Monday, November 21, 2011

Purple Potato Parmesan: the perfect Thanksgiving side dish

If your looking for a holiday side dish that combines visual wow factor with do ahead ease that also happens to taste really great, this could be your forever secret weapon. 'Purple Potatoes' you say? They have been a staple of Alaskan home gardens as long as I've lived here, the first time you see one you can't believe your eyes and now they are 'cropping up' in grocery stores all over the place. All hail the proliferation of this lovely tuber! Now you don't have to use purple potatoes, red or yellow waxy potatoes work fine, too. They just won't look as pretty.

Start by washing and drying about 1 pound of potatoes. Using a pairing knife, cut off any eyes or blemishes. Slice the potatoes on the thinnest setting possible on your mandoline. It would be possible just very tedious to try to slice them with a knife.

Place potato slices in a bowl and pour over 1 cup of heavy cream. add a healthy sprinkle of salt and a dash of pepper and mix to coat.

Let that sit a minute while you grate your parmesan cheese: 

Grease a glass loaf pan and line it with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides of the pan. Place a thin layer of potatoes to cover the bottom of the baking dish then sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Alternate this way until all potatoes and cheese are used up. 

Pour the cream left in the bowl over the layered potatoes. cover with another piece of parchment paper and place another loaf pan on top to weigh it down. 

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until potatoes are tender when poked carefully with a knife
Place on a sheet pan in oven to catch any drips.
Pull from oven and cool completely with the weight still in place. At this point it can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge to loosen and invert onto a sheet pan lined with parchment. peel off all the paper and cut into serving size slices. sprinkle a little more grated parmesan on top and bake in a 350 degree oven 15 to 20 minutes until sizzling hot and crispy on top. And then just try to keep your fingers off of it until dinner time!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Crackers for McSweeney's

An afternoon off had me perusing my daughters bookshelf where I found another reason to love McSweeney's. Their quarterly review is a collection of stories presented in packaging as creative as the writing inside. Issue #16 is a beautiful cloth covered volume that opens into 4 pockets, one containing a volume of short stories. one is a slim novella (which is hilarious, by the way) the third is a story written on oversized playing cards which can be sorted any which way to make it a little different with each read. The fourth pocket contains a simple black comb engraved with the name Timothy. (Timothy McSweeney being the inspiration for the publishing house' name) I thought, as I looked through this 'book' That I had just met my soul mate in a publisher. These are obviously people who think outside the box! I was thinking outside the box this week, too. The cracker box, that is. Commercially made crackers always confound me. They are so expensive and then mostly disappointing once you do make the investment. So I decided to try my hand at some homemade cheesy crackers. I thought maybe I'd send some to McSweeney's to profess my undying love, but they were so good I ate them all. Too bad Timothy, maybe next time.
Cheesy Crackers outside the box:

In a food processor combine: 
8 tablespoons cold butter (1/4 #)
1 cup grated white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, also grated
pulse until combined. 
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt 
pulse again until combined. 
Pull dough from processor and wrap tightly
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out on a well floured board into a rectangle until very thin. 
To 1/16 inch or so. Prick the surface all over with a fork. (this is called 'docking')
brush over the surface with egg wash (one egg, a little water mix well), 
sprinkle with a little salt.
Cut into squares, I found my pizza cutter invaluable for this!
Then transfer to a baking sheet using a log metal spatula so you can pick up a whole row at a time.
Bake in a preheated oven 350 degrees for 10 minutes spin tray and bake 5-8 minutes more until golden.
Let cool completely before boxing them up...if there are any left, that is!