One of the best things in life is when you get to try brand new dish or ingredient you didn’t even know existed. I was driving Gabrielle back to school for the fall semester (actually it was our second trip the week after labor day because Gabrielle can never fit all of her stuff in the Honda Odyssey in one trip!) and we decided to have a leisurely lunch in New York before saying goodbye. We set very simple but specific parameters for the meal. The restaurant had to be cozy and unpretentious. We didn’t care if it was famous at all, but it had to serve real food. So Gabrielle put our conditions into the magical search known as Google and out popped Petit Abeille. This tiny restaurant seats only about 20 people and it was a bit gritty and cramped, but the aroma of onions and fried things from the open kitchen made us feel like we were in our own kitchen. It smelled like home cooking, a rarity I’m afraid for most restaurants.
There were many great things on the menu, including lot of offerings featuring real Belgian waffles, including one with fried chicken, which we naturally ordered.
There were the usual omelet brunch yummies as well, but our eyes were especially drawn to the chalkboard, which explained a food we had never even kind of heard of.
We ordered a second fried chicken with stoemp and it was heaven. I love fried chicken sometimes more than life, but I practically ignored my chicken and just inhaled the potatoes. What a brilliant idea and a damn nearly perfect fall food. You have potatoes, cream, butter, and root vegetables all working together to create a cozy rich feeling in your mouth and tummy. And the potatoes were properly salted too! Go Petit Abeille!
Stoemp is a richer version of a similar dish from the Netherlands called Stamppot, which also consists of mashed potatoes, other vegetables (especially root ones), cream, butter bacon, onions or shallots, herbs and spices. You can use any combination of dairy fat, onions/shallots and vegetables you like, but I decided to use two vegetables – kale and spinach – that I don’t really love because I figured all the cream and butter and bacon would more than offset bitter or “good for you” taste from the vegetables.
I couldn’t wait to get home to work on my own version of stoemp, which was good the first time around, but needed more butter, bacon and cream. What doesn’t, really? Here’s my final version, with an added bonus. Most people don’t know this, but there is actually a science to making mashed potatoes. This recipe shows you how to make proper mashed spuds. Russet, Idaho and Yukon make the best mash because they are not waxy and are less likely to lump together. Here, we use russets because I think they yield the tastiest and smoothest mashed potato. You should also dry mash your potatoes first and coat them with some fat (usually butter) before adding milk and cream. It keeps the potatoes from getting gluey and weird as long as you don’t over mash and can live with some lumps.
Stoemp – Road Home Style
- 6-8 strips bacon (local, if possible)
- 1 large onion or two medium onions coarsely chopped
- 4 pounds russet potatoes peeled
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves
- 1 cup chopped fresh kale*
- 1 teaspoon or more of salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Heat a medium size saucepan and add the bacon. Cook until crisp over medium heat.
- Remove bacon from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the fat.
- Crumble the bacon with your fingers when cool, and set aside.
- Drain all but 3 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan.
- Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook until they are brown and have caramelized, about 30 minutes.
- Add the kale and spinach to the onions and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
- Cut the potatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. You want to make sure the potatoes are the same size so they cook evenly.
- Place the potatoes in salted cold water* and bring to a boil. Lower temperature to a simmer and cook until a fork easily goes through the potatoes, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potato.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander and “dry mash” without the milk or butter for two minutes over a low flame.
- Add the butter and gently mix into the potatoes without mashing (you don’t want to over mash the potatoes or they will be gluey).
- Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and warm milk.
- Gradually add warm milk and cream to the pot and mix thoroughly.
- Mash potatoes until smooth or coarse, your preference.
- Mix in the bacon, vegetable mixture, salt and pepper until combined well.
- Stoemp is best served fresh, but may be made several hours ahead of time.
* You may also add any other root vegetable or greens you like.
** Add enough salt so that the water tastes like the ocean. You can always add more salt to the dish once it is assembled, but potatoes like everything else tastes MUCH better when properly cooked with salt during the process instead of after the fact.