Monday, March 14, 2011


  A few nights back, I was cold and hungry and struggling with the ever-persistent question: what do I want to eat?  I had spent all day inside watching the rain streak down my window panes while the whipping wind whistled its way into my little sanctuary.  The honest answer came quickly: all I craved was a big old pile of buttery mashed potatoes, creamy and fluffy and deeply comforting, like a warm blanket wrapped around my soul.
Mashed Potatoes
4 #                  potatoes, peeled
5 cloves          garlic
½ cup             warm milk
½ cup             stock
¾ stick          butter
¼ cup             sour cream
                        Salt, pepper

1. Place potatoes and garlic cloves in a pot and cover with cold water, then put on high heat to boil for about 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked.  When the water starts boiling, add a generous amount of salt.  You can boil the potatoes whole, but like I said I was hungry and impatient, so I chopped them into cubes to speed up the cooking time.
2. In the meantime, combine the liquids and heat to make them easier to incorporate later.  For vegetarians, you can leave out the stock and supplement with more milk.
3. To test for doneness, slide a paring knife into the potato and lift it gently.  If it slides off the knife, it is done.  If it sticks, give it more time.  Drain the potatoes and garlic and allow them to sit for a few minutes before mashing them.

Mashing potatoes
4. Smash!  A food mill or a ricer will give you the smoothest mash- I like my potatoes with a little texture, so I left a few chunks in there.  Use a masher, a meat tenderizer, the back of a spoon, your fists… whatever gets the job done.  Just don’t put the potatoes in a food processor or you’ll end up with a gluey mess!

5. Return the pot to low heat and stir in the butter and liquids, adding them a little at a time until the potatoes absorb the liquid and reach the consistency you want.  If you need more liquid, add it and remember, the more butter you add, the more delicious your potatoes will me.  Add sour cream, salt and pepper to taste.
  The sour cream in this recipe adds a nice tang, and boiling the garlic cloves along with the potatoes lends a sweet and subtle taste of garlic that isn’t overpowering.  For a more intense garlic flavor, roast a whole head of garlic and squeeze out the cloves into the finished mash.

  I would have just dug right into the steaming pot of creamy potatoes with a big spoon, but I was unable to ignore the nagging voice in my head whining that to indulge in such a starch-fest would be nutritionally irresponsible.  So I decided to fill out the meal with another of my recent favorites, a raw kale salad. 

Raw Kale Salad
2 bunch        Kale
1 can             white beans or
                       Sliced red onions

Warm Scallion Dressing
3 T             olive oil         
1                 shallot, diced fine
2                 green onions, sliced
3                cloves garlic, sliced 
2 T             sherry vinegar
                   Salt, pepper
1. Wash the kale and remove the stem ends.   Chop into thin ribbons and place in a large bowl with the sliced red onions.

2. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add shallots, garlic and onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.  Add the sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for another minute.

3. Pour the warm dressing over the salad and toss to coat.  With your hands, “massage” the dressing into the salad- this will help to break down the kale a bit take the raw bite out of the onions.  Add the beans and taste for salt.

4. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving- the kale will start to soften and take in the flavors of the dressing.  This salad just keeps getting better, the kale will hold its crunch for a few days in the fridge.

Raw Kale Salad with white beans and warm scallion dressing.
 Seeing as how I was already two-thirds of the way to a good square meal, I figured some protein was in order.

Chicken in Red Wine Sauce
2#                   boneless chicken thighs
1                      onion, sliced
1 cup               dry red wine
1 sprig           thyme
2 T                  butter
1. Cut the chicken thighs into chunks and season with salt and pepper, then dredge the pieces in flour, dusting off the excess.
2. Heat olive oil in a pan on medium-low, sweat the onion for 5-10 minutes until it is soft and translucent
3. Turn up the heat and add the chicken pieces, browning them all over. 

4. Deglaze with red wine, turning down the heat to low and scraping the pan to release the delicious bits stuck on the bottom

5. Add thyme and cover, simmer on low for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. 
6. Finish with butter, swirling it into the sauce.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Chicken with onions in red wine sauce, served over mashed potatoes
  A hearty three-point meal in just under an hour…  yum!

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