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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Punchy Potato Salad

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With potato salad, like most salads, you can wing it more often than not and it turns out great.  It does help, however, to have a general idea of what sort of flavour theme you want to have ahead of time.  For this one I wanted something creamy but also with enough greenery and fresh things in it I didn’t feel like it was coming straight from a plastic grocery store container.

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I started off by washing and chopping 13 medium sized potatoes.  I like to leave the skins on.

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I then boiled them until they were quite soft.

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Then I hard-boiled 6 large eggs by putting them in a pot of water with a dash of vinegar (the vinegar makes the shells easier to remove) and bringing it to a boil; then I turned the water off and left them for 20 minutes.

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I drained the potatoes and chucked them in a large bowl together with about 3 stalks minced celery.  Then I grabbed a handful of herbs from the garden and minced those as well: dill, chives, parsley, green basil, and purple basil.

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Into the bowl.

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Some chopped baby dill pickles too.

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And of course the eggs, which I peeled and chopped coarsely.

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The dressing was simple: Dijon mustard, Wafu’s sesame dressing, and some aioli I picked up at the grocery store (instead of standard mayonnaise).

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A little black pepper never hurt.

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Mix that all together.

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Oh the creamy, dill-y goodness!

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Wingin’ it Wednesday: Roasted Chicken and Veg for Two

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Sometimes you want all the comfort and rustic homeyness of a roasted chicken and crackling roasted vegetables, but you don’t have the time or the inclination to go through all the bother.  In our case, we also don’t have enough people in the house at the moment to eat a whole chicken.  So here is my solution.

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Take a small roasting pan and a handful of vegetables you’d like to roast.  Here I have half a large onion, several small white potatoes, and a head of broccoli.

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I tossed those in olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, and Newfoundland savoury (thanks Fussellette!).

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On top of that, I set 2 large bone-in chicken breasts.  Bone-in roasts better than bone-out, trust me. In a small bowl I mixed together salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, and some dry mustard.

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Then I added a little lemon juice to it to turn it into a paste.

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This paste I brushed on top of the chicken breasts.

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Then I roasted everything (in my toaster oven, no less) at 400°F for about 30 minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally, until the chicken was cooked through and the juices ran clear.  I served it with some Vidalia onion relish that really helped to pick up the flavours. Yum.  Rustic comfort food for two!

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Mashed Potato and Cauliflower Gratin

It’s November.  I’m cold.  I want something warming for dinner.  This’ll do, though I made a slightly lazier version below.

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Start with 2lbs yellow potatoes, washed and cut into small cubes.  I used the thin-skinned ones as opposed to the baking ones because I didn’t want to peel them.  A little potato skin is good for you.  Plop those in a large pot, cover them with water, and boil them until tender, about 12 minutes.

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When they’re pokable with a fork, drain them and add in 3/4 cup whole milk and 3 tablespoons butter and mash that until they’re all mooshy.

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Add in about 2 cups grated Gruyère cheese and stir that around until it’s melted and glorious.

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Now you’re going to need a large cauliflower.

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And 4 cloves garlic.

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Chop the cauliflower up and smash the garlic cloves and chuck them all in a pot together.  Cover that with water and boil until the cauliflower is tender, probably another 12 minutes.

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Drain that and then huck the cauliflower into a food processor.  Add another 1/2 cup milk and another 3 tablespoons butter to that sucker and give it a whaz until it’s chunky yet totally puréed.

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Mix together your potatoes and your cauliflower in a large bowl.

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Season with salt and pepper.

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Butter a large casserole baking dish and dump your vegetable mooshiness on in there.

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Take 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese and sprinkle that over top.

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Bake in a preheated oven at 425°F for about 20-30 minutes, until the top is bubbling and brown.  Enjoy!

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Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, and some Thanksgiving

Happy birthday to both H.G. and Kº!

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What am I most thankful for this year?  Well that’s easy.  This week I crashed through the 5000-follower mark here at Ali Does It.  And that’s just WordPress followers, mind you: that statistic doesn’t include those of you who have bookmarked the page or signed up for email or RSS updates.  Five thousand plus, then.  And I’m thankful for each and every one of you.  My goal in starting Ali Does It was to show people that doing things like baking a layer cake or fixing a toilet are not too hard to do by yourself (or with some help!), and that everyone makes mistakes.  It’s all a learning process.  So. Thanks for being there with me while I do this learning thing.

Here’s a nice warm and cozy side dish we cooked up for an early potluck Thanksgiving with the Pie’s extended family.  It’s a perfect accompaniment to a less-formal celebration, and a welcome addition to any potluck occasion.  Shall we get started?

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and spray a 9″ x 13″ baking dish (we doubled our recipe and used two oval casseroles instead, but the principle is the same).

Let’s do the vegetable prep first, okay?  Start with 4 large yellow potatoes (like Yukon Gold), and give them a scrub.  Leave the skins on, and slice them up really thin.  We find that the mandolin actually makes the potatoes a little too thin, so we prefer to slice them by hand.  And my genius of a husband showed me a cool trick to cutting round objects in thin slices.  It’s much easier to slice them when you can hold them by the large middle part, so start on one side and cut towards the centre, like so:

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Then turn the potato around and start again from the other end.  This way you’re not left fumbling with the tiny end bits and a very sharp knife.  Brilliant.

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Give the potato slices a good soak for about ten minutes while you do other stuff, just to get rid of all the excess starch.

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While you’re waiting, grab a hefty handful of chives and chop them up, too.

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Like, a LOT of chives.

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And dice up an onion as well.  Set that aside for now.  It’s going to be in your sauce. As is the 2 ¼ cups cheese you’re going to shred.  We used a combination of Monterey jack and orange cheddar.

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Drain and rinse your potatoes and then start laying them out in single layers in your baking dish.  Sprinkle salt and pepper and some chives over each layer and keep going until you’ve run out of potatoes.

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In a medium-sized pot, melt ¼ cup butter and chuck in your diced onion.  Cook that, stirring, for a few minutes until the onions are soft.

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Stir in 2 tablespoons flour, then add 2 cloves minced garlic and 2 cups whole milk.  Keep stirring that over medium heat until it becomes bubbly and starts to thicken.

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When the sauce is thick, add in 2 cups cheese (save ¼ cup for sprinkling on top) and keep stirring that around until it’s all melted and incorporated into the sauce.

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Pour the sauce over the potatoes.

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You will likely need to pour about half the sauce, then stop and shake the pan from side to side and around and around to get the sauce to fill in all the little holes.  You see all these holes?  Then you can use the rest of the sauce.

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Sprinkle the rest of your cheese and chives on top.

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Chuck that in the oven and bake for 60 minutes, until the top is brown and crusty and everything is bubbling throughout, even in the centre.  Enjoy!

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Scoff and a Half: Cod Fish Cakes, Rock-style

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If you know anything about Newfoundland, you know that historically it has been home to one of the largest cod fisheries in the world.  So if you visit the Rock you can pretty much eat cod any which way you like.  Many here prefer to eat it salted (a traditional way to preserve it), and there’s a huge number of dishes surrounding this particular delicacy.  A favourite locally is fish ‘n’ brewis (pronounced like “bruise”), and is very popular amongst the hungover patrons of George Street.  It’s a breaded filet of salt cod, pan fried and topped with scruncheons, which you may remember from our toutons recipe.  It makes for a good “scoff,” or meal.

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You can get salt cod pretty much anywhere on the eastern coast of Canada and through much of New England.  It’s a pretty popular way of preserving fish, so you’re likely to find it as well in markets in Russia, China, huge chunks of Europe, and more or less wherever else cod is sold.  You can also get canned salted cod from specialty shops and online.  If you can’t get salt cod (or you can’t be bothered to get some) you can use fresh cod or haddock or any other white fish as a substitute.  Just don’t go through the soaking step, and add a bit of salt to the recipe.

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First you need about 1lb salt fish bits.  I don’t even question what the bits are, though it’s not all cod.  Just trust me on this one.

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Dump those bits in a pot. Okay so it doesn’t look that appetizing. Just wait for it.

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Fill the pot with cold water.  Bung that pot in the fridge overnight.

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Next day, drain that salty, salty water, and fill it again with fresh. Put the pot on the stove and bring the contents to a gentle simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

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While that’s on the go, peel and chop up about 1lb white potatoes (this was 4 large ones).  Huck them in a pot and boil the crap out of them as well.

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Drain the cooked fish.

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Use two forks (or a potato masher) to break the fish up into fine little bits.

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Drain the cooked potatoes and mash them as well.  Leave them aside to cool a bit.

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Finely chop up a small onion (or half a large one) and drop it in a pan with 1/4 cup butter.

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Cook on medium heat until soft. While I’ve got you moving, might as well do the hokey pokey.

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Crack 1 large egg and beat it up and put it aside, together with 2 tablespoons savoury, and some salt and pepper.

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Dump the onions in with the fish and give that a stir.

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Same-same with the potatoes and herbs.

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When the mixture has cooled enough that it won’t cook the egg on contact, dump that in as well and mix it in.

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Use a spoon to scoop up a generous helping of the mixture and form it with your hands into a little patty.

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Roll the finished patty in about 1/4 cup flour (I used buckwheat so I could give some to Fussellette) and set it aside.

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This particular recipe made 16 fish cakes for me.

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Now you can wrap them up in waxed paper and seal them in something airtight and chuck them in the fridge, or freeze them.

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To cook, heat a couple glugs of vegetable oil in a pan and fry on medium high for 3-4 minutes each side.

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Flip when you get some nice golden-brown crispies on the bottom.

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Serve with fresh chives or parsley and a side of strong condiment, like dijon mustard, relish, or chutney.  Save a couple for the magical creation we will be having on Friday.  Stay tuned!

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