Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes - 3 Variations

This last Thanksgiving I once again used my crock pot for mashed potatoes.  I find this kitchen gadget very useful for making sure Thanksgiving day (or any special dinner with guests) goes smoothly.  After all, there are so many dishes to make sure we get to the table hot - why not take an opportunity to make it less stressful?  For me, this is the easiest way to make sure mashed potatoes are hot.  The bonus is that I can make them ahead, keep them off to the side, and it doesn't have to take up a burner on the stove.  However, I have now made these a few different ways, and think this deserves it's own post as opposed to being buried in the original January post from 2009.





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Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes

7 lbs russet potatoes
1 1/4 stick of butter
half and half
(optional) sour cream
salt
white pepper

Variation 1

1) Place peeled and quartered potatoes in a large crock pot and fill with water.
2) Cook on low over night for 8 hours.
3) In the morning drain potatoes (if desired save some potato water to add to gravy base) and mash with the following ingredients: 1 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper, 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) , 8 oz sour cream 1/4 cup half-and-half, 1/4 cup butter to coat the sides of the crock pot and dot the top of the potatoes.
4) Transport crock pot (if necessary) and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, stirring periodically after two hours and serve.
5) Click here for comments on this method


Variation 2

1) Place peeled and quartered potatoes in a large crock pot and fill with water.
2) Cook on low over night for 8 hours.
3) In the morning drain potatoes (if desired save some potato water to add to gravy base) and mash with the following ingredients: 1 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper, 1/2 cup butter (1 stick),  1/2 cup half-and-half, 1/4 cup butter to coat the sides of the crock pot and dot the top of the potatoes.
4) Transport crock pot (if necessary) and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, stirring periodically after two hours and serve.


Variation 3

1) Make a double batch (most likely) of your favorite mashed potatoes.
2) Coat inside of large crock pot with butter, add freshly mashed potatoes and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, stirring periodically after two hours and serve.




Monday, November 29, 2010

Roaster Turkey

I never heard of making a turkey in an electric roaster until I saw my mother-in-law make her turkey this way. Of course, after I saw this method I had to get an electric roaster myself;-) If this is the turkey my husband grew up on how could I deny him that tradition? The great thing about making a turkey in an electric roaster is that it leaves the oven available for all sorts of goodies: pumpkin pie, rolls, extra stuffing etc.




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Roaster Turkey

1 12-14 lb thawed turkey
1 to 2 quarts of turkey or chicken broth
1 cold stick of butter
salt and pepper

1) Remove neck and innards, if any, and rinse thawed turkey with cold water and pat dry (inside and outside) thoroughly with paper towel.


2) Place turkey on a working surface, and using your fingers work the skin away from the breast meat in order to place tablespoon sized chunks of butter between the skin and the meat, 4 to 5 on each breast.


3) (Optional) Stuff the turkey with favorite stuffing - (I make turkey stuffing in the oven).

4) (Optional) Truss the turkey to keep wings and legs close to the body, to keep the stuffing in, plus it just looks better.

5) Place turkey breast side up on a 1 inch raised rack in electric roaster.

6) Pour 1 quart of chicken broth in the bottom of roaster, set for 325, and cover with foil. Total cooking time will be about 3.5 hours give or take 30 minutes if you stuff the bird.

7) Baste bird after one hour and return tin foil cover.


8) If necessary, add another quart of chicken broth after another hour, basting the bird by pouring the broth over the bird - baste every 30 minutes until the bird is 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh.

9) (Optional) remove roaster pan from electric roaster and place in preheated 350 degree oven to crisp the skin (about 20 minutes).



10) Carve turkey, plate and serve. I use the Alton Brown method of carving a turkey.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Classic Turkey Stuffing

Okay, I know Thanksgiving is over. Therefore, this recipe chimes in a little "late." However, this was the best turkey stuffing I ever made and it was, if pressed, my favorite bite of Thanksgiving dinner. If your family is like my family in that Christmas dinner is basically Thanksgiving part II - well, then I'm early for suggesting this dish for Christmas:-) I will be in big trouble from my husband if I don't make this dish for Christmas dinner.



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Classic Turkey Stuffing

2 1/2 loaves of Pepperidge Farms sandwich bread, torn in bite sized pieces
8 cups or, 2 quarts of homemade turkey stock
1 large onion, diced - about 2 cups
6 stalks of celery, diced - about 2 cups
2 sticks of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of rubbed sage
2 tablespoons of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper

1) 1 to 3 days ahead of time make homemade turkey stock. I make turkey stock just like I make chicken stock - only substituting the bones from 1 or 2 turkey breast roasts instead of chicken. Store strained stock in the refrigerator until your ready to make stuffing. When you begin making the stuffing remove the stock from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

2) 1 day before, or on the day you are cooking tear 2 1/2 loaves of quality sandwich bread (Pepperidge Farms is by far the best) into bite sized pieces and store in a 4 quart covered casserole dish. The bread will be heaping - but the dome glass lid should still fit, albeit snug. (When I lived in California, I couldn't find this so I would substitute Trader Joe's Potato bread. This is the best substitution I have found, so far).

3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice onion and celery and place in a sauce pot with two sticks of melted butter. Add sage, salt, and pepper and saute over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes until the celery and onion are semi-soft.




















4) Take half of the bread out of the casserole dish and layer with half of the butter vegetable mixture. Replace the rest of the bread and top with the remaining butter vegetable mixture.


5) Start ladling the stock over evenly over all of the bread. If the stock is too gelatinous to ladle you may have to heat it in a sauce pan until it is easier to handle. As the mounded bread begins to flatten make sure to get the stock through to the bottom pieces of bread and carefully mix to get vegetables, spices and stock evenly distributed. (There is probably an easier way to do this but I don't have a big mixing bowl, and doing this way leaves me one less bowl to clean).


6) Cover the stuffing and cook for 1 hour. All of the steam causes the stuffing to puff up like a souffle. Remove the casserole dish from the oven, and carefully remove the dome lid. Place the stuffing back in the oven for 30 minutes. At this point the stuffing falls back down a bit and is a little more browned. Place cover back on the stuffing for 30 minutes (yes it puffs back up again). Remove the lid again for the last 15 to 20 minutes and keep in the oven until you're ready to serve. (The following picture was taken after the first hour)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Baked Bacon

Several years ago I worked at a camp and conference center. We had a full time chef that prepared some pretty amazing meals for groups of 50 to groups of 300 plus. One morning I saw how he made the breakfast bacon on large sheet pans baked in the oven. I thought that was genius. I don't know how many times I have stood in front of the stove frying three batches of bacon to make an entire package. Well, no more - and using parchment paper on the bottom of the sheet pan makes clean up a snap.



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Baked Bacon

1 package of your favorite uncooked bacon
parchment paper



1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place parchment paper on a sheet pan that has at least a 1" edge

2) Arrange individual bacon slices on the parchment paper




3) Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the preferred state of brown crispy goodness is reached. Remove with a fork and drain on paper towel.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Salt and Pepper Roasted Chicken

I have made this recipe several times now, and it just keeps getting better and better. I used to try to put all sorts of spices on top of the chicken, stuffed inside of the chicken, stuffed in between the skin and the chicken (not that there is anything wrong with any of that), but this is a simple way to have roasted chicken even on a weeknight - golden brown, juicy and delicious.



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Salt and Pepper Roasted Chicken

whole chicken, thawed
salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) Rinse a thawed whole chicken under cool water and dry thoroughly with several paper towels
3) Place toweled dried chicken in a roasting dish, fold wing tips behind the bird, and sprinkle with salt and pepper
4) Bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1.5 hours until golden brown and thermometer in the thigh area reads 165 degrees
5) I carve a chicken like Alton Brown carves a turkey

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Italian Meatballs - Polpette

Who knew that a "food stuff made of ground meat" could taste so good? I had know idea how many different kinds of meatballs there were until I did a little reading on Wikipedia. There must be thousands of recipes using every kind of meat you can imagine -- not to mention vegetables. The meatballs that my mom (and my Great Aunt Irene) made while I was growing up were made with beef and onion which according to Wikipedia has more of a Polish influence rather than Italian. That makes complete sense since my ancestry is mostly Polish and some Scottish. Since I don't have a family recipe for "Italian" meatballs, I followed the ingredients listed on Wikipedia. The results? Molto buono!





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Italian Meatballs - Polpette

2 lbs. ground pork
2 cups torn stale rustic bread
1/2 cup half and half
1 egg
1/3 cup pecorino romano
1/3 cup parmesean reggiano
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, pressed
salt and pepper
olive oil
fresh basil for garnish

1) Pour half and half over torn bread and let soak for a few minutes


2) Place pork, egg, cheeses, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper in a bowl. Add moist bread, and mix thoroughly


3) Form 12 large meatballs


4) Heat 1/2 inch of olive oil in a large pan to medium heat. (You can use less oil but using more will help the meatballs brown more evenly

5) Fry meatballs in two batches for several minutes on all "four sides" until evenly deep golden brown



6) Keep first batch draining on paper towels in a warm oven while second batch is cooking. Drain second batch on paper towels and keep in a warm oven


Serve with your favorite pasta and tomato sauce!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quick Red Wine Tomato Sauce

I have a handful of recipes floating around in my mind that I've made probably a hundred times that were actually given to me word of mouth. This is one of those recipes. Sure I buy jar sauce to save time, but honestly this recipe takes only 10 to 15 minutes more than just heating a jar of sauce. I always get compliments on this sauce. I usually make a double batch of this recipe since I can easily freeze half. The the pictures are of a double batch.



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Quick Red Wine Tomato Sauce

1 large 30 oz can of good quality tomato sauce or, 2 -15 oz cans (not puree, not crushed) sauce!
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste depending on canned sauce)
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of basil
1/4 cup of red wine (Burgundy, Merlot - frankly whatever red I have open - this time I used
Zinfandel)

1) Heat olive oil in large sauce pot on medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes then add onions and cook until translucent (about 4 minutes)


2) Add pressed garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds to one minute, stirring to make sure onions and garlic do not brown
3) Add tomato sauce, sugar, salt, oregano, basil, red wine, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes - serve with your favorite pasta!



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Roasted Garlic

The other day I was walking through Whole Foods admiring their salad bar area (I often cruise by to get ideas) and I saw the biggest station of roasted garlic cloves that I had ever seen -- hundreds of little cloves in a light amount of olive oil (just enough to keep them from sticking together) and sprinkled lightly with pepper. I thought, "I can do that." This trip around the Whole Foods salad bar inspired me to serve roasted garlic, olive oil, and fresh bakery bread as a starter for a dinner party I had this past weekend. Here is how I roasted a bunch of garlic bulbs!




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Roasted Garlic

6 bulbs of garlic (I figured one bulb per person would be plenty and I wouldn't cry if there were left overs)
2 Tablespoons olive oil (one teaspoon for each bulb)


1) Peel off all the paper possible from each bulb without removing any cloves



2) Cut the top most portion of the garlic head off, and cut any of the outer individual garlic clove tips off



3) Place bulbs in an oven safe dish and slowly drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil each


4) Cover dish with tin foil and place in a preheated 350 degree oven
5) Roast for 60 to 75 minutes

Serve as is with a garlic bulb on each plate or...

6) Cool completely and carefully remove the roasted garlic from 5 of the cloves with a small cocktail fork.
7) Place the roasted cloves in a bowl and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil sprinkle lightly with pepper and use the the last whole clove as the center of the "flower."

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