I am right now with the Advantium.  In just a short period of time, I’ve learned a few things.

My half size sheet pans (which are a little larger than a typical cookie sheet) fit perfectly in the over the range model.  This was a huge surprise to me, since I had assumed that they wouldn’t fit.  I had even gone out and bought a couple of quarter sheet pans, before it even occurred to me to see if the sheet pans I already had would fit.  I don’t mind having the extra sheet pans though, those quarter sized pans make great prep pans.

You can use aluminum foil in the convection cook mode.  I wasn’t sure and had to go to the source and ask the folks at GE.  This means that the next time I roast beets, I can wrap them in foil and cut down on the amount of time they need to perfectly roast.

Having the appropriate cookware is essential.  In my cooking, I primarily use my enamel over cast iron dutch ovens for stews and braises.  But the Advantium literature didn’t mention whether they were safe to use.  So again, I reached out to the GE specialists who informed me that it was not advisable.  I’m glad I asked because I’ve grown quite attached to my two workhorse pieces of Le Creuset and I would hate to damage them, or the Advantium. Instead of enamel on cast iron, GE recommends using glass or ceramic cookware in the Convection and Quickcook modes.  Metal pans can also be used in the Convection mode for baking.

Not only do you need the proper type of cookware, it is also important that they be able to rotate freely during Quickcook mode.  Take my first attempt at preparing a whole chicken using Quickcook (shown above).  The chicken was too large for my only round casserole dish, so I used a rectangular one.  If I had been using the Convection setting, it wouldn’t have posed any challenges.  I could have simply put in one of the two wire racks that comes with the Advantium and set the dish on the rack.  But since I was in Quickcook, that wire shelf was a no no.  Because the baking dish wasn’t able to freely rotate during the cooking time, the chicken didn’t cook as evenly as it would have otherwise.  Those areas that were directly under the intense halogen lamp came out a bit overcooked.

Your cookware also, and I can’t stress this enough, needs to have some kind of handles.  The technology utilized in the Advantium means that everything gets rocket hot…the turntable, the metal interior, AND your cookware.  Imagine you’re making a stew and you have a couple of quarts of hot food and liquid in your dish.  Not only is that dish extremely hot but it also weighs a ton….ok, maybe not a ton but a good couple of pounds at least.  Maneuvering that hot dish in and out of the Advantium to stir or check for doneness can be pretty tricky if it doesn’t have handles.  I know, because I’ve tried it.  And I don’t advise it.

Lastly, you need to clean the inside of the Advantium more than you would a microwave or regular oven.  Depending on what you are cooking, and the cooking mode you are using, you could get a lot of splattering and moisture in the oven.  I find that the inside of the Advantium cleans up easily.

So what was the verdict on the Chicken a la Advantium?  Despite the challenges I encountered by not having the proper dish to allow the chicken to rotate during cooking, my 4ish pound bird was completely done in the 45 minutes preprogrammed into the Advantium.  If anything, I probably should have checked it before the 45 minutes was up and checked the temperature on an instant read thermometer because it might not have needed that much time.  After I let it rest for about 10 minutes, I introduced the chicken to some lovely sweet potato and Brussells sprout hash.  Start to finish, this meal probably took just under an hour to get on the table, but didn’t require a lot of fussing over. This makes it as likely to make a return appearance on a weeknight as it might on a weekend.

Disclaimer:  As part of my partnership with GE, I received an Advantium oven.  All opinions posted about my Advantium experience are my own.