Deadly Mashed Potatoes

Last Friday was Mrs. Nice’s birthday, and so yesterday, once Mags and the Dutchman had returned from their honeymoon, we had a little lunch party to celebrate. I have tons of great recipes to show you from that lunch, but I’m going to start with the basics here. Now, you KNOW how to make mashed potatoes. And I KNOW that you know now to make mashed potatoes.

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Bu there are a million ways to add a little bit of extra WOW to your mashed potatoes. And here’s one of them. Once you’ve got your potatoes peeled (optional), cut, and boiled, start your mashing. Tip in a bit of milk and some plain yogurt (or cream cheese, or sour cream), and give it a whaz with the hand mixer to make them extra smooth.

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For presentation, smooth them into a large bowl and form a depression in the middle. Add a generous hunk of butter and a dash of pepper and let that butter melt absolutely everywhere. If you put it in the oven to keep warm at this point the butter will ooze all down the sides (best seen in a glass dish like this one) and everyone will be clamouring for seconds. I rarely end up with leftovers. Today was no exception.

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Burnt Butter Mashed Potatoes

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This is an elegant twist on your average mashed potatoes and it’s worth the little bit of extra effort.

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Start with 3 1/2lbs of white potatoes. When I’m cooking for the Pie’s family, who are all mashed potato fiends, I generally go with one large potato for each eater.

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I don’t usually peel potatoes before mashing them because I like the texture of the skin but in this case I followed the recipe and peeled them up. Then I chopped them into smaller pieces and chucked them into a large pot with some salted water.

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Simmer the potatoes for at least 25 minutes, or until they’re all soft and you can poke through them with a fork very easily. Drain the potatoes and put them back on the warm element before you start mashing them.

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In a small pot on the side, dump about 1/2 cup butter and turn it to medium heat. Let that melt.

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While it’s melting, add 1 cup milk and 1/4 cup sour cream to your mashed potatoes and mix that in.

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By now your butter should be starting to fizz. Swish it around a bit but leave it alone for a little while longer.

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When it starts to really foam up, you’re nearly there, and you’ll be able to see the butter start to caramelize and turn brown. Remove it from the heat.

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Pour most of the butter into your mashed potatoes and stir to combine.

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Then sculpt them into a nice serving shape and drizzle maybe 2 tablespoons of the butter on top. TADA!

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Chicken with Tarragon Butter: In the Woods

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This is a great make-ahead meal for two for a short camping trip from The Camping Cookbook. I froze all the ingredients before we left so they would stay cool and solid until I needed them.  Feel free to increase the recipe if you have more campers. You may have seen a few teaser shots of this from last week, because I was so very clever in my pre-preparation.

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Start with 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Slice those in half, lengthwise, so you have four long strips.  If you think those strips are too big, slice the breasts into three or four, depending on your preference.

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Mix together your marinade of  1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 teaspoons olive oil.

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Shove your chicken into the marinade for at least 30 minutes(I put mine in a plastic container and froze it).

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Meanwhile, mix up your lovely compound butter.

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Stir together 1/4 cup softened butter with 1/3 cup fresh tarragon, chopped, and a finely minced shallot (use 1/4 of a small onion if that’s all you have).

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I chucked this in the freezer as well.

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When you’re ready to go, pull your (thawed) chicken out of the marinade and grill it on the fire/stove until cooked through, which will depend on how thick you sliced it. This looks sickly because it was gloomy under the tarp where I was cooking and I needed a flashlight to see…

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Serve hot with dollops of the tarragon butter on top. I actually forgot to pull out the butter until we were all done so I put it in the hot pan to let it melt.

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We served this with some peas and corn and garlic mashed potatoes.

For the peas and corn, mix together 1 cup frozen peas and 1 cup frozen corn and steam for a minute or so until cooked.

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Toss the cooked vegetables with 1/4 cup finely chopped mint and 2 tablespoons butter.

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Again, I mixed the herbs into the butter ahead of time and froze it.

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For the potatoes, boil and mash 2 potatoes of your choosing. I like to leave the skins on.

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Scoop in 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons cream cheese, 2 teaspoons mixed herbs (fresh or dried, your choice), and 2 teaspoons minced garlic (I made a compound of this ahead of time) and serve.

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TADA. Gourmet in the woods.

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Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

This is what we commonly refer to in our house as shepherd’s pie.  However, due to this usage, the Pie is convinced that traditional shepherd’s pie is made with ground beef, regardless of the fact that shepherds are generally focused on sheep, not cows.  There have been several arguments over the years.  He won’t even take Wikipedia as a definitive answer.

So.  Cottage pie.  A good way to use up leftover meat of any kind, and to encourage people to eat lovely potatoes.  This one we’re making with ground beef, and adding a few sweet potatoes to the mix.  The amounts I’ve used below are approximate, but make two good-sized dishes of the pie.

Start with 4 or 5 sweet potatoes.  Peel them, chop them up, and then boil them until they’re soft and mashable.

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Then of course mash them, with a bit of butter.

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While that’s on the go, you can finely chop 2 or 3 small onions and toss them into a large saucepan with some minced garlic and cook that until the onions are tender and translucent.

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Add in about 1lb lean ground beef and stir that around until it’s cooked through.

Cottage Pie

Now, what I’m doing here is sprinkling about 1/4 cup flour onto my beef mixture.  For a gluten-free version, use corn starch.

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Then use that same cup to scoop some of the cooking water out of your boiling sweet potatoes and add it to moisten the mix.

Cottage Pie

Chop up a few small carrots.

Cottage Pie

Add them, together with some frozen corn and frozen peas, to the meat mixture and stir around until they’re all separated and thawed.

Cottage Pie

Add some rosemary if you’ve got it.

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Now you’re ready for assembly.  Gren seems to think that he is a viable receptacle for cottage pie.  He could be right. If it wasn’t for the corn and the wheat flour, and the fact that he is allergic to beef.

Cottage Pie

Spoon the meat and vegetables into the bottoms of your casserole dishes, filling about 3/4 of the way up. Then take your mashed sweet potato and smooth that over the tops.

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Everything in there is cooked, so you will just need to heat it thoroughly when you cook it.  Using a glass casserole makes it easy to see if the mixture is bubbly.  These ones I froze for our parents to eat later.

Cottage Pie

Pioneer Potato Salad

Pioneer Potato Salad

We had a Valentine’s cold-plate potluck at work on Tuesday and I was assigned to make a potato-egg salad.  And as the best one out there belongs to the Pioneer Woman, that’s the one I made, with some modifications of course.  Ever since the grocery store down the block closed I have found myself without certain key ingredients at unfortunate times.  Today, it was green onions.  So I improvised.

Wash and cube about 5lbs potatoes.  I used two different kinds, for the colour.  You can peel them if you want, but I like the texture and flavour of potato skins so I left them in.  Plop those in a large pot and boil them until they’re tender and mashable.

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You’re also going to want to hard boil 4 eggs, through whatever method you use.  When they’re ready, peel them up.  Mine were pretty recalcitrant and refused to be peeled in a civilized manner.  The shells would not come off without a fight.

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I punished them through the vigor of my chopping (even if your eggs are well-behaved, you’ll still want to chop them up).

Pioneer Potato Salad

Finely chop as well half an onion (or 5 green onions).

Pioneer Potato Salad

And a handful of sweet pickles.  You can use dills, if you prefer, but I think it’s better with the sweet ones.

Pioneer Potato Salad

In a bowl, mix together about 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise and 4 tablespoons mustard (I used a stone-ground dijon here, but you can use what you like).

Pioneer Potato Salad

In a wee bowl, arrange about 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  I also added 2 tablespoons dried chives, for colour, as I was missing the green onions.

Pioneer Potato Salad

I also had another wee dish of dried dill, for garnish.

Pioneer Potato Salad

So here is my mis en place.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Mash your boiled potatoes.  I really like the colour combination of the white and yellow ones here.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Stir in your mayo/mustard mix.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Add in your eggs, onions, pickles, paprika, salt, and optional chives.  Make sure to scrape the bottom so you get everything mixed in evenly.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Plop it in a serving dish.  The best part about this potato salad is it’s good hot, warm, and cold.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and some dill, or whatever floats your boat.  It’s not elegant, but it’s good!

Pioneer Potato Salad