Cozy Spuds for Chilly Days

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.

 

Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

 

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.

 

Fried Chicken to Accompany Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

 

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.

 

Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

 

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 – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

 

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.

 

Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

 

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

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. Heat a medium size saucepan and add the bacon. Cook until crisp over medium heat.
  2. Remove bacon from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the fat.
  3. Crumble the bacon with your fingers when cool, and set aside.
  4. Drain all but 3 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan.
  5. Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook until they are brown and have caramelized, about 30 minutes.
  6. Add the kale and spinach to the onions and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Drain the potatoes in a colander and “dry mash” without the milk or butter for two minutes over a low flame.
  10. 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).
  11. Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and warm milk.
  12. Gradually add warm milk and cream to the pot and mix thoroughly.
  13. Mash potatoes until smooth or coarse, your preference.
  14. Mix in the bacon, vegetable mixture, salt and pepper until combined well.
  15. 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.

      The Last Pumpkins (For a While…)

      I’ve been having a great fall teaching classes and testing out endless  butternut squash/apple/turnip/pear/carrot/sweet potato/parsnip/pumpkin combinations in soups, gratins, purees, and stew-like creations. I had a hard time deciding what to share with you before TurkeyDay, the biggest food event of the year.

      But the other day I cracked open Dorie Greenspan’s brilliant new cookbook Around My French Table for the first time. This is exactly the book I wish I’d written. Like her perfect Baking from my Home to Yours, the recipes are simple, versatile and flavorful, and the pages are saturated with spectacular pictures and peppered with “bonne idées” – good ideas to make each recipe your own. She takes the mystery out of fabulous French cooking from the simplest home meal to the most intimidating pastries. And so many of her recipes have blunt, adorable names – Spur-of-the Moment Vegetable Soup, Salmon and Potatoes in a Jar.

      But once I saw “Pumpkins Stuffed With Everything Good,” I knew I’d found my starting point. The concept, taken from generations of French home cooking, is sheer perfection: so cozy, beautiful, and delicious. As Dorie says, “an outline is about the best you can do with this dish” – because there’s so many ways you can, and often must, vary it. She says she never makes it the same way twice.

      It’s sort of like a fondue, only you spoon out the contents not skewer them. The concepts all depend on what you like, and the best thing about it is that you can serve it as an appetizer or a side dish on the Thanksgiving table, perfect for all friends and family. You can even easily make it vegetarian if that’s what makes you happy.

      Here’s what you have to do:

      You take a bake-able pumpkin, like sugar or Cinderella and cut off the top

      scoop out the stringy stuff and the seeds (to toast) (or caramelize)

      then crush some garlic, and maybe chop some herbs

      fill it with your favorite chunks of bread, cheeses, herbs and a bit of bacon or pancetta or similar if you like

      Pour in some cream

      And bake it!

      That’s it! And this is what you get in the end…

      Then you scoop this with some of the pumpkin meat on to small plates. Together with a good glass of white wine and you’re in heaven after one taste. I’m not exaggerating.

      Full, concise recipe after the jump!

      Continue reading

      Fall at its Finest

      I love autumn for so many reasons – the soft lighting, the crisp air, and the beautiful foliage – but somehow things always come back to food for us. Even when I was a little girl, great food superseded all other experiences. Sure, I was excited to go back to school and for Halloween, but what I really loved were the comfort foods my mother made in the fall. She used to make these wonderful Austrian plum dumplings called Zwetschgenknoedel. These cozy and rich Austrian potato dumplings are filled with Italian plums and have just enough sugar and cinnamon to be called dessert.

      When I went to college, I had Zwetschgenknoedel withdrawal every fall, and for years afterward I would beg my mother for the recipe. Like so many great cooks of her generation, she said there was no recipe and she would add a little of this and that each time. But in recent years, Gabrielle and Isabella got so tired of hearing about these special dumplings they begged their Oma to try to write it down. Fortunately, it was much easier to do than she predicted. They’re actually quite easy to make, and they’re spectacularly delicious.

      Most Americans have never had these delectable dumplings before. I’ve never seen them on a menu or sold anywhere. In Germany and Austria, they are as common as apple pie and it’s easy to see why. There is nothing better than one or two of these dumplings with a cup of tea after a light lunch or dinner. Help me spread the word and share this link with all of your foodie friends. I assure you, they will be grateful.

       

      Zwetschgenknoedel (Austrian Plum Dumplings)

      From: Heide Lang

      Ingredients:

      • 2 Russet potatoes
      • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter
      • Pinch of Salt
      • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
      • About 12 Italian Plums (sometimes called prunes) or damson plums
      • ¾ cup sugar1 teaspoon cinnamon
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla
      • 1 cup bread crumbs

      Directions:

      1. Boil 2 russet potatoes until soft (at least ½ hour).
      2. Peel off skin and add 1/3 stick butter sliced. Mash potatoes and butter until smooth.
      3. Add a dash of salt and mix again. Let cool.
      4. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a 12 inch saucepan.
      5. Add sugar, cinnamon, and bread crumbs and heat until breadcrumbs are slightly browned. Set aside and cool.
      6. Mix one whole egg and one yolk into the potatoes, along with one cup of flour.
      7. Mix well and knead until dough is smooth (you may need a little more flour).
      8. Shape the dough into a 4 inch by 6 inch rectangle
      9. Wash and dry plums
      10. Cut approximately 1/2 inch of dough (depending on the size of the plums) and flatten into round shape in the palm of your hand (dough should be about an 1/8 of an inch thick when flattened out).
      11. Wrap dough around the plum, making sure to cover it completely.
      12. Repeat until all the plums are wrapped.
      13. Fill a 6 quart pot two-thirds of the way with lightly salted water.
      14. Place the dumplings  gently in the water and let come to a boil again.
      15. Reduce to a simmer and cook until you can see the juice “bleeding” inside the dumplings.
      16. Remove with a slotted spoon and roll into the bread crumb mixture.
      17. Let cool 15 minutes and serve.