Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Potato Pancakes

Source: I remember watching Julia Child as a teenager and being as amused by her as the rest of the nation. One important thing, though? She really, really could cook. I got this recipe by watching her old PBS videos and scrambling to take notes as she cooked. Naturally there's a lot of "and perhaps a little more butter...," and for this recipe it's essential. I could eat this every day. Then I'd be a whale, but a very happy whale.

Rating: Exceptional

Notes: As I say below, you gotta squeeze as much water as you can out of your shredded potatoes. Otherwise, your pancakes are going to fall apart and it will be a sad dinner. Use any hard cheese you'd like. We used a leftover chunk of probably-too-hard manchego. And I recommend the whipped cream cheese over the bar of cream cheese. It'll make your mixing much easier.

  • 2 cups potatoes, shredded
  • 4 oz. whipped cream cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 cup hard cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • salt & pepper

  1. After shredding the potatoes, squeeze the water from them. This is essential! Mix all the ingredients together well until it looks like cole slaw.
  2. Add butter & oil to a large frying pan. Make sure there's plenty of fat in the pan for frying, at least 1/8 inch. Make pancakes by adding 1/2 cup of the batter to the pan for each pancake, and patting these down into disks. Fry each side for about 5 minutes. They should be nicely brown on each side, not golden brown.
  3. Makes about 9 pancakes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Baked Winter Squash Soup

Source: I've actually made this one over and over again every winter because it is so creamy and scrumptious. Without adding an iota of cream. It's from The New Basics Cookbook: an oldie, but goodie, one of the first to use fancy ingredients for everyday cooking (this one does not, though). The recipe uses up random squash from Tantre or the Farmer's Market easily whether those are butternuts, buttercups, pumpkins, hubbards, you name it. Today? Everything that wasn't going to last another week in the basement.

Rating: Very Favorable

Notes: I have to plug Rapunzel vegetable bouillon cubes here. So many reasons to like these: they are delicious, they come in both no-salt and salt varieties, and they allow you to use as much stock as you like instead of scrambling to use it before it molds in the fridge. Also, they're vegan, if that's helpful. I've found them at Whole Foods, the Coop and sometimes By the Pound.

  • 4 medium winter squash
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 4-5 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • 7 cups water (add more if necessary)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • pinch cayenne
  • salt & pepper

  1. Roast the squash (cut into halves or quarters) skin side down in a pan of water at 425 for 40 minutes. Let this cool, and then scoop the squash pulp out of the skins.
  2. Saute onions and carrots in the butter in a large soup pot. Add the spices, bouillon cubes and water and saute a bit longer. Add the squash, cut into smaller pieces if needed. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Puree the soup in batches in a blender.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Spinach and Leek Gratin with Roquefort Crumb Topping

Source: I haven't a clue who this one is from. (Why don't I write this information on the top of the scrap of paper? That's a very good question.) Don't be put off by the fancy title, it's actually quite a simple recipe with very few ingredients. Again, perfect for using what you worked so hard to put up for the winter.

Rating: Very Favorable

Notes: This felt a bit like grabbing whatever I had handy, although I didn't actually make any substitutions.
  • I used whatever blue cheese was in the fridge; I'm fairly certain you don't have to use Roquefort.
  • My spinach and leeks came from the freezer, as mentioned, pre-cut, pre-wilted, etc.
  • I only used 1/2 cup heavy cream. You can even use less, probably.
  • My breadcrumbs were from some Paesano-type bread hiding at the back of the fridge.
  • Don't sweat not having horseradish Dijon mustard. Just mix about 1/2 teaspoon of horseradish to the mustard.
It's a bit spicy, with that horseradish in it, but that's probably 50% of the reason we liked it so much. The other 50% is that cream, I'm sure.

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons horseradish Dijon mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups bread crumbs, fresh from French bread
  • 1 cup Roquefort cheese, crumbled
  • 3 9 oz. bags spinach
  • 1 medium leek, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (about 3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

  1. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the mustard, then the breadcrumbs. Saute until golden, about 5 minutes. Cool briefly. Mix in the cheese.
  2. Toss 1 1/2 bags spinach in large pot over high heat until wilted (with a little water if not a non-stick pot). Wilt for 3 minutes. Transfer to sieve. Repeat with remaining spinach. Press on spinach to drain. (You can also do this in the microwave.)
  3. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat in skillet. Add leek and saute for 4 minutes. Add cream, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of mustard and the spinach. Toss until thick and blended, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Transfer spinach-leek mixture to a medium casserole or baking dish. Top with breadcrumb mixture and bake until bubbling, about 15 minutes.