Tag: mashed potatoes

The Secret to Getting Everything to the Table Piping Hot

The Secret to Getting Everything to the Table Piping Hot

One of the biggest challenges to hosting Thanksgiving dinner is getting all of the side dishes to the table piping hot (or at least not cold).

So what’s the secret? PREPARATION!!

And how do you that? By making lists. I’m a big believer in writing a list of things to do. I do this every day for daily tasks and also have a “bigger picture” list for projects I’m working on, which may take several months to accomplish.

Now Is The Time To Start Planning

With Thanksgiving only a week away, now is the time to start planning. The first thing you need to do is decide on a menu. Here are some recipes you may want to consider making, along with an overall Thanksgiving prep schedule.

 

Nan’s Mashed Potatoes are the killer side dish for Thanksgiving. If you make just one thing from this menu, make this.

 

MENU AND THANKSGIVING PREP SCHEDULE

Here’s the Rootsliving Thanksgiving Day menu:

  1. Antipasti Platter (You don’t have to make all four. Pick, choose and then assemble.)
  2. Root Soup (our signature dish)
  3. Classic, No-Fail, American Roasted Turkey
  4. Triple Cornbread Stuffing
  5. Nan’s Mashed Potatoes
  6. Green Bean Casserole (the healthier version)
  7. Cranberry Sauce (homestyle or chunky, from a can. Hey, you can’t do everything.)
  8. Quick, Easy, Nutella Cookies (If guests ask what they can bring, tell them pies.)
A tray of breadsticks, stuffed red peppers, and more
You can make any, or all four, of these appetizers on Thanksgiving Day. You just assemble the ingredients (no cooking required).

SCHEDULE:

To make your own cooking schedule, I suggest working backwards. Start at Thanksgiving Day and figure out what food has to be made on that day. In other words, what food can’t you make ahead of time?

Obviously, you wouldn’t want to make the turkey the night before because you wouldn’t be able to serve it moist and hot. Reheated turkey isn’t as good as freshly cooked.

If you plan to make the Rootsliving Thanksgiving Day menu (or a pretty good facsimile), you can follow this schedule.

You’ll notice that I start with cooking a chicken on Sunday. That’s only if you intend to make your own chicken stock for the Root Soup. Store bought is fine and if you decide to use that, then skip that part of the plan.

TODAY-SUNDAY: Decide on your menu. Make a list of ingredients. Order your fresh turkey and make time to food shop.

SUNDAY:

  • Roast a chicken (optional, only if you intend to make your own stock) and eat it for Sunday dinner.

MONDAY:

  • Make chicken stock with the leftover chicken carcass and put it in the refrigerator overnight. (optional)

TUESDAY:

  • Spoon fat off chicken stock and make Root Soup.

WEDNESDAY:

  • Make Nan’s Mashed Potatoes (but don’t sprinkle with paprika or dot the top with butter just yet. Instead put it in a baking dish and refrigerate overnight. Wait to bake it on Thursday.)
  • Mashed potatoes in baking dish.
  • Make Green Bean Casserole (but don’t sprinkle the final layer of French’s crispy fried onions on top. Instead put it in a baking dish and refrigerate overnight. Wait to bake it on Thursday.)
  • Make Quick, Easy, Nutella cookies 

THURSDAY, THANKSGIVING DAY:

Finally,  don’t forget to relax. The holidays are for remembering and celebrating what’s important in life — family and good friends. The food, spirits, and material gifts are secondary.

And if cranky aunt gladys complains that the green bean casserole isn’t warm enough, smile and pour her another glass of wine (it’s counterintuitive, but she’ll be less whiny).

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with a free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

 

 

Torta d’patata

Torta d’patata

(Above: Torta d’patata before putting it in the oven where it develops a light, brown, crust.)

This is a recipe from my grandmother Bruna’s kitchen. It’s a very thin and savory potato cake made with swiss chard.

Peeled potatoes in a colander.
Mashed potatoes is the starter for this dish.
Mashed potato mixture on a cookie sheet.
Spread the mashed potato mixture out onto a floured cookie sheet.

You basically make mashed potatoes and then add some savory ingredients before spreading it on a cookie sheet and baking it.

My grandmother was born in the hills of northern Tuscany, so I believe this recipe is very much a Tuscan specialty. I made this as part of the “Julia (Child) Meets Bruna” dinner party meal plan, and a version of it also showed up in the “Southern France Vegetarian” meal plan.

Here’s the recipe:

 

 

 

Torta d'Patata

October 15, 2018
: 1 hr 15 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Potatoes, peeled, washed, and cut in half (about 4 pounds)
  • Onion, chopped fine (1 large)
  • Garlic (1 clove, smashed or split in two)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (a small handful or about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh sage, chopped (About 2-3 tablespoons)
  • Fresh mint, chopped (A small handful or about 1/4 cup)
  • Swiss chard, chopped (1 bunch, about 8 leaves with stems trimmed)
  • Chicken bullion cube (1/2 a cube)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (3/4 cup)
  • 2 Eggs
  • Butter (1-2 tablespoons)
Directions
  • Step 1 Put potatoes in boiling water and cook until very tender. Drain in a colander and then make mashed potatoes with them. (I put the potatoes through a ricer so there are no lumps.
  • Step 2 In a frying pan, saute the onions until translucent and then add the garlic, parsley, sage, and mint. Stir for about a minute and then add the swiss chard. Cover and cook until swiss chard shrinks and is ready to eat.
  • Step 3 Dissolve half a chicken bullion cube about 3/4 cup of hot water.
  • Step 4 Add all ingredients (from frying pan and the chicken stock you just created) to the mashed potatoes and stir.
  • Step 5 Add the grated cheese, the 2 eggs and the butter to the mashed potatoes and stir until the eggs and everything are well blended.
  • Step 6 Grease a cookie sheet with Crisco shortening. Sprinkle flour over it to cover the pan. Turn out excess flour.
  • Step 7 Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, spread mashed potato mixture evenly over cookie sheet.
  • Step 8 Place in a 350 oven until lightly golden brown (be careful not to let bottom burn). This should take about 20 minutes, give or take 5 minutes or so.
  • Step 9 Take from the oven and sprinkle salt over the top. Cut into large squares or rectangles.

 

 

Short Ribs Provencale

Short Ribs Provencale

(Above: There is a variety of complex flavors in this dish.)

Sometimes you find an amazing recipe: one that outdoes all others for the same dish. This is that recipe for short ribs.

The recipe is time consuming but it’s well worth the wait. I found it on Epicurious. Cookbook author Rick Rodgers said the editors of Bon Appétit magazine asked him to create the ultimate version of braised short ribs and this is what he came up with, based on elements of various short rib dishes he enjoyed at several restaurants. He did this some 15 years ago in 2003, and having made this recently I can say it stands the test of time.

 

A blue dutch oven
You could this dish in a dutch oven for 2 1/2 hours.

 

I took it a step further by using short ribs I got at a local Massachusetts farm. I also had a pound of bacon and a chicken sausage I needed to cook, so I cooked them in the dutch oven before I cooked the short ribs. Before adding the ribs, I took out all of the oil left from the bacon and sausage except for about two tablespoons. I don’t think cooking bacon and sausage is necessary but I do believe it added even more depth to the wonderful flavors found in this dish.

I didn’t have any black olives so I used what I had on hand: olives stuffed with blue cheese. I also served the short ribs over mashed potatoes and covered it all in a blanket of the delicious sauce. Here’s the recipe. Bon appetite!

Short Ribs Provencale (From Rick Rodgers)

May 2, 2016
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 pounds individual short ribs (not cross-cut flanken)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hearty red wine, such as Zinfandel or Shiraz
  • 1 3/4 cups beef stock, preferably homemade, or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • One 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice, drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 ounces baby-cut carrots
  • 1/2 cup Mediterranean black olives, such as Niçoise, pitted
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Directions
  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Step 2 Heat the oil in a large (at least 6-quart) Dutch oven or flameproof casserole over medium-high heat. Season the short ribs with the salt and pepper. In batches, without crowding, add the short ribs to the pot and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the ribs to a platter.
  • Step 3 Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pot. Add the onion, chopped carrot, and celery to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, herbes de Provence, and flour and stir until the garlic gives off its aroma, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the broth, tomatoes, and bay leaf. Return the short ribs, and any juices, to the pot. Add cold water as needed to barely reach the top of the ribs and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Step 4 Cover tightly, transfer to the oven, and bake, stirring occasionally to change the position of the ribs, until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, about 2 1/2 hours. During the last 15 minutes, add the baby carrots.
  • Step 5 Transfer the short ribs to a deep serving platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Skim off the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid, and discard the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced to a sauce consistency, about 10 minutes (the exact time depends on the size of the pot). Add the olives and cook to heat them through, about 3 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  • Step 6 Spoon the sauce with the carrots over the ribs, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve hot, preferably over mashed potatoes.

 

Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Here’s another recipe from our Southern France meal plan, courtesy of La Zucca Magica, an Italian vegetarian restaurant in Nice.

We were served this as our first course there and although I couldn’t find the exact recipe online I was able to recreate it perfectly: mainly because the potato mixture was very similar to a potato cake my grandmother used to make.

Mashed potato mixture on a cookie sheet.
Instead of spreading the mixture on a cookie sheet (shown above), put it in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake it.

It’s one of my favorite dishes. To make it just follow the Torta d’Patata recipe here, but omit the swiss chard and use a vegetable broth bullion cube instead of chicken broth bullion cube if you want to keep the dish vegetarian.

They don’t use swiss chard in this dish at La Zucca Magica, according to the chef there. And instead of spreading it out into a thin layer on a cookie sheet, put the potato mixture in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake at 350 degrees until the top is lightly golden (or about 20 minutes).

For the tomato sauce, follow the Quick Tomato Sauce recipe here.

To serve, scoop out a large ball of the potato mixture and place it in the center of a small plate or soup bowl. Put a ring of the tomato sauce around the potato ball. Serve warm.

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

(Above: Nice is a fun city that does a great job of blending the old and the new.)

Nice is in Southern France, near the Italian border, and so the cuisine there is a mixture of Italian and French. On our first visit we ate well and were able to pick up some great recipes: some that blend both cuisines and some that take classics and make them new.

Aerial view of the beach in Nice
(The French Riviera in Nice is a great summer spot with many wonderful flavors to explore.)

Three of these recipes we got from our favorite restaurant there, La Zucca Magica: a vegetarian restaurant with dishes so rich, no one missed the meat. Unfortunately, that restaurant has closed but I still have very fond memories of one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

 

Man sitting on a bench overlooking the port in Nice.
(La Zucca Magica, aka the Magic Pumpkin, was located near the port.)

 


Meal Plan: Mostly Vegetarian

When we got back, we had several dinner parties, including one with this meal plan:

 

First course: Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto. (Recreated from Le Comptoir in Nice)

A bowl of orange cantaloupe soup.

 

Second course: Tomato Stuffed With Pasta Salad. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Tomato stuffed with pasta

 

Third course: Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Stuffed swiss chard.

 

If you want to have a completely vegetarian dinner, you can either omit the prosciutto in the first course or you can serve this dish instead: Patata Ball in Tomato Sauce (just substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in this recipe). (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

potatoes in tomato sauce

 

And for dessert you could serve this tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations: La Tourte De Blettes.(From a recipe card purchased in the market in St. Remy.)

A slice of pie
(La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie, but don’t let that fool you. It is sweet and can be served as both an entree and a dessert.)

 

Nan’s Mashed Potatoes

A woman passes a plate at a dinner table
That’s Nan, passing a plate of artichokes at Easter Dinner in the Rootsliving dining room.

My brother’s mother-in-law, Theresa McMullen (aka: Nan, short for Nana), is a great cook and one of her specialties is this mashed potato recipe.

 

It’s good for special occasions, like Thanksgiving, and is guaranteed to have your guests asking for more. If they also ask for the recipe, tell them they can find it here on Rootsliving.

 

The recipe is a fairly easy one to follow. A simplified explanation is you make mashed potatoes and then add sour cream and cream cheese to them and bake them until they’re bubbly and hot.

 

A baking dish with mashed potatoes
I may have gone a little heavy on the paprika this time but that’s OK. It’s not a spice that easily overpowers anything.

 

Choosing Your Potatoes

The best potatoes to use are high in starch content, which produces fluffy, and not runny, mashed potatoes. This time I used a combination of yellow Yukons and some Russets (white).  The Yukons have a little less starch but add a buttery flavor.

To peel the potatoes, I recommend using a small paring knife or a steak knife with a good handle. Try to get as close to the skin as you can but don’t worry too much about it. If you end up cutting off and throwing out some of the potato, who cares? You’ll get better at this the more you do it.

 

A bay leaf floats in water over potatoes
Just one bay leaf adds enough flavor to the potatoes as they boil.

 

When boiling the potatoes, I always add a bay leaf and sometime even a peeled onion cut into halves or quarters. And I also boil them in a large pasta pot with a colander insert. This makes it easy to get the potatoes out of the boiling water without any mishaps.

 

Potatoes drain in a colander
A pasta pot with a colander insert comes in handy.

 

The most important tip I can give you is to mash the potatoes by using a ricer. A ricer is a metal contraption that you put a handful of potatoes in at a time and then squeeze it shut so that the potatoes are forced to push through small drain holes and into a bowl.

 

Potatoes in a ricer
I can’t live without my ricer.

 

My mother always used a ricer when making mashed potatoes, so I never gave this a second thought. This prevents lumps. And no one likes lumpy mashed potatoes.

 

Close up of hot mashed potatoes
Cook at 350 until the potatoes are hot and bubbling. This usually takes about 20-30 minutes.

 

So how many calories are in this dish? Probably a million, but hey, we’re not eating them every week. These are good a few times a year, on special occasions.

 

Mashed potatoes on a plate
These creamy potatoes will have your guests asking for the recipe and more.

 

Nan's (decadent) Mashed Potatoes

April 3, 2010
: Easy

This takes a little time but it's easy to make. You basically make mashed potatoes and then add a few ingredients to them before baking.

By:

Ingredients
  • Potatoes (8 pounds)
  • Bay Leaf (1)
  • Garlic powder (just a dash)
  • Cream Cheese (1 8 oz package)
  • Sour Cream (1 16 oz container)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  • Paprika (enough to sprinkle on top)
  • Butter (enough to grease a baking dish and a few slabs to put on top)
Directions
  • Step 1 Boil potatoes with bay leaf until tender. And then mash. I always mash potatoes through a ricer, which prevents lumps.
  • Step 2 Add salt and pepper and garlic powder.
  • Step 3 Beat in the cream cheese and sour cream. I use a hand-held electric beater until the potatoes are smooth and creamy.
  • Step 4 Put potatoes in baking dish that has been greased with butter. Smooth top and dab with butter and sprinkle with paprika.
  • Step 5 Bake in a 350-degree oven until hot and bubbly.