Potato and Sauerkraut Hotdish

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This is the crowd pleaser of all crowd pleasers – the “MUST HAVE” on the holiday table, the easiest thing to bring for a potluck, and well, AMAZINGLY delicious. Let’s just say this is one old-fashioned, the-way-it-used-to-be-before-canned-soup HOTDISH! But potatoes with sauerkraut? This lesser known concoction was brought to the Midwest by our creative German ancestors and usually contained sausage or bacon. (I know, I can hear you right now, “Ooh bacon, that’s a good idea!” Don’t even think about it!) My mother learned of the recipe from a neighbor who originally hailed from the Pierz area of Minnesota – a German stronghold. Hotdish tends to be very provincial as each kitchen cook has their own secret ingredient. If you prefer to call it a casserole then we’ll know you’re not from Minnesota!

Midwest church-goers are famous for their potlucks where you can find Tuna, Hamburger, Tator Tot as well as other noodle, meat and canned soup concoctions. For some reason my family always called these things casseroles, and tuna was the only one I was familiar with thanks to Grandma’s inability to cook, and my parent’s strict adherence to the edicts of food improvisation.

Unfamiliar, that is to say, until I entered the hot lunch program at my local Elementary School. I took a brief foray away from vegetarianism and learned the nuances of true Midwest Culinary Cuisine. Not only did I enjoy the hotdish repertoire, but it was in those cafeterias that I learned of “Shit on a Shingle” – otherwise referred to as “Chipped Beef on Toast.” I also had the pleasure of discovering Spam, American Cheese slices, and Corn Dogs. You must remember, I was a child of the “Back to the Land” movement. I knew where food really came from so this highly processed stuff was totally foreign to me. It also drove me quickly back to the comforting lap of the vegetarian diet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hotdish. I am by nature, a lazy cook and lover of all things comfortable. I love the ease of the one pan meal and the idea that I won’t have to cook for a few days as with casseroles, if you’re not feeding a crowd, there are leftovers.

A couple of years ago my mom came to one of the family dinners with this potato and sauerkraut casserole thingy. It got high approval ratings from everyone, especially my potato loving husband. I’ve never had to make it only suggest that Mom bring it for our gatherings, but as the red potatoes from the CSA keep rolling in, I decided it was high time to make my own hotdish. So I called Mom for the recipe. My mother cooks like I do – it’s always a creative process, there is never a recipe and if an interruption occurs during the preparation, the meal is terrible!

Here’s my mom giving me the “recipe.”

“Well, you just need to drain the sauerkraut and boil the potatoes. Then I saute the sauerkraut in a lot of butter with garlic . When the potatoes are done, break them up; Don’t really mash them, just smash them, and add them to the sauerkraut. I like to put jalapenos in it and some cheese. That’s it, then you bake it.”

“What kind of cheese do you use?”

“Whatever I have. I always have lots of cheese. I might use feta or mozzarella. I always put parmesan in it- whatever you have. I wouldn’t use cream cheese or sour cream because I don’t like those.”

Thanks, Mom!

Making this casserole really got me excited about making sauerkraut as well. I have a huge cabbage from the CSA so I think I’ll give it a try. Here’s a great link showing how to make Sauerkraut. I was interested to find that during WWII it was considered patriotic to make your own sauerkraut. I never knew sauerkraut to be a particularly political pickle.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large jar or bag of sauerkraut – 32 oz.
  • 5 pounds new baby reds
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno diced
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 1 cup chopped green beans (optional)
  • Idea Note: Chopped herbs would be fabulous to add to the top or incorporate into this dish.

Directions:

Boil the potatoes until tender. When they are cool enough to handle, smash them with a potato masher. Drain the sauerkraut well and meanwhile saute the garlic in melted butter. When the garlic releases its fragrance, add the sauerkraut and saute for a few minutes. Mix the sauerkraut with the potatoes in a big bowl. Use a food processor to chop the jalapeno and mozzarella. Mix everything together. Pour it all into an oiled baking pan. Sprinkle the parmesan on top and decorate with green beans. Bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees.

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Llapingachos – Cheese Stuffed Potato Patties

Potatoes? I have a love hate relationship with potatoes. They are starch, carbohydrate, heavy, and can be dry. They are time-consuming to cook and often need so much added “stuff” to make them palatable. Jeff loves potatoes – especially french fries, but it’s not really the potato he loves – they’re just a “vehicle for ketchup!” They are delicious though, aren’t they? Especially roasted with garlic and lots of salt. I loved them in the Vindaloo Roasted Potatoes and Cauliflower dish I made a few weeks ago, and I am always happy to toss a couple of diced potatoes into any winter stew.

If you get a CSA or shop the farmer’s markets, you know fresh potatoes are rolling in from the fields daily right now. They are dense, creamy and still full of water as the starches haven’t had time to convert to sugars yet. They cook more quickly when they are fresh, and in my opinion, taste better in this state.

When I was in college I had an internship in Ecuador, where in the highlands, folks enjoy a cheese stuffed fried potato patty called a “Llapingacho (ya ping gacho). This dish stands out as having a lovely yellow color, a rich flavor, and creamy texture that is nearly impossible to recreate in the United States if you shop at conventional grocery stores. Why is this so? Well, I learned through trial and error, that the Llapingacho will not cooperate with a potato whose starches are overly developed. It simply will not. It can be made, but the texture and flavor never match that of those served in the Andes. Unfortunately, potatoes in the U.S. spend lots of time in storage which allows water to evaporate and starches to form.

Since returning from my internship in 1991 I have tried to recreate the smooth and creamy texture of the Ecuadorian Llapingacho but was not successful until I used the Yukon Golds from my Wisconsin CSA! Fresh from the field they had the perfect consistency and flavor needed to recreate this dish. I assume the potatoes had been dug from the field a day or two before delivery so spent little or no time in cold storage. I don’t think most of us can find potatoes fresh enough in most grocery stores to make the Llapingacho. Even the Yukon Golds that I have tried from the co-op haven’t worked. In addition to needing a completely fresh potato, there are other tricks to making a perfect Llapingacho: 1) wash the starch off the potato cubes before you cook them, 2) let the patties cool completely before frying, and 3) make sure your cooking oil is really hot. This is a great recipe to prep one day and cook the next.

Of course, even fried this potato is still a vehicle for other goodies. In South America the Llapingacho is served with a peanut sauce. Many enjoy a zesty salsa to top, or a grated cabbage coleslaw. We ate ours with a side of yesterday’s Zucchini Salad, chopped fresh jalapenos, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Delicious!

Take advantage of the fresh Yukons coming out of the fields to make this dish that can only be fully realized in Minnesota right NOW! You’ll love it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Yukon Golds, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup leeks, thinly sliced (any kind of onion may be used)
  • olive oil to saute leeks
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • peanut or canola oil to fry patties
  • 1 cup grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Start a large pot of water to boil while you peel and cube the potatoes. After they are diced, swish them around in a big bowl of water to wash off some of the starch.

Once the water begins to boil, spoon the potatoes into the pot and cook them until they are just tender. Drain the potatoes from the cooking water and allow them to cool before mashing.

While the potatoes cool, saute leeks on low heat until they begin to caramelize. Mash the potatoes, mix in the leeks and add salt and pepper to taste. Allow the mixture to cool completely until it can be handled.

Form the mashed potatoes into a ball a little smaller than a tennis ball. Press your thumb into the center of it forming a small indentation. Fill this with cheese then close the potato mixture around the cheese to form a ball again. Press the ball into a patty making sure that the patty is about 3/4 of an inch thick. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cool in the fridge for at least an hour. (I covered mine with wax paper and fried them the next day.)

Heat peanut or canola oil on a skillet until it is very hot. Fry the patties until they are browned on both sides. If your patties are not completely chilled or thick enough, they will be very delicate for flipping.

Potato Leek Soup

This is not your average potato leek soup. It has no dairy, waxes pink from a flurry of swiss chard stem antioxidants, flushes with a little sweet honey mead, and swoons mellow from roasted potatoes and leeks. That’s right, they are roasted before they are made into soup, and the sheet pan used to roast them get’s a stove-top deglazing with the white wine. Have you ever deglazed a cookie sheet before? I had never, and the technique made me think I was in a European kitchen wearing chef’s whites and a touque!

The whole idea to roast the potatoes and leeks comes from Ina Garten, Back to the Basics. Using this technique definitely adds more time to the meal, but the flavor is quite stunning, and it was fun to use a few seasonal veggies as well as a bottle of mead from White Winter Winery in Wisconsin – getting back into the local scene after a long winter!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large leeks, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds potatoes, diced
  • oil to coat
  • 1 head garlic, roasted in foil with a drizzle of olive oil
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, stems and a bit of greens
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into small chunks
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degree. Toss the sliced leeks and potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes or until tender. Place the foil-wrapped garlic on the cookie sheet to roast while the leeks and potatoes cook. You may want to flip the veggies during cooking, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

When the potatoes are tender, remove the cookie sheet from the oven and place on stove-top over medium heat. Here’s where you get to deglaze a cookie sheet! Pour in 1 cup of wine and scrape the crispy bits off the bottom. Mash the potatoes with a fork and mix with the wine. Remove the cloves of garlic from the head, and squeeze out the roasted garlic paste. Mix everything together. Let some of the wine cook off then scoop the mixture into a stock pot. Add about six cups of water or stock, salt and pepper to taste and more wine if you like. Bring it to a simmer.

Add the swiss chard stems and allow to simmer for about ten minutes. Last, add the asparagus and cook for another five minutes on very low heat. You don’t want the asparagus to get stringy. It should be bright green and still just a bit crisp.

Rainbow Smashed Potatoes

Move over boring white whipped potatoes – here comes the new standard! Bring this beauty to Thanksgiving or any holiday party and you will never be short on invitations!

This concoction sports potatoes of the rainbow variety that I found at the co-op today. Included are Cranberry Reds, Blue Potatoes, New Reds and a Garnet Yam. I boiled them, let them cool, slipped the skins of, smashed them with a fork and infused the dish with Indian spices toasted in peanut oil with a simmer of tomato. Very simple and over-the-top yummy!

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Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 pound potatoes
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, pureed
  • 3/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1 Tbs. brown mustard seed
  • 1 Tbs. cumin seed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seed
  • 2 Tbs. curry powder ( I used Pensey’s Balti)
  • 1 tsp. hot pepper flakes

Directions:

After the potatoes are boiled and skins removed, smash them with a ricer or fork. I like my potatoes a little chunky.

Heat the oil in a pan and add all the spices. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the tomatoes and cook for a minute or two.

Mix the oil gently into the potato mixture and pour into a baking dish.

Note: I kept the sweet potato out of the other potato mixture. I added a little salt to the sweet potato and put it in a well in the middle of the colored potatoes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until warm and beginning to brown on top.

Birthday Cakes

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This is the sweet birthday cake my two favorite boys brought home from Whole Foods (cough, cough, shh, don’t tell, please!) It is an amazing lemon layer cake sandwiching lemon custard all wrapped up with a pretty buttercream icing. It is so delicious in all it’s sugary badness!

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This is the savory, healthy, adult version of the “birthday cake.” Thin slices of potato and roasted beets act as the crusts holding in the garlic speckled brown rice in place. To decorate, radishes were halved before roasting. This crazy concoction was tasty enough, but the beets didn’t really pair well with the rice and potatoes. The fact that they bled onto the rice gave the dish a unique esthetic, but the sweetness of the beets didn’t match the other flavors. The dish won points for interest and beauty, it’s definitely edible, but overall fantastic, it is not. How can we make thinly sliced beets into something fantastic? I had visions of a beet upside down cake of sorts. If you come up with anything, let me know!

In the mean time, I’ll eat two birthday cakes for dinner!

Roasted Red Potatoes, Cauliflower and Green Bean Salad

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This potato salad is hearty, yet feels light and fresh with a lime and fresh basil vinaigrette. Foxtail Farm CSA vegetables included: red potatoes, green beans, cauliflower, garlic, basil, and red onions.

Roasted Red Potatoes, Cauliflower and Green Bean Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, diced
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into one-inch pieces
  • olive oil to coat vegetables
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Vinaigrette:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil

Directions:

Clean and prep the vegetables. The potatoes will be roasted on a separate cookie sheet from the cauliflower and green beans as they take a bit longer. Mix the diced potatoes with a little oil to coat and salt and pepper. Then turn them out onto a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees until they are browned on the top. Do the same with the cauliflower and green beans – toss them in a bit of oil, salt and pepper and then spread onto a baking sheet. The potatoes will take about 45 minutes to roast and the green beans and cauliflower will take about 20 to 30 minutes. I didn’t keep track of my time, so just keep an eye on them.

Once the veggies are roasted, take them out of the oven and let them cool. Meanwhile, mix the vinaigrette using a food processor. Pulse the garlic, basil, lime juice, Dijon, salt, pepper and oil. When the vegetables have cooled, mix the vinaigrette and onions into them and serve.

Yellow Curry

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Cooking sure takes on a new meaning when it’s performed after a full day’s work. Now instead of leisurely peeling carrots and marveling at their bright orange beauty, I find myself counting how many strokes of the peeler it takes to clean them of their lovely little roots. Did you know that Foxtail Farm’s carrots each take, on average, seventeen peels. The creamy fresh yellow potatoes take on average twenty-four peels and the same number of knife strokes to dice them! I’ve either developed obsessive compulsive traits, or I have math on my brain.

As many of you know I have spent the last two months exploring the virtues of my CSA box while on summer break from my teaching job. You have benefited from my crazy cooking adventures. Now my energetic and very eager fifth graders are anxiously awaiting the first day of school, and I am busy setting up a wonderful learning environment so their learning can be maximized. I’ve turned my attention away from menu planning and back to lessons. The blog is definitely enticing especially when last week’s CSA box was still lingering in the crisper drawer until just a minute ago. Tomorrow is Thursday, my next CSA box arrives, and my students will be coming to meet me at the Open House. The juggling act begins.

I still have five or six weeks of CSA boxes coming, so I’ll still be cooking. I’ll try to continue to post the recipes that work, but in warning, it could end up being a lot of soup.  We shall see.

This yellow curry uses Foxtail Farm yellow potatoes, carrots, yellow wax beans and delicious yellow onions. Not from the CSA were the garlic, spices and cilantro.

Yellow Curry Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into thin rings
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-12 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound yellow wax beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 10 Holy Basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp. brown mustard seed
  • 1 Tbs. cumin seed
  • 2 Tbs. good curry powder (I used Penzey’s Hot Curry Powder)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • water for simmering

Directions: Saute the onion rings on low heat until they begin to caramelize and then add the spices. Turn the heat up just a little and remember, you will hear the mustard seeds start to pop and turn a little gray. Move the spices around and add the garlic. Saute just until the garlic releases its’ fragrance. Next add the potatoes, beans and carrots and enough water just to be able to simmer the veggies, perhaps three or four cups. When the potatoes are tender, gently fold in the herbs. Serve immediately over jasmin rice.

Roasted Potato Spears

IMG_2130 Preheat oven 425 degrees

Ingredients

potatoes 2 – 5 pounds

olive oil

salt & pepper

freshly chopped garlic

chopped rosemary (any herbs are wonderful)

I cut the potatoes in half lengthwise then cut each half into four or five wedges. Place the spears in a big bowl. Drizzle oil over potatoes and toss so that all potatoes are covered lightly with the oil. While in the bowl sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper, chopped garlic and herbs. Toss the potatoes in the bowl to coat all ingredients evenly. Turn the potatoes out onto a large baking sheet so that they are in a single layer on the pan. If you use more than two pounds, you will need two sheets. Bake until the potatoes begin to brown, and turn with a spatula. Let them bake until they are browned and done in the middle. Baking time depends on the type of potatoes, so I always use the taste to see method. They usually bake in 30 minutes to an hour.