Roasted fingerling potatoes with garlic and thyme

roasted fingerling potatoes

Springtime brings new potatoes, and they are addictive when roasted in a bit of olive oil with fresh thyme and garlic and sprinkled with salt. I like to roast these miniature potatoes which are called fingerlings, ’cause, well, they look like fingers! The yellow ones are Russian fingerlings and the red ones are French fingerlings. These French ones here are freshly dug new potatoes that I got at the farmer’s market and their skin is very thin.

garlic and thyme in pot

I adapted this recipe from Alice Water’s wonderful cookbook “Chez Pannisse Vegetables”.

Preheat oven to 400

Soak potatoes in salt water for about 10 minutes or so, then scrub the skins. Dry with paper towels.

garlic thyme in olive oil

Select a shallow baking dish that the potatoes can fit  snugly in one layer, Cover bottom of the baking dish with 2 Tb olive oil. Sprinkle about 8 small sprigs of fresh thyme leaves. Halve a bulb of garlic crosswise and separate the cloves, (you don’t need to peel them), and place them in the dish.

fingerling potatoes before roasting

Toss the potatoes in the oil then sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Arrange the potatoes so they fit snugly in the dish in one layer, and the garlic and thyme are evenly disbursed. Add 1/4 cup of water for a 8″ square baking dish, less for a smaller one. Tightly cover with a lid or foil.

Bake at 400 for 40 minutes. Uncover dish and bake for another 5 minutes or so until potatoes are dry and a fork easily pierces them. Sprinkle with more salt and serve hot.

Enchiladas Rojas for 15 Hungry Dancers

It’s dress rehearsal time again for my daughter’s dance company, and the parents are assigned to bring food for each meal. Sonia told me they needed a break from pasta, so we decided on enchiladas.

I made 21 enchiladas in a ¼ sheet baking pan. I made 10 more for the vegetarians, using pepper jack slices crumbled into Frijoles pintos along with the vegetables. You can make the broth below without the chicken for a vegetarian sauce.  I topped them with the heated sauce, more pepper jack, fresh cilantro leaves and olives after baking.

Broth ingredients:

16 cups (1 gallon) of water
2 chopped onions
8 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. chipotle powder
3 Tb cumin powder (comino)
2 Tb. dried oregano
2 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or 15 oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice)
1 sliced bell pepper
2 Tb. salt to taste
8 each pasilla and California chilies
6 – oz can tomato paste
1 whole chicken
 
Vegetables:
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
3 large red potatoes, peeled and chopped  in bite-size chunks
3 large chayote, peeled, seed area removed, and chopped in bite-size chunks

2 Tb flour

Non-stick spray

21 corn tortillas for chicken enchiladas, plus 10 more for bean and cheese ones

1 can black olives

1 cup cotija cheese

1 bunch fresh cilantro

Avocados to garnish

Ideally the best way to make this is to make the chicken first, then let it cool enough to handle. Pour the broth into a container and refrigerate it until the fat congeals, then remove it. Make the sauce from the defatted broth. I didn’t have the time to do this, so made it all in one day. I used a fat separator cup to de-fat the broth. This nifty little gadget pours out the broth from the bottom of the cup as the grease rises; I then discard the fat.

Making the chicken: For this batch, I boiled a whole chicken with the spices, onions and other ingredients above.  Toast the chilies on a comal or heavy skillet first to maximize their flavor. Reserve 2 Tb of tomato paste for the sauce. I used pretty much the same recipe I used for Tamales de pollo Chicken  Tamales. It’s true you have to watch out for the chicken bones and you will get the grease, but the broth will be richer and  it’s more economical than boneless breasts, especially if the chicken is on sale!

After 40 minutes, I add the carrots, potatoes and chayote. After the chicken has cooked an hour, I turn off the heat and pull the chicken out of the broth into a large bowl. Since I was running out of time, I set the bowl inside a larger bowl (actually the bottom of my salad spinner) that I filled with a layer of ice cubes, to cool down the chicken. Using a fork and knife, I pulled the meat off the bones until it’s cool enough to handle.

I discard the skin, gristle and bones, and use my hands to shred the chicken. I then pour a cup or two of broth into the chicken, mixing it with my hands, so that the shredded chicken can absorb the flavors. You can cook it in a frying pan for 15 minutes to help it absorb the broth. Save the leftover broth to make sauce and   or Cocido de Res – Mexican Beef Stew

Mix some beans (Frijoles pintos) and the vegetables (carrots, potatoes and chayote) into the shredded chicken.

Making the sauce: This will make a nice spicy sauce. Pour about 4 cups of broth into a fat separator cup. Pour the defatted broth into a blender and discard the fat.  Add 2 Tb flour and 2 Tb tomato paste. Fish out the chili peppers and bell peppers from the pot and add them to the sauce. Whir in the blender a few minutes until smooth. I don’t peel the chili pods or discard the seeds. They just go into the sauce. If you don’t want such spicy sauce, you can discard the seeds and you can add more tomato paste. But remember, the sauce will taste hotter alone than it will be over the enchiladas. The tortillas are bland, as is the cheese, and the cilantro and avocado will cool it down a bit too. Heat the sauce in a medium saucepan for about 20 minutes, stirring until thickened. Adjust salt and let cool enough to handle.

Assembling the enchiladas: Preheat oven to 375’ and grease a large pan with nonstick spray. Pour a few inches of sauce into a shallow flat-bottomed bowl. Place a large plate nearby. Heat a comal or heavy griddle or skillet and place one or two tortillas on it until they are hot and softened, and barely crisp. Take out one of the tortillas and briefly immerse each side in the sauce until it is coated with the sauce, then place it on the plate.

Take a few tablespoons of the chicken mixture (double-check with your fingers that you have removed all the little rib bones) and place it inside the tortilla. Then roll it up and place it seam side down on the greased pan. Repeat. It’s nice to have a partner place the tortillas on the comal for you. When the pan is full, place it in the oven for 20 minutes, until the tortillas begin to dry out.

While enchiladas are baking, crumble cotija cheese in a small bowl, and add a few handfuls of cilantro leaves. Open a can of black olives and drain it. Heat remaining sauce to boiling. When enchiladas have baked, pour a line of sauce down the middle of the enchiladas. Sprinkle the cotija cheese – cilantro mix over them and place a black olive in the middle of each enchilada. Nice served with soft sliced avocados.

Hanukkah Latkes (potato pancakes)

On Hanukkah, Jews light a menorah for 8 nights and eat foods fried in oil to celebrate the miracle of the oil in the holy lamp lasting for 8 days. Some eat doughnuts, but I prefer latkes, fried potato pancakes. This is my mother’s recipe, but I added the onion on my friend Vivian’s suggestion. I made these gluten free by subbing the potato starch for the matzo meal.

Serves 4

4 cups raw grated Russet potatoes. Use 4 large or 5 medium

1 onion, grated

4 large eggs

2 Tb matzo meal or 1/4 cup potato starch

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups canola oil per frying pan

Peel potatoes and soak in water until ready to grate. Grate by hand or in a food processor. Place in a colander so that potatoes can drain their water, until rest of ingredients are mixed and oil is hot. Pour oil into a heavy frying pan, such as cast iron and put on medium high heat. Beat eggs well and add matzo meal, onion and salt. Add potatoes and stir well.

Using a large slotted serving spoon and a large solid serving spoon, mold a spoonful of batter on the slotted spoon, squeezing down with the solid spoon. You will need to squeeze more water out of the potatoes toward the end of the frying. Gently place the latke in the hot oil.

Fry until golden brown, then flip over using the slotted spoon. Don’t crowd the pan, usually 3 or 4  latkes are good for a 9” pan. When latkes are golden brown on both sides, lift each one with the slotted spoon and let the oil drain back into the pan.

Place them on a rack over a cookie sheet. Put the rack in a low oven, about 275’. This will help the oil drain from the latkes and keep them warm and crispy until all the latkes are ready to serve.

Serve with applesauce. (Some people eat them with sour cream, but not in our family.)

Happy Hanukkah!

Low fat creamy garlic mashed potatoes

Low fat creamy garlic mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes can be creamy and flavorful without all the calories from cream and large amounts of butter. Enjoy these with your Thanksgiving turkey and gravy.

Do not use green or sprouted potatoes which will be bitter, or those which have cracks or mold spots. Store unwashed potatoes in a dark, cool, dry, well- ventilated place such as a pantry shelf. Sunlight can turn them green, which can be mildly toxic.

Serves 8

4 pounds russet potatoes (about 6 large potatoes). (Burbank russets are best).

2 Tb salt for boiling, 1/2 tsp salt at end

1/2 cup milk

2 Tb butter

2 garlic cloves, smashed

several grinds pepper

Make your mashed potatoes close to serving time. They are best this way.

Scrub potatoes, then cut into large chunks. Use a large stainless steel pot; (aluminum or cast iron can turn the potatoes gray). Place potatoes with 2 cloves smashed garlic and 2 Tb salt  in the pot and cover them with cold water by 1 inch.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook for 12-15 minutes until soft. Drain potatoes in a colander, then peel (unless you like the peel on). Heat the milk, butter, several grinds pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt in the microwave or in a pan until hot, but not boiling. While milk is heating, either shred the potatoes and garlic with the shredding disk of a food processor, or pass through a potato ricer. Transfer to a large bowl.

Stir the milk mixture gently into the potatoes. Do not over-beat, or the potatoes will become gluey.

Next morning fried leftover mashed potatoes:

Crispy – Creamy potatoes, lower in fat than hash-browns. Great as a side to eggs. Melt 1-2 tsp butter in a large, heavy skillet, such as cast iron. Make an even layer of  1-2 cups leftover mashed potatoes. Let it cook over medium heat for several minutes until bottom is brown. Using a metal spatula, turn over potatoes several times so that they brown on all sides.