Who doesn't enjoy piling an assortment of interesting food on a plate? If like me, you grew up regularly dining at smorgasbord establishments, you know the excitement of potato dishes and creamy salads. Think of it like the church picnic without the hallelujahs first. Our local smorgasbord always had an enormous wheel of good cheese, and a knife to hack away at the dairy mountain. Excavating a hunk of cheese (probably not Bond Ost, but something similar) was the high point of the meal, washed down with a Shirley Temple. God, those were the days! I haven't had real cheese in the house in close to a year. I'm sure my health is better for it, but there's really no better snack. Anyway, what follows are some side dishes I've made and enjoyed over the years.
1) Homemade Potato Chips/Crisps
Use good oil, and be sure to drain them on a rack over a baking sheet rather than on paper towels. Toss generously with coarse salt while still warm.
You Will Need:
Peel and slice your potatoes as thin as possible. I have a very sharp, thin knife that I'm comfortable working with, but you could also use a slicer. I mean, slice them paper-thin. Place then in a bowl of water to cover and set in the fridge for several hours before cooking. Drain them, rinse off any excess potato starch and then (here's the part where you can really see I'm my mother's daughter) dry each chip completely with a towel. Yeah, I know, but do it anyway.
Heat your oil, and in small batches, cook the potatoes, turning a few times during the cooking. Before they are dark brown, remove them with a slotted spoon to a rack. When all potatoes are cooked, send them through the fat a second time until deeply browned. Remove with slotted spoon to rack. Toss with salt, and serve warm.
You Will Need:
6 baked potatoes, halved and scooped out, skins reserved
1/2 cup light cream. scalded
salt/pepper/nutmeg to taste
6 egg yolks
4 egg whites (I used large)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
Pass the potatoes through a food mill to puree. Add the scalded cream, seasonings and egg yolks. Beat well. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the potato mixture. Fold in the rest carefully and spoon into the reserved shells. Arrange on a dish or baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree F. oven for 15-20 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned.
I served the chelo with a tofu dish of onions, garlic, raisins, and saffron cooked with white wine and peas. Somewhat elegant for a Monday evening, but the stack of magazines were calling to me.
Wash two cups basmati rice in boiling water and soak it for 4-5 hours. Drain the rice, rinse it well with cold water, and let it stand 1-2 hours (I did this in a strainer over a pan to catch excess liquid).
In a kettle (I used my enamel Dutch oven) bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil. Season it with 1 1/2 tablespoons salt (I used 1 tablespoon coarse salt). Add the rice and boil vigourously for about 10 minutes. Drain the rice, rinse again with boiling water, and drain thoroughly.
In a heavy pan with a tight fitting lid (I used the Dutch oven again) melt 1/2 cup butter or heat 1/2 cup olive oil (I used the oil). Add the rice, then pour over it 5-6 tablespoons more butter or oil (I know, I know, it was 1972). Wrap a tea towel around the edge of the kettle, cover with another towel, folded, and put on the lid( this is to absorb the steam from the rice so it will crisp). Cook over low heat (I used medium as mine just wouldn't crisp on low) and heat 15-20 minutes (mine was more like 30 minutes). The butter or oil will have seeped through the rice so that it is nicely coated and there will be a crisp, golden layer of rice on the bottom of the pan. The crusty layer should be carefully removed, and either arranged around the rice as a garnish, or served separately as it sometimes is in Iran.
You Will Need:
For the steamed rice:
3 quarts boiling water
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups rice
More hot water for steaming (about 1 quart)
Bring the water and salt to a boil and sprinkle in the rice. Cook for 18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain rice in a sieve. Prepare a pan of simmering water. Place sieve over it, with a tea towel draped over the sieve. Steam 15-20 minutes, or until dry. proceed with recipe.
For the timbales:
preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Have ready a pan, 6 buttered ramekins (6 ounce size) and enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins in the pan.
The rice from above
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Combine the cooked rice with 2 tablespoons butter and cheese. Mix well. In a small saucepan, cook the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons butter over low heat, with the lid on for two minutes. Remove lid, add wine and tomato paste and cook over high heat, stirring to prevent sticking, until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 5 minutes). Add to rice mixture. Mix well.
Pack mixture into moulds and place in water bath. Bake 20 minutes, or until hot and the tops are golden. Run a knife around the edge, and unmould onto a serving platter.
This recipe freezes well, but you may need to add a bit of water when re-heating.
You Will Need:
4 lbs. of dried white beans (I used Navy beans)
Water to cook beans
3 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 tablespoon salt (you may prefer more, but I tend to go light on salt)
3 1/2 tablespoons strong prepared mustard (I had some British stuff that'll blow out your sinuses, but Dijon will work too)
2 cups ketchup
1 cup full-flavour molasses (the mild kind is OK too if you prefer it)
1 large onion, chopped
Soak the beans overnight. Cook them in the morning with the bay leaves and water until tender. Drain, reserving cooking liquid.
Combine sugar, salt, mustard, ketchup, molasses and onion. Stir into beans. Place in a large heat-proof Dutch oven and cover with reserved bean water-about 2 inches of water above beans. Cover tightly and bake at 300 degrees for 5 1/2 hours, checking once per hour to stir and add additional water if drying out. In the last 1/2 hour, remove lid and cook until thick.
7) Steamed Brown Bread (to go with the beans above)
I did not add raisins or currants because I was afraid the Golden Syrup would already be on the sweet side. You could add 1 cup of dried fruit to the batter at the end if you like. Some people cut up apricots and add them, but those people are heretics.
The recipe called for graham flour, which I do not keep on hand (I make my graham crackers with whole wheat). I substituted whole wheat flour. I used dried buttermilk solids instead of fresh buttermilk as well. Very handy stuff to keep in your fridge if you bake.
The only pudding mould I own was my mother's which I believe was her aunt's before her. It is ceramic and blue and very, very old. I no longer use it for fear of breakage. I'm also somewhat concerned it may be full of lead (which would explain quite a bit about our family, I'm afraid). Instead, I opened two 1 lb. tins of apricots I was planning to use anyway, and used them. I would not use tins that have been lined with anything, such as the sort tomatoes come in. You're going to be steaming for two hours and what with all the hysteria over the materials in plastic bottles which is made from similar material, I would err on the side of caution. I have successfully steamed puddings in small ceramic souffle dishes as well, though you do sacrifice height if you go that way. Coffee tins work as well.
I used my canner to steam the breads, with the tins nestled in the rack. I also used a jar-lifter to remove them which worked magnificently.
You Will Need:
1 cup rye meal (I used medium rye flour)
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup graham flour (I used whole wheat)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup molasses (I used 1/2 Golden Syrup)
2 cups buttermilk (I used solids and water)
Butter two 1 lb. tins generously and butter two pieces of foil to go over the top. Set aside. Fit a large pot with either a rack, or a metal trivet to lift the tins off the bottom for steaming. Add some water (about 5 inc) and in another pan, have boiling water ready to fill-the water should go about half-way up the side of the tins. You may need to add more during the steaming if it boils off.
Combine dry ingredients and add the molasses and buttermilk. Stir until well mixed. I used a spatula to scrape it off the bottom where clumps of dry ingredients often lurk in these heavy batters.
Pour into prepared tins and cover with buttered foil. The dough will rise to the top, so don't worry if it looks like there is too much empty space. A second layer of foil wouldn't hurt because you want to keep out any water. With string, tightly secure the foil.
Set the tins into the pot and steam for around 2 hours (mine took 2 hours exactly) testing with a skewer for doneness. Check the pot now and then during steaming and add more boiling water if needed.
Beard suggests letting the unmoulded breads dry out for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven. I used a 300 degree F. oven for seven minutes (because I had beans baking away at 300) and it was perfect, Cool on racks. Serve warmed with baked beans, or butter, or what the hell-both!
Remove tins carefully, and unmould. I had no difficulty dislodging them by running a thin knife carefully around it and inverting onto a rack. If they get stuck, use a can opener and remove the bottom, then simply push them through.
The original called for Roquefort, but I didn't have any. I didn't think it was worth wasting good Stilton on, so I er...repurposed some dull goat cheese Mr. ETB picked up at Aldi. He can't help himself. He never buys anything there he likes, yet he keeps trying. This was the kind of salad you'd use goat cheese from Aldi for.
1 tablespoon unflavoured gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound goat cheese (or Roquefort if you have it)
1 green pepper, finely minced
2 carrots, shredded finely, and squeezed dry
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
2 stalks celery with leaves, finely minced
1/4 cup sliced green olives with pimentos
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
Soften the gelatin in the cold water. In a large bowl, dissolve it in the boiling water. Add salt, whisk until dissolved and chill until gelatin begins to set. Meanwhile, mash the cheese and mix with the vegetables. Fold in the whipped cream, then fold all into the gelatin mixture. Pour into a rinsed ring mould and let chill several hours. That's it.
9) Charred Carrot Soup
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
5-6 medium carrots (about 3 cups) peeled and shredded
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 small Idaho potato (a floury-type potato) peeled and chopped
3 1/2 cups rich vegetable (or chicken) stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust according to the saltiness of your stock)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Add the oil, then the carrots. Stir to coat. Cook the carrots, stirring frequently until they are partially charred-about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until the shallots are softened-about 2 minutes. Add the potato and stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until carrots and potato are very soft-about 15 minutes.
In a food processor (or a food mill) puree until smooth, then force through a fine mesh sieve (yes, that will be time consuming, so plan accordingly). Return soup to a saucepan and add the cream. Add the red wine vinegar, extra salt, and pepper as desired. Stir in the butter, and serve the soup hot, garnished with parsley.
In a Dutch oven, sauté 12 garlic cloves, peeled, and 1 medium onion sliced in wedges in 3/4 cup olive oil for 3 minutes. Add 4 carrots, thinly sliced, and 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns. Sauté 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups white vinegar and simmer mixture, covered for 3 minutes. Drain a 3 1/2 ounce tin of pickled jalapeño chilies and reserve the liquid. Add 2 cups water to the reserved liquid and add to the pot. Bring liquid to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons salt and 1 head of cauliflower cut into flowerets. Cook the mixture, covered over moderate heat for 12 minutes. Add 12 small bay leaves, 3 zucchini (I omitted this) thinly sliced, and 3/4 teaspoon each-thyme, marjoram, and oregano. Simmer the mixture, covered for 2 minutes. Let cool, covered, then store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes 8 cups.