Archives for April 2012

Twice baked colcannon potatoes with sauteed spinach and garlic

A few weeks ago many of us were tilting back the Guinness and feasting on brisket and cabbage during St. Patrick’s Day, but Chef John over at foodwishes.com was cooking up his own favorite recipe. I had never seen colcannon prepared before, but I enjoyed this recipe video he posted back then in March, and you might want to check it out too. If you aren’t familiar with colcannon, it’s simply mashed potatoes combined with a combination of green stuff which may include cabbage, kale, onions, and/or leeks. Chef John finishes it with with a big dollop of butter and a sprinkling of green onions, kinda making it mashed potato’s cool Irish brother.

Fast forward to this week, and I’ve been making a lot of spinach and garlic. I enjoy cooking it in big batches and taking my time so it’s not a rushed thing. There’s a nice zen calm as I go through the steps – washing and chopping the leaves, using my mandolin to thinly slice the garlic, the low sizzle of the slow saute, then watching the gentle way spinach wilts down into almost nothing.

By making a big batch I can freeze half of the spinach and garlic, then find inspiration to use up the rest in lots of different ways. It goes so well in just about everything, but I love it as a simple side dish next to some roasted chicken. Throwing a handful into an omelet with some roasted red peppers can make morning breakfast a lot more colorful. It plays well as the finishing ingredient in soups, or it can give grilled chicken sausage a savory boost piled up as a topping.

These twice baked colcannon potatoes are really just a good, simple way to use up all that tasty sauteed spinach and garlic, but after you bite into one of these beauties you may think mashed potato’s cool Irish brother should hang around more often.

Basic Spinach & Garlic

  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, finely minced
  • 3 large bunches fresh spinach, stems & leaves chopped into 3/4 inch pieces

Using a mandolin or v-slicer, thinly slice the garlic directly into a cold non-stick pan. Add 2 teaspoons of oil and a pinch of kosher salt, then adjust the heat to medium high. When the garlic sizzles, bring the heat down to low. The sizzling should be very soft, like a little whisper you have to strain to hear. Cook this for 3 minutes. Stir in the minced onion, along with another 2 teaspoons of oil and another pinch of salt. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’re looking for translucent and soft enough that you could easily use flat wooden spoon to smash it. Remove from heat and reserve.

To a large wide pot over medium high heat add the spinach with another tablespoon of oil and a heavy pinch of salt. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly (I like to use silicone coated tongs for this). The spinach will wilt and squeezes out liquid. Add the garlic and onions, then continue cooking another 3 minutes, or until the spinach stems are soft. Remove from heat then cool well before refrigerating or freezing.

Twice Baked Colcannon Potatoes

  • 1 large russet potato, well scrubbed
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • seasoned salt
  • 3/4 cup prepared spinach and garlic
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1/4 cup cheese (you could use swiss, cheddar, or whatever you like, but I used pepper jack)
  • 1 Tbs sour cream
  • 1 green onion, chopped fine

Place a small tray in the center of your bottom oven rack, then preheat to 400 degrees. Poke the potato 12 times with the tines of a fork, then rub the skin with the olive oil sprinkle with seasoned salt. Place it directly on your oven rack, above the small tray to catch any drips. Bake for one hour, or until a knife easily pierces the center. Cool for about ten minutes, or until you can handle the potato easily.

Cut the potato lengthwise, and scoop the insides into a large bowl. Add the butter with the spinach and garlic mixture, then mash well with a fork. Scoop this back into the potato skins, then sprinkle on another dash of seasoned salt. Return the potatoes to the small tray used earlier. Bake again at 400 degrees for about 10-20 minutes, or until heated through.

Add the cheese in an even layer, then broil until golden and bubbling, about two minutes.

Top with the sour cream and green onions.

Healthy weeknight mashed cauliflower and easy roasted chicken

In my opinion, mashed potatoes go best with a fat celebratory birthday steak or a tall pile of Thanksgiving turkey, but they aren’t everyday food. A few years ago my eating habits were a bit different, and I wouldn’t have thought twice about plowing through a mountain of buttery spuds on a Wednesday night. Instead, I now try to keep it light on the weekdays. I would rather stick to healthier everyday meals, then save the richer stuff for the weekend. I like that keeping it simple also generally means easier to prepare, leaving more time to eat and clean up.

So instead of mashed potatoes I make mashed cauliflower. It’s a simple recipe with easy prep, and the results go so well with an equally uncomplicated roasted chicken. On this occasion, I added some leftover roasted almond crumbs to give it a nice nutty texture.

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion (minced)
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup milk (1% fat content or higher)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • (optional) pinch fresh grated nutmeg
  • (optional) 1 Tbs butter

(To make the almond crumbs, simply throw a few handfuls of almonds on a baking pan and roast at 350 degrees. Stir them after 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 275 and continue roasting for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the almonds sit in the oven another 15 minutes. Take them out, let them fully cool, then either chop them in a food processor, or throw them in a plastic bag and crush with a meat mallet. Add a pinch of some large-flake kosher salt.)

Halve the cauliflower, then cut each of these pieces into quarters. Angle your knife at 45 degrees and cut out the tough stem. Pull apart each of the quarters into several 1 inch pieces.

Heat the canola oil in a large wide pot over medium heat until it shimmers, then add the onion and saute until it becomes translucent, or about 3 minutes.

Add the cauliflower, half and half, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about twelve minutes (stirring once), or until a fork easily mashes the cauliflower.

Remove from heat and tilt the pot at an angle. Fully submerge a stick blender into the deepest part of the cauliflower and liquids, then puree the contents. Stir in the optional nutmeg and butter, then sprinkle on the almond crumbs just before serving.

Perfect Roasted Chicken

From Ruhlman’s Twenty by Michael Ruhlman

  • One 3 to 4 pound chicken
  • 1 lemon and/or 1 medium onion, quartered
  • Kosher salt

About 1 hour before cooking the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator, and rinse it. Stuff the bird with the lemon or onion, or both. Salt it and set it on a plate lined with paper towels/absorbent paper.

Preheat the oven to 425°F or 450°F if your oven is clean and won’t smoke from the high temperature. Set the oven on convection if that’s an option. Put the chicken in an oven-proof frying pan and slide it into the oven.

After 45 minutes, check the color of the juices. If they run red, return the chicken to the oven and check it again in 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

Serve as an uncomplicated dinner for two to three people with the mashed cauliflower.

Quick and easy cream biscuits are the definition of simplicity

I spotted these biscuits on the kitchen a little while ago and promptly saved the recipe based on this photo. Don’t those look delicious… all tall and cloudy? Previously, I had only used butter as the fat in biscuits, so I was curious to see how replacing it with cream would change the texture. I’m always hungry for excuses to try recipes like this, so I grabbed fresh organic cream the next time I went to the store and got to work.

A very short list of ingredients make this recipe super simple to put together:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (divided)

Set up a layer of parchment paper across the bottom and up 2 sides of an 8″x8″ pan. Preheat oven to 425°F degrees. (the recipe called for a metal 8″x8″ pan, but I only had pyrex and it worked fine.)

Grab a big mixing bowl and measure out all your dry ingredients into it. Measure out the cream into a separate cup. Use a whisk to stir and incorporate the dry ingredients. Grab a spoon and stir the dry ingredients while pouring in the cream. Stop pouring when there’s still roughly a 1/4 cup of cream left, but keep stirring to combine the ingredients.

Stir until the ingredients hold together as a shaggy dough. It should not be wet. If it is, add more flour until the mixture pulls away from the mixing bowl.

Dump the dough on to a well floured surface. Pour the rest of the cream into the bowl and use it to gather up any loose flour and dough, then pour this into the rest of the pile.

Gently knead the dough, bringing together frayed edges while folding the mass in thirds. Form the dough into a rough square.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough square into thirds, then into ninths.

Arrange the nine pieces in your parchment-lined baking vessel. I decided to brush the tops with additional cream because I thought the protein in it would help create browning. Adding another pinch of good kosher salt was my addition as well.

Bake for 13-18 minutes, or just keep checking for a perfectly browned top every four minutes after the first fifteen like I do. I can’t help it.

Voila! The finished product was crumbly and fluffy in the center, with a crispy browned top which added some nice texture.

I enjoyed these biscuits with a nice cup of tea, which makes for an exceptional start to a Sunday morning. Hopefully you enjoy them as much as I did.

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