Saturday, April 24, 2010

Potato Splats

These delectable crunchy two-bite potatoes are positively addictive. Eating one is an impossibility. Besides their crispy, salty outside and slightly creamy inside deliciousness they have a couple of things going for them. One, they can be made ahead, mostly. Two, they go with just about anything - roast, steak, chicken, grilled meats, etc. Three, their flavour can be changed by whatever herb or spice your heart is craving.

The recipe is ridiculously easy. First, wash as many little potatoes as you think you'll need. Add another handful because a few will disappear in the kitchen before they even get to the table. You can use red or white potatoes - I've used Yukon Golds here.

Place the potatoes in a saucepan, add water to about half way up the pot, salt, and bring to a boil. Simmer covered, until just barely tender when poked with a knife.

Dump them into a colander, then onto a tea towel on your counter. While they are still hot, or at least very warm, fold up another tea towel and use it as a buffer for the heel of your hand to gently squash each potato. Feeling each potato give under the weight of your hand is very satisfying, but don't get too aggressive. Just break the skins and flatten them out a bit.

Cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then drizzle it liberally with olive oil. Gently place each potato splat on the oiled paper. Cover and chill up to 24 hours, or proceed immediately.

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees. Liberally drizzle the potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and season as you like. Freshly ground black pepper, thyme, creative. Today I used smoked Spanish paprika. Slide the baking tray into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, remove from oven, turn each potato and return to the oven. Bake for another 10 or 15 minutes, depending on how crispy you would like them to be. That's it.

This little plateful is what wouldn't fit on my baking sheet today. The rest of them are in the fridge, resting comfortably until tomorrow's lunch. I baked up these last 7 splats and ate them all, not even offering one to my husband. He was busy anyway. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

French Silk Pie

Although I'm not a fan of double crust fruit pies I do enjoy Lemon Meringue, Kentucky Derbe and this Chocolate Pie. I first discovered French Silk Pie in the late 70s, I think, and made it regularly, raw eggs and all, with no problems, even in Ecuador. But somewhere along the line it became incorrect to make things with raw eggs (although I continue to do so, and I eat cookie dough!), so someone came up with this recipe for "Today's French Silk Pie." It's rich, chocolatey and a small piece is enough. With a cup of tea, it's a perfect afternoon treat.

French Silk Pie - today's version

1 cup whipping cream
1 6-oz package semi sweet chocolate chips (or use Baker's squares)
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 beaten egg yolks
3 Tablespoons whipping cream
1 baked 8 or 9 inch pastry shell (or use a graham wafer crumb crust)

In heavy 2 quart saucepan combine the 1 cup of whipping cream, chocolate, butter and sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring until chocolate is melted (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir about half of mixture into the egg yolks. Return all to saucepan. Continue cooking over medium low heat until slightly thicken and nearly bubbly (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat. Mixture may appear to separate. Stir in the 3 Tablespoons of cream. 

Place pan in a bowl of ice water, stir occasionally until mixture stiffens and becomes hard to stir (20 minutes). Note: This always takes longer and I usually end up putting the pot in the refrigerator. It needs to be stiff enough to whip but not completely firm. 

Transfer mixture to a medium mixing bowl. Beat on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until light and fluffy (I usually beat it a bit longer). Spread in pie crust. Cover and chill about 5 hours or until firm. 

Garnish with whipping cream, chocolate curls and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. This is very rich, tiny pieces are wonderful!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mango Strawberry Salsa

Why is it that fruit and fish go so well together? Tonight we're having grilled shrimp skewers and in the grocery store today I saw ripe mangoes and strawberries. I didn't think of making a salsa until after I got home, but I'm glad I did. It was fast and easy and dresses up plain fish or seafood. Of course, I had to taste the salsa first, which I did with some corn chips. Yum - equally good.

1 ripe mango, diced
4 ripe strawberries, finely diced
1/4 cup finely minced onion (I used yellow because that's what I had, but red might be better)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced (or use 1/2 for less heat)
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lime

Mix all together. Enjoy with seafood or cornchips!
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Coconut Lime Crème Caramel

Flan, aka Crème Caramel has never been one of my favourite desserts. It's very common in Ecuador, but I rarely chose it. And I've never made it. Something about the whole caramelizing sugar technique kind of worried me. I thought it was beyond my capabilities. Dumb I know. And I prefer Crème Brulée, flan's cousin.

I watched an episode of Laura Calder, French Food at Home on line. Sadly, we do not have Food TV. Or maybe that's a good thing because I'd spend too much time in front of the television. Regardless....Laura made this flan using coconut milk. I was intrigued. Would the flavour be creamy and custardy? Would the coconut flavour dominate?

The family was here over Easter and I decided to give it a try. It was easy to make and yummy to eat. The coconut flavour was extremely mild and the lime zest added a fresh zing. This is one I'm putting in the files to make again. Laura Calder's recipe had a handful of coconut, toasted, I think, added in at the last, but I left that out, having some family members who are extremely texture sensitive.

Coconut Lime Crème Caramel, courtesy of Laura Calder

1 cup sugar
bit of water (2 T?)

Place in heavy bottomed small pot on medium high heat. Stir until mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat to medium. Watch carefully as mixture continues to bubble and turn golden-coloured. Don't turn your back or it will burn. Remove from heat and immediately pour into a metal pan - I used a cake pan, 8 or 9 inches. Allow to cool and harden, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

6 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups coconut milk
1 T rum (optional)
zest of 1-2 limes (I found one sufficient)

Whisk together the eggs, sugar and coconut milk. Strain, then stir in the rum and lime zest. Pour custard mixture over the hardened caramelized sugar.

Place cake pan in a larger pan and pour boiling water up to about half way around the cake pan, taking care not to splash any water into the cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool, chill and turn out onto cake plate. The hardened caramel will have turned into a lovely syrup.

I thought it almost magical.