Technique of the Week

Welcome to a new 42potatoes page that shares new techniques from my kitchen to yours.  Here are tips, tricks, and fun antic dotes to enhance your cooking and entertaining experience.  Enjoy!

T.O.W. this week:


Does it get much better than braised beef? Especially at this time of year; it’s hearty, warm, and comforting. After the beef is subtle and shredding with perfection, the liquid can be made into a gravy or jus. But what about the onions and carrots? They did such an important job adding depth of flavor – both sweet and savory – to the whole autumnal shooting match. It’s like teachers on graduation day.   Glory is going to the graduates (as it should), but who helped get them to that day? The teachers! As I’m noticing myself starting to step onto a soapbox, I’ll step off and turn my attention back to the attention-deserving carrots and onions. To be honest, after a couple hours of slow cooking in liquid, the veg leaves something to be desired in the food world of texture. Alas, the compost pile is not the answer! You can turn theses still very flavorful, albeit mushy, veg into a Braised Vegetable Dressing that is out of this world. For the basic dressing, simply spoon out the large chunks of carrots and onions (using a slotted spoon to limit the braising liquid in the dressing) into a blender. It should usually equal about 2 c of cooked veg. Then add ¼ c apple cider vinegar, ½ c water, s&p, and with the blender running, drizzle in about 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Taste for seasoning, and then get creative – I like to add a bit of white truffle oil to really make the orange-colored dressing taste creamy and fancy.  But fresh herbs, a different flavor of vinegar, citrus, or even some roasted garlic would up the ante on this simple, yet extremely elegant, dressing.

With the dressing poured over some hearty greens (like arugula or kale) then topped with shreds of the braised beef, you’ve got a fantastic steak salad without breaking the bank (and the dressing may even be better than the beef, but don’t tell!). Enjoy!


 Enhancing Jarred Marinara Sauce: Making a true, good, sturdy red sauce takes hours.  Literally.  Whether it’s a bolognese (meat sauce) or a thinner, simpler marinara, all the veg needs to be cooked to its true, marriageable state: browned, layered seasoning, layered flavors (referring to the marriage of flavors), even heat, lots of stirring, lots of tasting, and lots of waiting.  Just like anyone finding mates out there, ending up with marriage-material states time.  However, there is a way to cheat the red-sauce-time-woes by buying good quality (no additives and preferably organic) jarred marinara sauce.  There is something left to be desired about just plain sauce, though.  So, to bring a little marriage counseling to the jar, I’ve found an enhancement by sautéing some simple ingredients: diced shallots (softer and more mild than onions), minced canned (or frozen/thawed) artichoke hearts, minced porcini mushrooms (I use dried mushrooms that have been reconstituted in hot water – they have more depth and richness in flavor), and even minced sun-dried tomatoes (their sweetness balances the tang from a jarred marinara).  By sautéing ingredients like these before adding the jarred sauce to simmer for 15 minutes, it not only thickens and adds more body, but also encourages this “marriage of flavors” reaching your favorite jarred sauce way farther than you ever expected.  You’ll never go back to your plain sauce again! Enjoy!


Warm Nut Dressings. Who doesn’t love nuts in their salads? With today’s culinary trends of veg-based, lean protein, Paleo, and vegan diets, nuts are holding more than 15 min of fame. Sans any allergy reasons, nuts and seeds are showing up as more than mere mid-day snacks, but actual stars of dishes. My new favorite way to incorporate nuts into my meals is to heat them up in a cast iron pan, mix in some seasoning, herbs, a touch of acid (like lemon juice, vinegar, white wine), and an emulsifying binder (such as mustard, honey, butter, yogurt), whisk and heat until all ingredients are pulled together, and pour generously over lovely greens or veg. It brings a rich nuttiness to the dish, a warm crunch, and a needed fat component that makes a salad feel like a meal- without any cheese. It’s a perfect vegetarian and/or vegan alternative, and the options are endless. Go nuts!



Stuff Your Yams 

We are coming up to “that” time of year: yam time.  Roasted, baked, marshmallow-topped, sweetened into a pie, and more often than not, laced with mounds of butter and brown sugar.  Not bad, right?  Not bad at all. 

But there is something even more amazing: double stuffing the suckers.  Just like a twice-baked potato, a perfectly shaped yam holds the same – wait, BETTER – ingredients for the fall.  Take a yam, poke it with a fork a few times (then just one more if you’ve had a trying day), and bake at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, crisp up some diced bacon, caramelize some onions in 1 tbsp of the bacon fat, add some diced apples, a couple scallions, a few leaves of greens (of your choose), and season with a touch of cayenne, s&p.  Remove the yam from the oven, and let cool just slightly.  Slice in half lengthwise, and scoop out the inside flesh.  Mix with the sauté, and re-scoop into the yam skins, top with a touch of grated sharp white cheddar, and broil for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and gooey.  

You’ll never miss the marshmallows.  Trust me.  They are better with chocolate and grahams anyway.  




Roasted Kale Garnish 

Do we really need another kale recipe in the world?  The super sturdy, super green curly – or flat – or purple – or dinosaur – superfood has had it’s 15 minutes.  So is it really necessary to add one more.  YES.  I fell in love with kale chips (or roasted kale) back when I accidentally made it.  Going for a silky wilt, I threw it into the oven, and then my ADD took over (squirrel?) and forgot about the darn stuff.  Once my nose knew my greens weren’t just wilting anymore, I took out some crispy, crunchy, salty and slightly sweet fabulosity that I now eat religiously.  

Thus it wasn’t a surprise when I decided to crunch up all those wonderful pieces, and add them to salads, top on grilled chicken, and most recently, as an easy addition to beer-boiled shrimp (no recipe there – it’s exactly as it sounds.  Boil peeled and deveined shrimp in beer).  For the kale, preheat the oven to 425.  Peel the kale off the stalk into “chip”-like pieces, about 4-5 large stalks.  Place on a sheet pan and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt, a sprinkle of sugar, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Using hands, mix the kale well, making sure each piece is seasoned.  Roast until the edges are brown and the kale is crispy, about 7-10 minutes.  Serve and devour just like that, or crunch in your hands over a salad, rice, pasta, shrimp, pork, chicken, fish,…  




Powdered Mushrooms

Need some fungi in your life?  I do – always.  Well, I guess not always.  Let’s get real, we’re only talking mushrooms here.  When autumn rolls around and produces the fragrant, earthy, and oh-so-awesome wild mushrooms, there’s nothing better.  But when in the off-season, dried wild mushrooms are available almost everywhere these days.  I’ve mostly found them in the produce department, and while they don’t need any refrigeration, dried mushrooms last forever.  Reconstituted with some warm water, dried mushrooms add a ton of flavor and texture to soups, pastas, risottos, and sauces.  However, I’ve got a trick: 

Put those dried mushrooms (I like porcini the best) in a blender, and whir, whir, whir away.  The mushrooms – having been dehydrated – will turn into a lovely, umami powder.  It’s an amazing seasoning, my favorite happening to be sprinkled over popcorn with a bit of salt and truffle oil (O.M.G. Y.U.M.).  Try it as a rub on meat, sprinkled over kale chips, or mixed in a mornay sauce (a white sauce with cheese) with spinach for a lovely party dip.  Really the possibilities are endless!  




Scandi Fish Spread

Sounds fishy, right?  Well, channeling my Finnish roots, I’ve found that a fish spread is the perfect way to use leftover fish (especially hearty-water fish; ones that have worked hard for their survival, thus their flesh reflects muscle, fat, texture, and tastiness) in a new and innovative leftover revamp.  Simply take your leftover grilled, baked, or roasted salmon, trout, steelhead, or grouper, and using a ratio of 2:1 of fish:cream cheese, also add a touch of fresh dill, juice of 1/2 a lemon, a dash of hot sauce, and a thumb/finger dash of salt, and whir in a food processor until smooth and spreadable.  Taste for seasoning, and particularly use on a delicious rye or sourdough toast for breakfast with a steaming strong cup of joe.

NOTE: what’s great about this T.O.W. is that it’s completely adaptable; more or less cream cheese, different herbs, and even dried spices can make this your favorite, and personally tailored, fish spread.

Nauttia!  Enjoy!

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