Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

potatoes

The Season of Root Vegetables in More Ways than One

Rutabaga Gratin Recipe and Simmergreat Product Endorsement/Discount

Always something of a rebel, I grew up loving foods most people don’t like or at least think they don’t like just because it seems like nobody else does. For me, these rebel roots translate to an enduring love of root vegetables – including turnips, parsnips, and rutabagas. Being winter and very early spring vegetables, I always start thinking about them in February, which is when I bought my last rutabaga. It survived a move and a couple months of waiting on my counter before I finally put it into the delicious recipe that follows.  Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about how root vegetables, especially parsnips and turnips, are becoming hot in culinary circles.  For added proof of the trend, I ran into James Beard awarded superstar and local chef Mike Lata at Harris Teeter several weeks ago with a bunch of parsnips in his hands, that he intended to put to use in a pasta dish.

As if that wasn’t enough inspiration, I have a pound of fresh spring potatoes in my pantry, so I decided to do as the Swedes do, and pair the rutabaga with some potatoes and cream. But, rather than puree them, I layered very thin slices in a gratin and bound them with Half & Half infused with lots of fresh thyme, black pepper, mascarpone, sour cream, butter and a nutty Parmesan finish. The results were fabulous – sweet, creamy, nutty, crunchy, smooth bites of root vegetable goodness, just in time for spring and Mother’s Day.

(Note: It’s very important to cut through both the outer skin of the tough, waxy rutabaga, as well as the inner skin, which is about 1/4″ thick. Discard these and then proceed to slice the rutabaga whisper thin, so thin you can practically see through them.)

Well-Thyme Rutabaga and Potato Gratin

(Yields about 8 servings)

Well-Thymed Rutabaga and Potato Gratin

Well-Thymed Rutabaga and Potato Gratin

Equipment needed:  One 5-quart, shallow gratin or casserole dish (about 2″ deep, one foot long, and 8″ wide)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter to coat the pan

For the cream mixture:

1 1/2 cups Half & Half

1/2 cup whole sour cream

1/2 cup mascarpone

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (leave whole)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Vegetables:

1 large rutabaga, peeled, quartered and very thinly sliced (about six cups)

2 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

Topping:

1/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. Spread the 1 tablespoon of butter evenly along the sides and bottoms of the gratin dish. Combine the Half & Half, sour cream, mascarpone, garlic, thyme, seasonings and remaining tablespoon butter in a medium sauce pan. Whisk together over medium heat-low. Bring up to a gentle simmer and cook to infuse the flavors for five minutes. Remove from the heat. Discard the garlic cloves. Whisk in the Dijon. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Arrange half of the sliced rutabaga in a tight, overlapping single layer in the bottom of the gratin dish. Add a second layer of tight, overlapping sliced potatoes. Cover with half of the cream mixture, distributing evenly.  Top with the remaining cream mixture, spreading with a spatula to distribute evenly. Press the top lightly with your fingertips to “tighten” the layers. Sprinkle a dusting of salt and pepper over the top. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan Reggiano and bake anther 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top layer is golden and slightly crunchy and the rutabaga yield easily to a knife when pierce. Rest 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with a few fresh thyme sprigs. Delicious with roast chicken or pork, or a salad for a meatless meal.

New Product Endorsement – Simmergreat

If you’ve ever cooked with me, or taken one of my classes, you know that great knives and great pans aside, I’m not much of a gadget girl when it comes to cooking. However, I recently discovered a truly great product that made me wish I’d known about it back when I was simmering all of those soups and daubes for The French Cook – Soups & Stews last year. During that time, I struggled getting a steady simmer rate on my aging, moody gas stovetop. Simmergrate is an ingenious contraption that sits above your low gas flame and magically tempers your pot to a steady simmer. All you have to do is put it over the flame, place the pot (any pot) on top, set your burner to low and voila, you’ve got an unwavering simmer. I used this when I was simmering the cream for the recipe above. I didn’t touch the dial once, and no scorching, boiled over cream. It’s still on my stove where it will remain for many future uses, whether it be roasting peppers, making sauces, and more. It even works on a gas grill. I’m a fan and I think you will be, too. Perfect for home cooks, professional chefs and anyone who enjoys cooking. Perfect for Mother’s Day, too. If you visit Simmergreat and make a purchase,  once it is in your cart, click on the coupon code and type in “holly” and you get a 10% discount on your total purchase. Happy simmering!

Simmergreat is made from indestructable ductile iron and provides excellent thermal heat distribution to enable perfect simmering every time.

Simmergreat is made from indestructable ductile iron and provides excellent thermal heat distribution to enable perfect simmering every time.

Don’t forget to visit www.simmergreat.com.

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Creamy Potato and Brussels Sprouts Holiday Gratin

Cooking at Christmas

Cooking is something I enjoy doing all year round. To me it’s a peaceful, meditative process that always brings me right into the moment of creating something delicious and transports me far away from any worries or strife. Perhaps that’s why I especially love cooking during the holidays, which can be a stressful time despite the import of the season’s messages of peace and joy. This year, I will be home (finally!) and cooking for a small group of friends. I’m particularly looking forward to a simple meal. My “core” menu item will be a standing rib roast of beef with a horseradish cream sauce and au jus for juicy dipping and my annual creamed spinach gratin.

I love gratins for many reasons – perhaps the biggest being their crunchy, buttery tops and tender, creamy centers. With those pre-requisites in mind, I created the recipe that follows. Even though I’m not a huge Brussels sprouts fan (except for using them as baby heads of lettuce in my childhood doll’s house kitchen), in keeping with the season and their rewarding versatility, I slipped them into this recipe.  The bottom layer is a mixture of grated Russett potatoes blended with sour cream, Parmesan, chopped, hydrated porcini mushrooms that ends up tasting like a soft, glorious loaded baked potato. The Brussels sprouts are quartered and nestled into the top of the potatoes and the whole glorious dish is topped with buttered panko crumbs tossed with plenty of fresh thyme. The Brussels sprouts neatly roast themselves and their light cabbage flavor into the nutty, creamy dish and the end result is nothing short of smashing.

I’ll be serving this alongside the beef at my holiday table, but it would also pair very well with turkey, pork, chicken or game. It could double as a main course for vegetarians, or even makes a delicious Christmas morning breakfast. It’s especially nice that it can be completely assembled, tightly covered and refrigerated overnight before baking. One important note: You’ll want to get your mis en place put together ahead of time and grate the potatoes at the last minute or they may discolor just a bit.

Creamy Potato and Brussels Sprouts Holiday Gratin

Creamy Potato and Brussels Sprouts Holiday Gratin

Creamy Potato and Brussels Sprouts Holiday Gratin

(Recipe makes 8 to 10 heaping side portions)

Needed: Large, shallow oven-proof casserole or gratin dish, roughly 3″ deep X 9″ long X 5″ wide.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 ounce (about 1 cup) dried porcini or substitute another strongly flavored dried mushroom

Enough water to cover – about 1 cup

3 large Russett potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated (about 8 cups)

4 cloves crushed garlic

1/2 cup whole cream

1/2 cup whole milk

2 cups whole sour cream

2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon greshly ground black pepper

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered

For the topping:

4 tablespoons unsalted, melted butter

2 cups unseasoned panko bread crumbs (or another variety of plain, coarse bread crumbs)

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Method:

Preheat oven to 3250F. Butter the casserole/gratin dish with the 2 tablespoons of butter. Place the porcini in a non-reactive 2-cup measuring cup or small glass bowl and cover with water. Heat in the microwave on high for one minute. Set aside for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prep and grate the potatoes. Place in a large, clean kitchen towel and twist firmly over the sink to extract any excess water. Set aside, reserving in the towel wrap.Return to the reserved mushrooms. Strain the mushrooms out of the liquid and squeeze any fluid back into the “mushroom water.” Coarsely chop the mushrooms and set aside. Pour the reserved mushroom water into a small saucepan, being careful to strain out any possible grit through a paper towel or cheese cloth. Add the garlic, bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced down to 1/4 cup. Remove and discard the garlic cloves. Whisk in the cream, milk, sour cream, Parmesan and salt and pepper, and reserved chopped mushrooms. Heat over low heat to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Place the grated potatoes in the buttered dish. Pour the entire cream mixture over the potatoes and toss thoroughly to coat. Spread the top evenly with a spatula to flatten it evenly. Arrange the Brussels sprouts, cut side down, evenly over the top. Season lightly with salt and pepper.  To prepare the topping, combine the melted butter, panko, seasonings and thyme in a small bowl. Drizzle evenly over the top of the entire gratin. Bake for one hour, or until golden brown, soft in the center and lightly bubbling. Serve warm with a garnish of fresh thyme sprigs.

Have a joyful, safe and delicious holiday and Christmas season!

Holly

 

 

 

 

 

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Fresh Potato, Onion and Sausage Hash

My most recent post at The Permanent Tourist-Charleston features two of spring’s most beloved ingredients – fresh potatoes and onions. Here’s a link to the post and the recipe.

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/simply-saturday-3/

Feel free to visit and subscribe to charleston.thepermanenttourist.com

In the meantime, Happy Father’s Day!

 

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Farmers’ Market Opening Day – An Early Spring Rite of Passage

Early spring selflessly affords us with so many wonderful things to celebrate. Here, in Charleston,  the air is sweet with the heady frangrances of jasmine, wisteria, and budding trees everywhere. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful, it mandates automatic forgiveness for the pollen that clogs the air and heads of the allergy afflicted masses.  Here and elsewhere baseball season begins, Easter and Passover’s celebrations are underway, marathons are being run, and the thing that makes me happiest of all, Farmers’ Markets are dusting off their tents and setting up shop for another long and delicious season.

Nothing puts spring in my step like farmers’ market opening day. The vendors and farmers are rested from their early winter break (although farmers’ work never ends) and tables are bursting with the bounty of spring – tender, sweet onions, asparagus, fresh-from-the-earth potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, turnips, greens – some of my favorite things. I’ve long held an internal debate about what seasonal foods I most prefer. As much as I adore the tomatoes and peaches of summer and the squash and apples of fall and winter, I always come back to spring as my #1 top pick. I don’t know if it’s because the silence of the winter season seems so long, but there is something about these foods that render me virtually giddy.

Opening day Farmers' Market Finds

Opening day Farmers’ Market Finds

So, this past Saturday morning, when Charleston’s downtown Farmers’ Market opened, it felt like I was seven years old on Christmas morning, the anticipation level was that high. I pulled out my trusted, striped farmers’ market basket, donned a beaming smile and headed straight for Marion Square. As always, it was a feast for the senses and the soul. The smell of baking bread co-mingled with the sweetness of strawberries, familiar farmers and vendors smiled and sold their wares, even as more new faces and vendors did the same. It was intoxicating!

I loaded up with all my favorites and headed home to figure out how to best put these goodies to use. This was another reminder of why spring produce is especially idyllic. It needs precious little prep or ingredient additions to render it just about perfect. Super fresh produce responds very well to roasting which does a simple and fantastic job of coaxing the sugars and flavors of the supple produce out of them and directly into your happy mouth and stomach. Hence, the recipe that follows.

Roasted Spring Veggie Medley with Bacon and Scallions

(Yield: 4 to 6 servings)

In this delicious and nutritious warm veggie side, potatoes, spring onions, summer squash (though not yet quite in season), spring onions and asparagus are roasted separately (or alongside each other in the same pan) to retain their individual flavors and then tossed together, topped with sauteed bacon and scallions just prior to serving. Look for the freshest, thinnest skinned new potatoes you can find and leave the skin on. They will take just a little longer than the vegetables to cook, but the short wait is well worth the while. Non-meat eaters feel free to omit the bacon.

Roasted Spring Vegetable Medley with Bacon & Scallions

Roasted Spring Vegetable Medley with Bacon & Scallions

10 well-scrubbed small, fresh potatoes, quartered

3 spring onions, trimmed to 3″ length of the green stems, and halved

1 yellow squash, washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2″-thick slices

10 spears asparagus, washed trimmed (cut about 1″ off the bottom) and gently peeled about 3″ up from the base

Extra Virgin Olive oil

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To garnish:

4 slices bacon, sauteed and crumbled into large chunks

3 scallions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425F. Prep the vegetables. In a large roasting pan, arrange each of its kind together in a single layer, side by side. If the pan is too small, roast any remaining vegetable kind (for example asparagus) in a separate pan. Drizzle the veggies generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss each group together to coat. Roast at 425 until tender and barely colored/golden, tossing once or twice. The potatoes will take a little longer than the rest. After 20 – 25 minutes, remove the asparagus, onions and squash with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving bowl. Keep warm by covering with a piece of aluminum foil. Increase the oven to 450F and continue roasting the potatoes until very tender and just golden, another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the bacon over medium high heat until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Crumble or chop into a small dice. Toss the potatoes together with the warm vegetables. Topp with the bacon and scallions and serve immediately. This is a delicious dish on its own, or would work magic as a side to poultry, fish, pork or steak.

Mom’s Stewed Strawberries and Rhubarb

(Yield: About 2 1/2 cups)

Me and my siblings were basically sweet and dessert deprived as kids because my mother didn’t believe in them. However, she always obliged when strawberry and rhubarb season came around with this simple and delicious compote. Serve it warm over ice cream or cold over yogurt for breakfast. Unlike Mom, I add a little cinnamon and vanilla, but feel free to omit if you want it “plain.”

4 rhubarb spears, trimmed and cut into 1/2″-thick pieces

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 vanilla pod, cut in half vertically

Generous pinch ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients together in a medium sauce pan. Bring up to a boil over high heat and reduce to medium. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the rhubarb has broken down into a sauce and the strawberries are still chunky, but very soft. Remove the vanilla pod and discard. Serve warm or cold as suggested above. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 3 days. This will also freeze well for several weeks.

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Surprise – Shapely Shepherd’s Pie

Even though I’m about 50% Irish, my maiden name is McCauley, and my grandfather on my father’s side was born in the old country,  I  really struggle with St. Patrick’s Day. I’m extremely proud of my heritage, and to see it reduced to green beer, frequently sodden behavior, and frequently bad food leaves me grumpier than an extremely unlucky leprechaun. That is, until someone makes me a really top-notch Shepherd’s Pie, like the one in the recipe that follows.

Adapted from my cookbook,  Tart Love – Sassy, Savory, and Sweet (Gibbs Smith, October, 2011),  the traditional free-form potato-topped casserole is encased with a pie pastry. Truly delicious and nutritious, it can be made ahead of time, and the only (real – not dyed!!)  green thing about it comes from the peas and the parsley. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lovely photo by Helene Dujardin

Shapely Shepherd’s Pie

(Serves Eight)

Fluffy mashed potatoes topped with fragrant grass-fed beef (or substitute lamb) and a layer of spring peas wrapped with a casing of buttery pastry makes this dish a winner any time of year, but it’s particularly well-suited to early spring, and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day.

Equipment needed: One 9-inch deep-dish (2 – 3 inches deep) pie pan

1 Recipe Master Savory Pastry

2 1/2 cups White Lily all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt

2 sticks (1 cup) AA grade unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

3 tablespoons ice- cold water, or just enough to hold the pastry together.

Mashed Potatoes

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

Water to cover

1/4 – 1/2 cup whole cream (depending on desired texture)

2 – 3 tablespoons sweet butter

1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Peas

2 cups shelled fresh peas, blanched and refreshed, or 2 cups frozen peas

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt

Meat Filling

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound ground grass-fed beef (or substitute lamb or traditional ground beef)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 1/2 cups minced fresh carrots

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Finishing

1 egg wash (yolk mixed with a sprinkle of water, dash of salt)

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the pastry. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, pulse together the salt and the flour to combine. Add the butter all at once, and pulse 40 – 50 times or until the butter is roughly the size of small peas. Through the mouth of the food processor, very slowly stream in the water while pulsing, until the pastry just holds together in a messy, loose clump. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, form into a 1″-inch high disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or over night. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and line the pie pan with the pastry, forming a pretty, slightly elevated border. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the mashed potatoes, place the peeled, chopped potatoes in a medium pan with salt and enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes in a colander; return to the same pan and let them steam over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to remove any excess water. Add the cream, butter, horseradish, and seasoning. Mash with a potato masher, stirring to incorporate all of the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Let cool, then refrigerate to cool completely.

For the peas, bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add peas and blanch for about 1 minutes. Drain in a colander and “shock” by running very cold water over the peas. (If using frozen peas, skip this step.)

To make the meat filling, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef, season generously with salt and pepper, and brown for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring to break up and cook evenly. Drain off any excess fat, leaving 1 – 2 tablespoons in the pan. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic, and carrots; stir to coat. Let vegetables cook into the meat until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in parsley, scallions, Worcestershire, and mustard. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Refrigerate to chill the meat mixture completely.

Putting it together: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Gently brush the bottom, sides and edges of the chilled pastry shell with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Spoon about 1 cup of the potatoes into the bottom of the prepared pie pastry, smoothing to distribute evenly along the bottom and about 2 ” of the sides. Add all of the cooled beef mixture, and spread evenly. Top this with the cooled blanched peas or 2 cups of frozen peas. Top with the remaining mashed potatoes, smoothing gently with a spatula and leaving at least 1/2-inch (including the crust) free of filling, since the potatoes “puff” while they cook. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Meanwhile, whisk together the sour cream, mustard, horseradish and pepper. Bring to room temperature before serving. Place a generous dollop on or near each slice of the pie.

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