Phyllis' Kitchen...And All Around the House
With Thanksgiving planned and soon over, we head into the last holidays of 2014, and luckily, have plenty of autumn food with which to celebrate. We still have a couple of weeks to go before party season begins, and I urge you to turn to comfort food before we crowd around the party table with chips, dips, and fatty appetizers. I had a comfort food cooking experience this week that I’d recommend for you to try at a family dinner: something everyone adores. But make it so memorable that the wonderful flavors sing over the din of kids competing for parents’ attention. And once you make it, mashed potatoes will never bet the same again. Not only are these mashed potatoes made from scratch, their flavor is so rich and delicious that you will wonder why you never thought of this version before. Pair these potatoes with meat loaf or roasted chicken and a vegetable; you will probably not have any leftovers. And when you finish, don’t pour out the water; save it for soup or for drinking, as it is an elixir fit for a cook/queen/king.
Mashed Potatoes Supreme
1 onion, diced
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 tablespoons butter, divided
4-5 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
1-2 medium turnips*, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, scrubbed and cut into thin rounds
½ cup finely diced celery, optional
Milk or cream or sour cream for mashing
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, saute onion and garlic in 1-2 tablespoons butter until fragrant. Cut all vegetables—washed or peeled as you desire--into chunks; add them to the saucepan and cover with water, adding salt as desired. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. Pour off water and save for later use. Using a potato masher, mash the vegetables, adding extra butter, and enough butter, milk, cream—or sour cream for festive occasions—to produce the desired texture. (They will be a little lumpy.) Taste for seasonings, and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Serves 5-6. In the unlikely event that you have leftovers, shape the potatoes into round patties and place on plastic coffee can lids and freeze or refrigerate for future “potato cakes.”
*Don’t—do not—be tempted to omit the turnips. While some folks think they don’t like turnips, they make a huge flavor difference in mashed potatoes and in soup stock. You won’t know they’re there, but you will know if they are not there—once you’ve tasted this incredible flavor!
Pumpkins and Winter Squash: There are lots of pumpkins and winter squash available at the market for soups, breads, and desserts, so don’t be afraid to use them in one or more dishes in the same meal. Connie Dorval, an Oldham County cookbook author of “Cooking in Season,” has not one, but seven recipes for pumpkin soup. Some use roasted pumpkin, some add chicken, some with Thai flavorings, and none remotely similar to either of the two pumpkin soups I prepared for my family for many years. I love soup in the fall and winter, and this soup pairs pumpkin with chicken—to make the soup a main dish—and we certainly do have Valley Acres Farm for sourcing chicken. I have adapted Connie’s recipe for seasonal produce.
Pumpkin and Chicken Chowder
2 red bell peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into one-inch chunks
3 leeks, white and light green parts only (or substitute one bunch sliced green onions)
1 2-pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into one-inch chunks (I like butternut squash)
3 tablespoons flour (I use seasoned flour)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup whole kernel corn, fresh or frozen
5 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup sour cream, optional
Roast the peppers. Preheat oven to broil. Place the red peppers and jalapenos on a baking sheet and cook under the broiler, turning occasionally, until the skins blacken, about 10 minutes. Seal the charred peppers in a paper bag for 10-12 minutes. Peel, stem, seed, and cut peppers into ½ inch pieces. Set aside. (It’s ok to use roasted red peppers from a jar, rinsed and well drained.)
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until browned. Remove the chicken and keep warm. Add the leeks or onions and pumpkin chunks and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the flour, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the corn, peppers, chicken, broth, and oregano, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 3 minutes. Serve hot and garnish each bowl with sour cream. Serves 6.
Cabbage is often available right through December, and stores well, so here’s a recipe from Mark Bittman’s book, “Food Matters.” (Bittman is the food editor of the New York Times, and my favorite cooking author. Yes, it’s sort of a different take on coleslaw, but extremely refreshing.
Asian Cabbage Salad
1 small head cabbage, about one pound
Salt, as needed
2 ribs celery, diced
2 carrots, chopped
1 small medium red onion, minced (or substitute chopped scallions)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small chile, chopped fine, optional
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
5 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons lime juice or rice vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
1. Core the cabbage and chop roughly. If you’re not salting, skip to Step 2. If you are, put the cabbage in a colander, sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons salt, and toss. Check in 10 minutes or so to see if the leaves are exuding moisture. If not, add a little more salt and toss again. Let sit an hour or two, pressing the moisture out with your hands once or twice. Taste it; if it’s too salty, rinse and pat dry.
2. Combine the vegetables in a bowl with the cabbage; sprinkle lightly with pepper (and salt, if you didn’t salt the cabbage in step 1), add the oil, lime juice or vinegar, and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with cilantro if you like, and serve. Serves 5-6.
Sarah Fritschner’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie sweetens with sorghum, but if you don’t have it, substitute honey.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
1 ½ cups gingersnap cookie crumbs, about 25 cookies
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup sorghum
¾ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon, each, allspice, nutmeg, and salt
2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin (or 15 ounce can)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cookie crumbs and sugar in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir until moist. Transfer crumbs to a 9” pie dish; press crumbs firmly onto the bottom and sides of the dish. Bake crust until firm, about 8 minutes. Set aside. Turn oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until there are no lumps, scraping sides of the bowl often. Add sugar, sorghum, eggs, spices and salt. Beat again to combine evenly. Add pumpkin and stir to blend. Pour mixture into crust and bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 20 minutes more, or until the custard is set but wiggles slightly in the center. Transfer to a rack and cool completely. Chill before serving in thin slices. Serves 12.
Check out our radio show, “La Vida Local” on WCHQ, 100.9 FM, Crescent Hill Radio, www.crescenthillradio.com, with former Courier-Journal food editor, Sarah Fritschner, Patty Marguet and me. If you know a great cook, please recommend them for an interview. You may stream the show on the CHR website at 1 p.m. Saturdays or find it on the sound cloud or on Facebook under La Vida Local. Bardstown Road Farmers Market vendor Todd Childers was a recent guest. Check for other recipes on my website, www.phyllisfitzgerald.com, and you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
La Vida Local