Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes, goes with everything
I really cannot type the word potato without thinking of Dan Qualye. For those of you born after the Reagan years, he was the Vice President for Bush I (aka Old 41 or George Herbert Walker Bush). He was doing a school visit and conducting a spelling bee type contest for elementary school kids when he suggested that a child needed to add an E to the end of potato. Now, in his defense the cue card in his hand apparently had a typo but let me tell you, it did nothing to improve his intellectual gravitas.
Meanwhile back here at dinner we need a starch to go along with all of the roast chicken, grilled meat and pot roast. I grew up with baked potatoes, and it wasn’t until I was older that I discovered the joys of a good mashed potato. As it climbed in popularity in my repertoire I set out to perfect this deceptively tricky dish.
There are two aspects you want to get right. One is the mouth feel of the potatoes. They should be moist, not sticky or clumped. The second is a consistent flavor profile. There is nothing worse that a dish that tastes like garlic, only when you get a chunk of garlic. Fortunately the answer to both problems lies in the use and introduction of fat. By steeping the aromatics in the fat we get an even distribution of the flavor compounds. By adding the fat to the potatoes before adding other liquids (this is important) we allow the fat to bind with the starches and prevent any clumping or lump formation in addition to spreading the flavors evenly.
When I lived in Israel (the second time) something wonderful happened- we got cable. Well actually not cable, but satellite TV. Until then, we had suffered with Israel’s two over the air channels. One was government run, the other was worse. Since our kibbutz never had the money to pay for cable (let alone get us wired) we were ecstatic when Yes Television set up shop in the Holy Land.
I promptly discovered my favorite cooking show on BBC. It was called Ready, Steady, Cook. In brief chefs were presented with ten quid worth of random groceries that they had to transform into a multi-course meal. I loved the sheer improvisation of it and it mirrored my own approach to cooking.
Last night I played that game by pulling together a little Ashkenazi casserole from things in my fridge. These things consisted of leeks, smoked salmon (thanks mom), eggs, some cream, cheddar cheese, mushrooms and of course potatoes. You should take the opportunity to see what you can hustle out of your own larder this weekend.
Recipe after the break.
It's a knish
Ah, the humble knish. A small pastry filled with any number of leftover or cheap ingredients. If there was ever a hand held version of the casserole, the knish might be it. Now it would be reasonable to say that the knish is part of a genre of food that includes pot-stickers, perogies, pasties, and even the calzone. But each has their own twist, their own milieu and acceptable forms. You would not think of putting cheese in a pot-sticker, and likewise a calzone with ginger chicken seems wrong. So, I have attempted two traditional knishes, one with a ground beef filling and another even more traditional (owing to its poorer roots) of potato and onion.
I did not grow up eating these. My parents (and their own parents) having attained a semblance of affluence focused on the richer, more luxurious end of the the Deli menu. Where beef tongue, pastrami and lox reigned there was no room for the humble little Russian potato pie.
In fact I did not find them myself until I lived in Kansas City of all places. My neighborhood was a odd little affair of several blocks of restaraunts pushed up aganist the Kansas/Missouri state line. On the Missouri side the liquor laws were more liberal, making the state line an ideal place for businesses hoping to attract the more affluent residents of Johnson county Kansas to come out and play. At 39th St, a block from the State Line Rd there was a pizza joint called D’Bronx owned by a family that were congregants at the synagogue I worked for. The potato knish there was delightful, with a stab of spciy brown mustard (Gulden’s of course) you didn’t even notice the lack of meat.
So, in the spirit of making it myself (since Deli’s are a dying breed) I took to my cookbooks and starting working on both a potato and (since my kids love anything with meat) a ground beef knish. I served them with some nice corned beef and boiled cabbage.
Recipe after the break.