Monday, September 28, 2009

Potatoes All Rotten (Potatoes au Gratin)

I have no idea why, but for whatever reason we've always called potatoes au gratin "potatoes all rotten." It makes them sound less than appealing but a lot less snooty! They're a favorite of my potato-head hubby. I probably make them different every time, but here's the gist of the recipe.

J'adore: Potatoes all Rotten (aka Potatoes au Gratin)

Potatoes (maybe 6-10 medium-sized potatoes; I like to use red bliss)
1.5 Tbs margarine/butter (I use a combination of the two)
1 Tbs flour
1 cup half & half, cream, or milk (works best with at least some cream content... i.e. I wouldn't make it with skim)
1.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt to taste

Peel and slice the potatoes. Place all potato slices into a pot and cover with cold water. Add a little salt to the water, and bring to a boil. Cook potatoes approx. 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are slightly tender.

In the mean time, add margarine/butter to a small sauce pan. Melt on low heat. When butter/margarine is melted, add flour and stir continually to make roux. When roux has started to thicken, add cream/half & half/milk (I use a combination of half & half and 1% milk), and continue stirring. Continue to heat on low, stirring constantly. Add shredded cheese a little at a time, and continue stirring. If mixture gets too thick, add a little milk to thin it. Add a little salt if desired. The consistency should be both a little thick and a little runny.

Drain off the potatoes and place in an oven-safe dish. Pour roux over potatoes. Nudge the potatoes around a little so that the roux coats all of the potatoes evenly. Place a lid on the dish and bake at 350°F for approximately 35 minutes.

Potato Leek Soup

Leeks are probably one of my favorite vegetables. This year I tried growing them in my vegetable garden and was thrilled with my success. The only thing is when you have a hundred of them (and they don't keep well) you have to think of good ways to use a bunch of them up in one recipe. Potato leek soup fits the bill. The trick is to save some of the potato chunks to add in after pureeing.

J'adore: Potato Leek Soup

1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, pressed or minced
3 leeks, white and light green parts chopped
3 cups potatoes, chopped (I used 1 baking potato, 3 small red potatoes, and 2 Yukon gold potatoes)
2 quarts vegetable broth
olive oil (no more than 1 tsp.)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic, onion, leeks, and potatoes in olive oil in a large pot. When onions and leeks look transparent add vegetable broth and some salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and allow to cook until potatoes are tender. Add fresh or dried thyme to taste (I think I used around 6 sprigs from the garden.) Once potatoes are tender, turn the heat off and ladle half of the soup into a blender. Puree. With a slotted spoon scoop some of the remaining potatoes and leeks out of the pot and set aside. Blend the remaining broth and return all pureed soup as well as potato and leek chunks to the pot. (You may have to do some finagling here; I poured the first batch from the blender into a storage container until I had finished blending the rest of the soup from the pot.) Turn heat back on and add salt and pepper to taste.

*Cream, half & half, or milk can be added for a creamier consistency. I intended to add half & half but didn't find that the soup actually needed it.

Vegetable Barley Soup

A little over a year ago I had one of the most amazing soups I've ever tasted. It was vegetable barley soup. I couldn't get enough of it. Sadly, when I asked for the recipe I was informed that it was much too complicated to pare down for a family-sized portion. Sadder still, the restaurant was in our hotel in the Swiss Alps. Since then I have been searching high and low for a vegetable barley soup recipe. I've looked through all of my recipe books, searched epicurious and, crawled the interwebs at large, and still haven't been able to find something that resembled that amazing soup. I finally decided to give it a shot on my own. It's not the same; not even comparable, really, but it's husband approved and pretty tasty. (I do have to admit that I drew ideas from The Papaya Chronicles and The Vegetarian Table: France)

J'aime: Vegetable Barley Soup

1/2 cup pearled barley
1 small onion, chopped
1 or 2 leeks, white and light green parts chopped
1 medium potato, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 or 5 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 quarts vegetable broth
approx. 2 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Pour the barley into a medium-sized sauce pot. Turn the burner on low, and lightly toast the barley stirring constantly. When barley starts to smell toasted (approx. 3-5 mins.) remove from burner and transfer into a strainer. Rinse barley under water to remove any unwanted soil or dust particles. Return to pot and add 2 cups of water. Add a dash of salt, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer for approx. 30-40 minutes.

Dice onion, leeks, carrots, celery, and potato and add to a large pot. Add minced/pressed garlic and a dash of olive oil. Turn heat to low and saute vegetables until onions and leeks are translucent. Add vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer.

Once barley appears fluffy and cooked, drain if necessary, and add to the soup. Continue to allow soup to simmer. Add a dash or two of white balsamic vinegar as well as salt and pepper to taste.