Posts Tagged Potatoes

Broiled Tilapia with Cajun Boiled Potatoes

Cajun food scares me.

I don’t know the first thing about Cajun cooking. It seems to involve a lot of shellfish and pots large enough to boil small children in their depths. People argue about whether to call the creepy-crawly things crawfish or crayfish or crawdads or mudbugs. They pronounce “boil” as “berl.” They insist that the only possible way to “berl” anything is with Zatarain’s Crab Boil, and they do not want to hear that I won’t be putting a single crawbeastie into the mix.

paddles

These are for stirring giant murky cauldrons of crawdads, apparently, though I suspect they’d do in a pinch to paddle a small canoe.

 

You can’t boil tilapia. I mean, you can try, but I’m betting it’ll fall apart. So the fish here gets broiled or smoked, and the potatoes get boiled–er, berled.

This hardly qualifies as a recipe. It’s insanely easy. Thank goodness for that.

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Ingredients (serves 2)

For the fish:

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2 tilapia fillets

1/4 t white pepper

1/4 t steak seasoning (essentially black pepper and garlic)

1 1/2 T hot paprika

salt to taste

2 T smoker chips (if smoking)

For the potatoes:

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8 small red potatoes

1 1/2 quarts water

1/3 cup Zatarain’s Crab Boil seasoning

2 t salt

Directions

For the fish:

Mix the white pepper, steak seasoning, paprika, and salt together. Rub the tilapia generously with the spice mixture. If using a stovetop smoker (which I highly recommend), add the wood chips underneath the drip tray and smoke on medium-high for about 15 minutes. If broiling, heat the oven and broil about 5 minutes per side.

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For the potatoes:

Add salt and seasoning to the water and bring it to a boil. It will be terrifying and murky. Add the potatoes. Boil 15 minutes or until fork-tender.

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Add a side of steamed vegetables and voilà, dinner.

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A word of warning–hot paprika isn’t all that hot, but this fish uses a lot of it. If you’re not a fan of spice, sweet paprika will do nicely in its place.

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Not Fish and Chips

On the rare occasion that I ordered fish in Dallas, it was always at a pub, and it was always fish and chips. Everything is delicious deep-fried and served with fried potatoes, and since I was eating fish at most once or twice a year there, it really didn’t feel like an overindulgence to have fish in its most unhealthy form when I did decide to be in a fish mood.

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I should probably add that being in the mood for fish only ever happened in pubs (particularly one pub) for a reason. I have a psychological block against eating seafood when I am nowhere near the sea. I know the fish is safe, that it’s transported frozen and often quickly but I just can’t do it.

After four or five shots of whiskey, I can happily store all thoughts of seafood safety elsewhere. And after four or five shots of whiskey, any pretensions to a healthy dinner plan have long since scurried off leaving only a choice between a reuben sandwich (delightful, except that it always comes with too much dressing, and no amount of explaining the proper dressing/sandwich ratio or wheedling to leave it on the side will sway the bartender one whit) and a plate of fish and chips with a mild, earthy curry sauce to dip them in.

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Here, I am not afraid to eat the fish. Even the fish that originated in the Honduras and therefore, one can safely assume, has undergone just as much transport and freezing and potential issues as any trout sold in Texas. Like I said, it was a psychological block, not a sensible one. So here, we eat fish, often tilapia, often Honduran, about twice a week. Fish and chips are lovely for tipsy bar nights (of which I have enjoyed none since the move) but rubbish for reasonable weeknights on days when I want to feel a net benefit from my cardio routine. But fish and potato remains a sound and worthy combination, and crisp textures will win in any kitchen, any time. What is a cook to do?

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Luckily, I have a cast iron skillet. It turns out that crispy baked potato and fish are just as tasty as fried ones. Probably tastier, in fact, because enjoying them in my own dining room obviates the need to breathe in all that not-so-lovely bar smoke while eating.

Ingredients (serves 2)

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1/2 lb white fish fillets

1 largish baking potato

1-2 T olive oil

1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

1/2 t lemongrass

1/2 t salt

white pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in an 11-inch cast-iron skillet (or other large, heavy metal pan).

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Cut the potato into about 1/8 inch slices. You could use a mandoline. I hated my mandoline, so I gave it to a friend back in Dallas. A sharp knife does the job nicely.

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Arrange the slices in concentric rings in the skillet. Look how pretty!

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Brush the tops of the potatoes with just a touch of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, white pepper, and lemongrass.

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Bake for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not yet crisp or brown. Place the fish on top of the potatoes and return the skillet to the 400-degree oven for another 10 minutes.

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Serve with steamed asparagus or something else lovely and green.

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I always intend to zest the lemon over the fish just before baking, but it never seems to happen. Nevertheless, this is a mild, lemony, healthy way to enjoy fish.

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Steak Frites Sandwich

I made these back in Texas. These are not po-boys (though I am discovering that the roast beef po-boy is a thing of beauty, truly). There is nothing N’awlins about these sandwiches.

Which is a shame, because they are so very good.

Also, I put french fries directly into my sandwiches. ‘Cause folks, I am classy. You know how I know it’s classy? When I was fourteen, I went to France. There was a lovely little sandwich shop in Nice where the incredibly snooty gentleman running this hole-in-the-wall made just such a sandwich, with roast beef and mustard and greens and fries all wrapped up in the bun. And clearly if it is done in France, even in a little backstreet dive, it is classy.

It is possible that I need to get out more.

This is one of my favorite sandwiches. It is in all ways superior to the hamburger, containing chopped beef instead of a ground beef patty, a good (though in this instance store-bought) roll instead of a too-soft hamburger bun, an abundance of spinach, and of course, the fries are inside the sandwich.

A fact which gives me no end of glee. Just go with it, okay?

Ingredients (makes 2 big sandwiches)

For the steak:

1/2 to 3/4 lb inexpensive steak

3-4 T red wine vinegar

2 T Worcestershire sauce

2 T mustard

salt, paprika, and white pepper to taste

For the sandwiches:

1/2 to 3/4 lb cooked and chopped steak

2 crusty sandwich rolls (or one baguette)

a big handful of spinach

1 large potato and cooking oil for french fries

mustard, to taste (my preference is for about 2 T/sandwich

hot sauce to taste

Directions

Make the steak. For me, the only way to do this is with my delightful mini-smoker. Seriously, that thing was hands down the best $30 I ever spent for the kitchen, and now it’s only $22. Combine all the marinade items in a zip-top bag and add the steak. Marinate at least an hour.

Smoke for 25 minutes or cook it another way if you aren’t into perfect smoked meat straight off the stove. While it’s smoking (or pan-searing or braising or however you cook your steak), heat a few inches of vegetable oil, slice a potato into 1/2 inch sticks, and fry.

Set the fries aside. When the steak is done, give it a couple of minutes to rest away from heat.

Now is a good time to grill up your bread. Not a required step, but oh so good. Just heat a bit of olive oil or margarine and maybe a smashed clove of garlic in a small skillet and grill.

 

Now chop your beef.

 

Spread mustard on the top half of your roll, and dot some hot sauce on the bottom. If that doesn’t look like much hot sauce, please bear in mind that it is Blair’s After Death sauce, which is pretty darn hot, and also I am a complete wimp when it comes to Scovilles.

Add spinach, meat, and some fries.

Devour. Crunch spinach, gnaw meat, make sad little whimpering noises because Blair’s hot sauce is really quite hot and there are about ten whole drops of it on this one little sandwich.

You can stop laughing anytime. I already admitted that I’m a capsaicin wuss.

I won’t call this my favorite sandwich. There’s a grilled cheese with that honor which I think will never be unseated. But it definitely makes the top three. It is delightful, contains only a smidgen of guilt, and is simple enough to make on a weeknight when you’d rather eat with your hands in front of the television than at the table like people.

 

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Curried Chicken and Potatoes

I seem to have developed an addiction to garam masala. It’s good in curries, on cooked greens, even sprinkled over popcorn. The fact that I’d never even tried Indian food until a few months ago seems to be no deterrent at all to now trying a new Indian recipe every week or two. It’s delightful; how did I go almost twenty-seven years without tasting the cuisine of an entire sub-continent?

Last week Mr. B and I were both sick, in need of comfort food, but also in the mood for something new and different. A curry of chicken and potatoes, spooned over warm naan, fit the bill perfectly.

I adapted this recipe rather heavily from e-curry (a blog I can’t seem to stop reading), replacing tomato sauce with one made from carrots among other things.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the marinade:

6 T Greek yogurt

3 T lime juice

1 T turmeric

1 T chile powder (less if you don’t want it too hot. Hatch pepper is pretty mild, though)

1 t mustard powder

1 t salt

1- 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts

For the curry:

3 T vegetable or olive oil

1 potato

2 t garam masala

1 t turmeric

1 t salt

marinated chicken

1/2 cup carrot sauce (substitute tomato sauce if you like)

2-3 hot chiles

1 T brown sugar

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup lime juice

1 cup peas (optional)

Directions

Combine all marinade ingredients (except the chicken) in a zip top bag.

Mush them together and add the chicken. Marinate at least an hour. Overnight is better.

Cut the potato into large chunks (about 12). Heat the 3 T oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and add the potatoes.

Sprinkle the potatoes with turmeric and garam masala and salt.

Crank the heat down to medium-low and add the chicken and its marinade.

Add the carrot sauce* (or tomato, if using)

Add the broth and stir well. Split the chiles lengthwise and add them as well.

Stir in the brown sugar.

Cover the pot and lower the heat to a bare simmer. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the lid and Stir in the lime juice. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes until the sauce is the desired consistency. Add peas directly if you like. Mr. B does not care for peas  so I cooked them separately and stirred them into my portion.

Serve with warm naan or over rice.

This is good, hot, just-spicy-enough comfort food. For a little more kick, add a few dried pequin peppers before simmering, or a dash of very hot sauce.

* I’ve made carrot sauce here before, but (1) frankly I’m embarrassed at how this blog used to look (not that it’s all that much better now…) and (2) that sauce is bay-leaved and parmesaned and otherwise Italian influenced, so here’s a more basic straight-up carrot sauce.

Ingredients (makes 2 cups)

1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped

2 T olive oil or butter

2 t salt

2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water

1/2 cup white wine

Directions

Heat the oil or butter in a pot over medium-high heat and add the carrots. Sprinkle with salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until the carrots caramelize.

Add the broth or water an simmer, covered, about 15 minutes

Remove the lid and add the wine.

Continue cooking to reduce the liquid by about half.

Turn the now-soft carrots and liquid into a sauce using an immersion blender, a blender, a food processor, or a potato ricer and patience.

Add any flavors you like, serve over pasta or use to replace tomato sauce in any recipe.

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Colcannon

Irish food should not be saved for St. Patrick’s day. There are more than a few delightful Irish recipes that are far more suited to Fall and Winter than to spring. Colcannon is one of them, which did not stop me making it during a 40+ day streak of temperatures over 100°F.

Colcannon is pretty much just mashed potatoes with greens. Cabbage is most traditional, or kale, but in the summertime mustard greens or collard greens are much easier to find. The only real trick to this recipe is to work quickly once the potatoes are boiled. I don’t like using a whole second pot to cook the greens first, so I mix them into the mashed potatoes while they’re still steaming. The heat from the potatoes just cooks the greens. It’s delightful.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

2 large russet potatoes

2-3 T heavy cream

6-8 T butter (room temperature)

1/2 pound kale, cabbage, or other greens. I used collard greens.

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel and cube the potatoes and boil until they are tender enough to fall apart when stabbed with a fork.

While the potatoes are boiling, remove the central rib from the greens and chop the leaves well. Turns out my greens were more wilted than they appeared in the grocery store, so I didn’t get as much out of them as I’d hoped. Le sigh.

Rice or smash the potatoes quickly, then add 2 tablespoons of cream and 6 tablespoons of butter. Stir briefly.

Add in the greens. Let the colcannon sit 2-3 minutes to heat the greens thoroughly.

Stir the greens in well. Give it a taste, and add salt and pepper, plus more cream and butter if needed.

Serve with Guinness marinated Cornish hen and some fresh steamed apsaragus.

I make this dish much richer and thicker than most mashed potatoes, because I think the texture needs to fully support the greens and the added fat (from using a ton of butter and cream instead of milk) adds a lot more flavor than you might expect. It’s very enjoyable, and the only thing I’d change about it next time is to use more greens.

 

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Artichoke Hash Browns

Sweet foods are great, but they’re nothing without savory. Especially breakfast foods. As delightful as the ice cream French toast was, the artichoke hash browns were the star of that particular breakfast-for-dinner. Artichokes lend such amazing flavor to anything they’re cooked with, and the duck schmaltz does what it does to everything it touches (adds flavor, adds calories, you know). Spice it up a bit and you have the best hash browns out there.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a side)

1 large potato, cut into small dice

8-10 thawed frozen artichoke hearts, also diced

2-3 T duck fat, schmaltz, or butter

salt and paprika to taste

Directions

Melt the fat in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Scoop the potato and artichoke hash into the pan. Cover with a lid and let it cook over medium-high for 5-7 minutes.

Uncover and add salt and paprika. Flip and sauté the hash browns until they’re your desired level of done. I like mine very crispy, so I gave them a whole ten minutes uncovered. Serve with Sriracha and French toast or waffles or fresh fruit. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Twice Baked Potatoes

This post is the very last one using pictures from my old point-and-shoot camera. To be honest, I’m pretty nervous.Even though it’s irrational, part of me expects to be able to take amazingly better photos within seconds of pulling the new DSLR out of its box. That part of me has been doing a lot of wailing and scolding at the pictures I’ve taken since. I’m annoyed at myself for not picking up the skill faster, and in a more general sense, for not being the creative and artistic type I always thought I wanted to be. I’m going to have to be patient. To practice. To not get frustrated.

This is going to be really difficult for me. I have no patience. If I did, I would actually decorate desserts and cook things that required me to be in the kitchen for more than half an hour. I love cooking, but there’s a point after which I want to eat. And spending more time on the camera, on framing shots, on lighting. . . well, that’s going to be pushing dinner back that little bit more. So for the last of the completely quick-and-easy, here’s an easy-as-can-be side dish. Fill it with black bean chili and you have a filling, comforting meal. I give you twice baked potatoes.

There is only one real trick to twice baked potatoes: stuff as many different kinds of dairy in there as you possibly can. Butter, milk (or cream) and at least one kind of cheese are a must, but you can’t go wrong tossing in a chunk of cream cheese or a spoonful of ricotta, topping them with sour cream, or really anything else you can think of.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side)

2 baked potatoes

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, divided

4 T butter

about 1/4 cup of milk, as needed

salt and mustard powder to taste

sour cream to serve

Directions

Texans have some funny ideas about baking potatoes. They wrap them in foil before baking, which holds in most of the moisture, but has the undesirable side effect of leaving the skins soggy and wrinkled. No thank you. I believe there is only one way to bake a potato. Heat the oven to 400°F. Scrub and dry the potatoes. Rub the skins generously with olive oil. Sprinkle them liberally with kosher salt. Put them on a cookie sheet and make a clean slice down the middle to let steam escape (if you’re my dad, you’ll cut amazing cartoon faces into the potatoes that your kids will be missing when they’re in their twenties). Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, stabbing them with a fork to see if they’re done. They’re done when the fork feels like it’s stabbing room-temperature butter.

So you have baked potatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving a thin layer to hold the potato skins together.

You have three options with the skins. [1] set them aside and leave them alone, [2] spread some butter on the insides and put them back in the oven at 400°F while you make the filling (my usual choice), or [3] deep fry them until crispy (3-4 minutes). I did this once and it was unbelievably good, but a little more work than warranted.

Run the flesh through a ricer or mash it with a fork.

Cut in the butter, add about 2 ounces of the cheese, and pour on a little milk.  Don’t add all the milk at once. No two potatoes have the same moisture level, and adding too much liquid will net you potato soup.

Mix everything together, taste it, add salt and mustard powder and more milk if needed.

Scoop the mashed potato mixture back into the skins and top with the remaining cheese.

Pop the potatoes back into the 400F oven for 5-10 minutes to heat the filling fully through and melt down the cheese topping.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and steamed fresh vegetables. We didn’t start baking our potatoes until we were already hungry, so we ate broccoli and carrots before dinner. What can I say, thinking ahead isn’t always my strong suit.

I love the combination of textures. Crisp, buttery skin, fluffy mashed potatoes, gooey cheese, and chill, ethereal sour cream all in one bite. This is simplicity and comfort food at their best.

 

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