Rösti

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Because one cannot have enough potatoes during these dreary winter months, I bring you Rösti – a potato masterpiece from Switzerland.

Similar to a tartiflette, sort of its French counterpart and equally unphotogenic, this potato dish is extremely hearty and satisfying. It would be a perfect meal for avant skiing, as well for après skiing. Not that I ski, but I can imagine how good it would be for carb loading, as well as for replacing precious calories burnt after such an exuberant day on the slopes.

I first enjoyed Rösti in a teeny village somewhere in the Berner Oberland of Switzerland. I have vivid memories of everything about the dish, just not, unfortunately, the name of the village. I remember that we stayed at the only hotel in town, which was quite lovely. Actually, there was no real town. Just a little country road, and the hotel.

For lunch one day, my family sat outside the hotel and enjoyed Rösti and beer. I wasn’t trying to carb-load, although we went hiking after lunch. I just wanted to try the local specialty.

Occasionally cows were led by; they all had cow bells around their necks, which I’d never witnessed before. It turns out, there’s quite a bit of history and cultural importance in Switzerland with their prized local cows and the cow bells as well.

Every year after the snow melts, the cows are taken to high pastures to graze on meadow grass, which is supposedly why the local cheese made from their milk is so tasty. At the end of the grazing season, the cows come home. There is a celebration called the Alpaufzug, which is the procession when the cows return to their villages. It takes place, understandably, in the fall. We were visiting Switzerland in May. Some day I hope to go back for Alpaufzug, because I just have a love affair with beautiful cows.

I got to see the local cows and hear their bells ringing from around their necks, just from them walking around, but the cows don’t always wear their fancy cow bells. These are saved for the Alpaufzug as well as other celebrations. You know the Europeans – there are celebrations for everything and anything throughout the year. But these fancy cow bells can weigh a hundred or so pounds, if I remember correctly. We saw some displayed in various restaurants and hotels throughout the Berner Oberland – giant bells hanging from tooled, leather harnesses. Some of these cow bells go back multiple generations in history; they are very prized and proud possessions for these Swiss people.

Here’s an example of the Alpaufzug from this photo I found online. People actually put flowers on the cows.

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Don’t you wonder what the cows are thinking? But I do love that the Swiss truly love and worship their cows.

Myself, I only found one gal in a field, who didn’t have on a cow bell. But they’re beautiful cows, aren’t they?

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This photo was taken near Interlaken. If you’ve never been to this part of Switzerland, well it’s everything you’ve ever heard or read about it. The mountains, rivers, and valleys are stunning. And if you take the train all the way to the top from Lauterbrunnen, you get to Yungfraujoch, with stunningly icy views, like these:

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I’m actually surprised my camera didn’t freeze, but I wasn’t outside long.

So I’ve gotten a little off track discussing Rösti, but the cows are an important factor because cheese can be part of a Rösti, as well as ham or bacon.

What I ate in Switzerland was classic Rösti – crispy grated potatoes – similar to what the Americans refer to as hashed browns. As much as I try not to google about food, I was really fascinated by what is considered traditional Rösti. And, not surprisingly, I came up with so many versions, depending on the village in Switzerland, and if the village was Swiss speaking, or German speaking.

I came across this interesting tidbit: In Swiss popular consciousness, rösti is eaten only in the German-speaking part of the country. It is portrayed as a stereotypical identifier of Germanic culture, as opposed to the Latin one. The line separating the French and German speaking sides is jokingly called the Röstigraben, literally the “rösti ditch”.

I love how food can be a political divider in countries. I mean, it’s just potatoes! But oh, such good potatoes.

So I decided just to wing Rösti on my own, following no recipe. I might have actually made something very much equaling a traditional dish somewhere in Switzerland – you never know! But I did decide to included Gruyère along with the potatoes. Gruyère is an aged version of what we know in the states to be Swiss cheese, and it’s a product of the milk of those lovely cows chomping away at the alpine grasses during the summer months in Switzerland.

So here’s my version of a perfect, cold weather dish – I bring you Rösti! (pronounced roosh-tee, sort of)

Rösti

7 medium-sized potatoes, peeled ( I chose floury, baking potatoes)
Olive oil or duck fat, not butter
Salt
Pepper
Approximately 8 ounces Gruyère, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

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Grate the potatoes, and then cover them with paper towels to absorb any excess liquid. This will only take about 5 minutes.

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Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. You will need a generous amount to avoid any sticking.

Place about half of the potatoes on to the bottom of the skillet. Season them generously with salt and pepper. Using the back of a wooden spoon, pat down the potatoes.

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Cover the potatoes with the cheese.

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Then cover with the remaining potatoes. Pat down as before. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the potatoes.

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Cook the potatoes, uncovered, over the same heat, until you can tell there’s some browning. This should take about 15 minutes. Make sure that the heat isn’t too high to cause excessive browning or burning.

Now, if you could trust yourself to not spill, you could manage to flip the Rösti over and return it to the pan, cooked side up, but I decided to use my oven to cook and brown the top side instead. But either way will work.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake the potatoes for about 15-20 minutes, or until there’s some equally good browning on the top.
My Rösti ended up being about 1″ thick. If yours is thinner, less time in the oven will be required.

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Remove the skillet from the oven and set it aside to cool slightly. Don’t use a lid, because Rösti should be crispy, not mushy.

Slide the Rösti out onto a serving dish, and slice in wedges to serve.

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Serve hot or at least warm.

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You could serve a fried egg on top of the potatoes, or serve them with some fried sausages. I chose to serve the potatoes with some smoked salmon.

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This made a fabulous meal – I highly recommend it!

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Crêpes Fourées

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Crêpes Fourées are savory crêpes filled with sautéed mushrooms in a white sauce. And to make things even more luscious, gruyère is included. They can be served as is, paired simply with a salad of greens, or served as a fabulous side dish to your favorite protein.

I’m not going to write out an exact recipe for these crêpes. There simply are a few components – the crêpe recipe is here, and the white sauce, or bechamel, is here, and below I’ll focus more on the mushrooms.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Dried mushrooms
Butter
Fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt
White pepper
Dried thyme
Butter and Oil
Shallots, diced
Cream, milk, and/or the mushroom liquor
Flour
Crêpes
White Sauce
Gruyere

Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl, and cover them with hot water.Place a heavy bowl on top to keep the mushrooms submerged.

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Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. It’s okay to brown the butter if you prefer. Add the mushrooms and sauté them for 5-6 minutes. Season them with salt, a little white pepper to taste, and some thyme.

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Place the mushrooms in a colander over a large bowl in order to collect the mushroom liquor. I wrote about this technique here. The “liquor” is a lovely addition to a white sauce, or to flavor a broth.

Remove the soaked dried mushrooms and place them on some paper towels. Don’t discard the soaking liquid.

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Pat them dry, and then slice or chop them up, removing the tougher stems first.

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Then add them to the sautéed mushrooms.

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Strain the liquid remaining after soaking the dry mushrooms and strain it to remove any debris.

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Place this liquid and the mushroom liquor together in a small pot and reduce the volume by about half. This will provide a deeper flavor when using it in the white sauce, if you choose to use it. Keep in mind, however, that if you use this liquid, your white sauce will not be as “white” as compared to only using cream or milk as your liquid when making it.

The original recipe I have for Crêpes Fourées can be seen here in my adolescent hand.

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In this recipe, the mushrooms were finely chopped. I wasn’t going to bother with doing that, but at the last minute before putting the dish together, I did decide to chop the mushrooms instead of leaving them in the larger pieces. I just felt the crêpes would roll better that way.

I did, however, omit the parsley and chives in this recipe. I did that just because of what my menu was for a dinner I served to friends. Already plenty of green!

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Then I placed the chopped mushrooms in a large bowl. I had the crêpes I’d made that morning on stand-by,

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as well as some Gruyere, which I grated. At least, I think this is Gruyere…

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To make the white sauce, place a combination of olive oil and butter in a pot and heat it over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Add flour to make a roux, then stir in your liquid of choice. After a bit, while whisking the whole time, you end up with a thickened white sauce like this.

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Pour the white sauce into the bowl with the mushrooms. You don’t want the mushrooms too saucey, just enough sauce to bind them.

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Stir the mushrooms and sauce together. The filling should look like this.

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If you’re going to cook the crêpes right away, turn on the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking pan.

Have your crêpes, filling, grated Gruyere and the pan handy.

Begin by placing some filling on a crêpes, and top it with a little Gruyere.

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The little bit of cheese will help hold everything together. Then roll up the crêpes and place them in the pan as you make them. Top them all with some more Gruyere.

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I didn’t use too much cheese because I really want the mushroom filling to shine, but it’s up to you. But if you want these super cheesey, I’d use a milder cheese.

If you’re not baking these on the same day, cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bring the crêpes to room temperature, or close to it, and bake until the tops of the crêpes are bubbly and golden, at 375 degrees. Serve hot or warm. Who am I kidding. They’re fabulous at room temperature as well.

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Trust me, if you love mushrooms, you will love these crêpes.

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They are the best kind of comfort food.

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They are full of flavor.

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They are culinary perfection.

Brussels Sprouts Salad

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When I buy Brussels sprouts, I immediately think to steam them and toss with browned butter. I’m the only one who eats them between my husband and myself, so that’s always how I prepare them. I may actually love Brussels sprouts more than any other vegetable. And I like them to shine like the mini cabbages they are.

Until today, I’ve never had a Brussels sprouts salad. What? They’re just so good the way I serve them, that I’ve never gotten very adventurous with them. But I put an end to this nonsense today.

Salads of Brussels sprouts are raw. That’s right, simply shaved or sliced and then tossed with a vinaigrette. The vinegar “cooks” and softens the sprouts, just as lime juice cooks fish in ceviche. It’s simply the acid doing its work.

So I bring to you a recipe I adapted from reading many different recipes for Brussels sprouts salads – this one a bit more festive, since it is that time of year!

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Salad of Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cranberries and Hazelnuts, served with an Apple-Maple Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup olive or hazelnut oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup apple juice or cider
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt.

Combine these ingredients in a mini blender.

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Blend until smooth; set aside.

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Salad:

Brussels sprouts
Toasted hazelnuts
Dried cranberries

First, thinly slice the Brussels sprouts using a knife or the blade fitting on your food processor. Or, use a mandolin like I did. However, since getting a tip from Richard at REMCooks.com, I have purchased a Kevlar glove to use with the mandoline, to avoid any emergency room trips.

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Thinly slice the Brussels sprouts, without getting too close to the stem ends, which are woody. Slice as many as desired; I only made a small salad for myself. How big a salad you make is up to you.

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Add some of the dressing and toss. Then let the Brussels sprouts sit for about 30 minutes to let them soften.

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The hazelnuts and cranberries can be tossed in with the salad, but I chose to just sprinkle them on the salad itself.

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I served my Brussels sprouts salad with some grilled salmon, but just about any protein would work.

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verdict: The salad was very cabbage-like, which is fine, because I like cole slaw, which is also cabbage. However, I think I prefer my Brussels sprouts hot with browned butter.

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

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Sometimes I end up with too many vegetables in my refrigerator. And when that happens, I make soup.

Case in point? I happened to have a lovely head of cauliflower that I didn’t want to go to waste, so I cooked it and made it into a creamy soup. Cauliflower has a lovely flavor that is so good on its own. But I couldn’t stop there with just a creamy cauliflower soup. I wanted it spicy.

So I reached for my handy dandy ancho chile paste. Every so often I make a large batch of it and store it in jars in the freezer. That way I always have some to use in recipes, like this soup. Immediately the soup became something altogether different – flavored with layers of chile peppers and lovely Southwestern spices. Fabulous. And so easy.

This is what I did, and you can do it, too!

Spicy Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, broken into florets
1 leek, cleaned, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
Broth of choice, I used chicken broth
1 can evaporated milk, or any non-dairy substitute
3 tablespoons ancho chile paste, or to taste
2 teaspoon ground cumin

Place the cauliflower, leek, celery, and onion in a large stockpot, and cover with water or broth.

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Bring everything to a boil, cover the pot, and then simmer until the cauliflower is fully cooked, about 20-30 minutes.

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Place the cooked vegetables in a blender jar, and only add a little of the liquid. You can always add more later if you need to thin the soup.

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Add the evaporated milk. Depending on the size of your blender jar, you might have to blend this soup in two batches, so use about half of the vegetables and half of the evaporated milk for each batch. At this point I also added my chicken broth powder.
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Blend until smooth. Add the ancho chile paste and cumin powder, blend, and taste. You might want salt. If you do, start with just 1 /2 teaspoon. If you make the soup too salty, there’s no turning back!

I needed to add a little more ancho chile paste when I added the cumin, which is why you see more of it. It totaled about 3 tablespoons but if you’re unsure of how much to use, start out with just 1 tablespoon. Of course, it also depends how much soup you’re making. Just taste taste taste! It’s your soup, so make it according to your taste!

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Serve the soup hot. I added just a little grated Parmesan for fun.

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Some queso blanco or just plain goat cheese would also be fabulous with this soup.

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Sure, it’s easy to make a cream of cauliflower soup. But go a little crazy for a change! Add some ancho chile paste and spice things up. When I tasted the soup I realized I’d made the chile paste with some chipotle peppers as well as ancho chile peppers. They really added something to this soup.

Boxty

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Of all things, my first boxty was not eaten in Ireland. It was, in fact, enjoyed in an Irish pub in, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s called Kilkenny’s, and it’s been an established and popular Irish pub since 2002.

I really enjoyed the boxty, which I’d never heard of before. I only ordered it because I wanted something traditionally Irish since I was in an Irish pub. And of course it was good – it was a giant potato-based crepe filled with creamy goodness. I can’t really remember all of the details now, but because of that experience, I was determined to have one in Ireland… which I did just a few weeks ago.

We had lunch in Dublin at Gallagher’s Boxty House one Sunday. We went there knowing that it was a touristy sort of place, but I had to have my boxty. Gallagher’s Boxty House is an unassuming little joint of a restaurant in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

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It actually seemed like only locals were eating lunch there – especially families with children. The young man who waited on us was 17, and the son of the restaurant’s owner. It was nice finding out it’s a family business.

But touristy or not, we all have a fabulous lunch. I chose the seafood boxty and it was delicious.

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That day in Dublin was Latvia Day, as we surmised after passing loads of people dressed up in their traditional Latvian garb. (Of course, we had to ask what the hoopla was all about…)

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Aren’t these women beautiful?!!!

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I only mention Latvia day because the presence of the singing and dancing Latvians added to the frivolity of walking around Dublin on a beautiful Sunday when everyone seemed to be outside enjoying themselves. And the parade that ensued went right by the Boxty house while we were enjoying our lunch!

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Okay, little things like that get me excited.

But back to the boxty.

After returning from Ireland last week, I wanted to make boxty. I own a book on Irish cooking*, and it revealed that the boxty originated in the north of Ireland, actually. The word boxty came about from the fact that people cut holes in boxes in order to grate the potatoes to make this dish! I now appreciate my metal grater even more than ever.

There are also, not surprisingly, a few different versions of boxty. One is exactly like what I had in Tulsa and in Dublin – an oversized pancake with filling. Another version is a pancake on a smaller scale served simply with butter.

The third version, which I didn’t make today, is from a thicker pancake batter – essentially a dough. Round shapes are cut out of it much like our biscuits, and baked. I think I actually saw these on breakfast menus in Ireland, because they were described as hash brown potato cakes. I’m sure they were delightful but unfortunately I never had one.

Here’s my version of the giant boxty pancake with a creamed ham and cheese filling, and boxty pancakes with butter.

Boxty with Creamy Ham and Cheese Filling

4 medium baking potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups milk, I used whole
Butter

Chop up two of the peeled potatoes and boil them until done. If you’re not sure, stick a fork in the pieces to see if they are tender. When they are cooked, drain the potatoes; set aside.
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Grate the remaining two potatoes and place them on paper towels for a few minutes to drain.

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Then place the grated potatoes in a medium bowl. Add the flour and baking powder. Mash the two cooked potatoes and add to the grated potatoes in the bowl.

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Give everything a stir, then slowly stir in the milk. The batter should have some consistency, yet be somewhat thin as well.

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Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Use a generous amount of butter for each pancake. When the skillet is hot, almost completely fill the bottom of the skillet with the batter. Don’t make it too thick, but also fill in any thin spots or holes. Turn down the heat to medium, and cover the skillet with a lid.

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After a few minutes, turn the heat down to low to finish cooking the pancake. I discovered that it was nearly impossible to flip over these “pancakes,” so I just let them cook on the bottom side slowly.

After a few more minutes, slide the pancake onto a large plate, turn up the heat again, and make a second pancake. When the second one is done, slide it onto a separate plate.

Complete as many pancakes as you wish, then proceed with the filling:

Filling:

1 recipe for white sauce
About 2 cups of chopped ham
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese

Make a white sauce according to the directions using butter, flour, and milk or cream, whichever you prefer.

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Stir in the ham and the cheese. I also sprinkled in some white pepper, but that is certainly optional.

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Add a generous amount of the filling to each boxty, and fold the other side over. Repeat with the remaining boxties that you made. The filing will generously fill four boxties, approximately 8″ in diameter.

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Serve immediately, or reheat later right before serving.

Boxty Pancakes

Make the same batter for the boxty using the grated and mashed potatoes, the flour, baking powder, and milk.

Add a generous amount of butter before adding the batter to the hot skillet. Make these the size as breakfast pancakes, turning down the heat to cook them through and prevent burning. It should take about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip them over and cook for about another minute.

To serve, add a tab of butter to the hot pancakes. These can be served as a side dish, or eaten as is. Personally I would have to have them with a side salad, or a few wedges of tomatoes.

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verdict: I think this boxty batter recipe pretty well tastes like my Dublin boxty. You could also substitute a crepe, but the potatoes really add something to the “pancakes.” And they’re not much work at all. The smaller boxty pancakes were good, but I prefer my own version of potato pancakes, that have less flour in them, and have much more texture. But both versions of boxty were fun to try!

* It’s called The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook, by Kay Shaw Nelson.

Grits with Shrimp and Sausage

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Years ago I tagged along on a business trip my husband took to Charleston, South Carolina. I ordered shrimp and grits at our first dinner there. I’d previously not been a huge cornmeal fan.

Well, thank you Charleston. I’m a huge fan now. The secret is butter, cream and cheese. Which, of course, can make anything better.

So I’m making some grits today that will be served with shrimp and Andouille sausage for a Creole flair.

Similar to making risotto, you don’t have to use this recipe to a T. You can use butter and cream in your grits, you can use butter and cheese, or use all three! It just depends how you want your grits to turn out.

Get creative with grits. I didn’t include cheese in this recipe but think about the options – smoked mozzarella, feta, cheddar, Boursin, you name it. It all works.

Creamy Grits with Shrimp and Sausage

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cups grits, I use a medium grind
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons bacon grease or oil
14 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
1 pound shrimp, shelled, cleaned, rinsed, dried
Salt
Black pepper
Grated Parmesan for serving, optional
Cayenne pepper flakes, optional

Add the water, milk, butter and the salt to a dutch oven over medium heat until the butter melts.

Add the grits and cook them, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes.

Depending on what cornmeal you’re using (there’s everything from corn flour to a coarse grind) you can follow the recipe on the package, then there’s no guesswork.

If you think the grits are too thick, add some water, cream, broth – whatever you want to thin it slightly using a whisk. When you’re sure it’s done, and quits thickening, add the white pepper, paprika, and thyme. Cover the pot and set the grits aside.

Put a large skillet over high heat and add the bacon grease or oil. I had cooked some bacon, so I left the grease in the pan just for this purpose. Add the sausage slices and brown them on both sides. When they’re all browned, scoop them up with a slotted spoon and place them in a large bowl. But keep the skillet on the stove with the oil.

Salt and pepper all of the shrimp. Add the shrimp, in batches, and cook them in the same grease until they are opaque. This only takes a minute. Place the cooked shrimp in the bowl with the sausage, and continue with the remaining shrimp.

When it is time to serve, have your grits, shrimp, and sausage all warm. Place some of the grits in a pasta bowl. Then top with the shrimp and sausage.

I always like to offer cayenne pepper flakes, just because I like things spicy, but that’s optional. You could even serve Tabasco or another hot sauce.

Chopped green onions are also good.

Because I didn’t include cheese in the grits, I thought I’d serve some Parmesan as an optional topping.

Parmesan takes it over the top, but other cheeses could be used as well.

Salt Cod for Lunch

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I’m calling this post “salt cod for lunch” because it is perfect as a lunch or a light meal. It’s salt cod cooked with potatoes, smothered in a white sauce, sprinkled with a little Parmesan, and then baked. It’s like the inside of a fish pie, with no crust. It’s hearty, but it’s not too rich, in my book. I hope you like it:

Salt Cod and Potato Gratin
Serves 4

fish:
1/2 stick butter
1 onion, sliced
3 small red or white potatoes, cut into 3/4″ cubes
12 ounces rehydrated salt cod, see about salt cod, cut into smaller pieces
1/4 cup half and half

white sauce:
1/2 stick butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cup half and half
Pinch of white pepper

Grated Parmesan

Heat the butter in a large skillet or work over medium-high heat. Add the onion and potatoes and sauté them for about ten minutes; they should be nice caramelized. Tuck the pieces of cod into the potatoes, and then pour the half and half over the top. It should bubble. Cover the skillet with a lid, then lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Turn the oven on to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the white sauce. Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Let this paste cook for about a minute, whisking often, then pour in the half and half. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens. Remove the pan from the heat, but leave the whisk in the pan.

To prepare the gratin, use an 8″ square baking dish, or four individual gratin dishes. Place the fish and potato mixture on the bottom of the dish. Then give the white sauce a whisk, and pour it over the potatoes and fish. (If using gratin dishes, simply divide the fish-potato mixture by fourths, and divide the white sauce into fourths.)

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Add some grated Parmesan, then bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce is golden brown in spots.

Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, then serve with a green salad, if desired.

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Achiote Cornbread

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When I first tried cornbread after moving to Texas a million years ago, it was way too sweet for me. Unnecessarily sweet. And it was always served with honey butter!

But when I began making cornbread from scratch, ignoring the sugar, I liked it much better. Besides, corn is already sweet!

The thing I’ve learned about making cornbread is that you can do so many different things to it to make it your own, and really compliment whatever entrée you’re serving it with.

Cornbread can be Southwestern with the addition of chipotle chile peppers, or it can be Mediterranean with the addition of olives and feta. You can herb it up in the summer, or add any kind of flavor during the winter months like sun-dried tomato pesto. And, of course, you can always add cheese!!!

Today I wanted my cornbread fairly simple, but I wanted a little flavor enhancement and beautiful color from achiote oil. So here’s my recipe for skillet cornbread with achiote oil.

Achiote Cornbread

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons achiote oil, plus a little more
6 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Have a 10″ cast-iron skillet on your stove.

Get your dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Place the buttermilk, eggs, and achiote oil in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Have your melted butter handy.

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When your oven has preheated, turn on the heat under your skillet and let it pre-heat.

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Combine the wet ingredients, including the melted butter, with the dry ingredients, whisking just until smooth.

Using a little achiote oil, grease the skillet. Then pour the batter into the hot skillet, and immediately place it in the oven.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. It should be nice and golden and the middle should be somewhat firm to the touch.

Remove the skillet from the oven and let the cornbread cool a little for about ten minutes. Loosen the sides, then remove the cornbread onto a cutting board. It also works to flip the cornbread upside down on a cutting board.

Slice into wedges and serve warm! I recently served the achiote cornbread with Cuban black bean soup.

I prefer using corn flour or finely ground corn meal if you can find it.

Portuguese Salt Cod

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This recipe comes to me by way of the Foods of the World series, and it is in the American cooking: New England cookbook.

It is perfect timing for me. I began showcasing the regional cuisines of the U.S. in January, and I still have plenty of salt cod leftover from when I excitedly came upon it at Whole Foods a while back, see salt cod.

This recipe is one that I see typically when I come across a salt cod recipe, one that is either Portuguese, Italian, or Spanish. It’s a lighter Mediterranean dish of salt cod in tomatoes and onions, sometimes with capers as well.

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I will type up the exact recipe as it is in the New England recipe booklet:

Salt Cod Portuguese Style
To serve 4

1 pound salt cod
6 large firm ripe tomatoes, or substitute 4 cups chopped, drained canned plum tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions, plus 1 small onion, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8″-thick slices
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely cut fresh basil leaves, or substitute 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried basil
1 medium bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground hot red pepper (cayenne)
1 teaspoon salt

Starting a day ahead, place the cod in a glass, enameled or stainless-steel pan or bowl. Cover it with cold water and soak for at least 12 hours, changing the water 3 or 4 times.

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Drain the cod, rinse under cold running water, place it in a saucepan and add enough fresh water to cover the fish by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. (Taste the water. If it seems excessively salty, drain, cover the cod with fresh water, and bring to a boil again.)

Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for about 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when prodded gently with a fork. Drain the cod thoroughly. Remove and discard any skin and bones and flake the fish into 1-inch pieces with a table fork.

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Meanwhile, drop the fresh tomatoes into a pan of boiling water and remove them after 15 seconds. Run cold water over them and peel them with a small, sharp knife. Cut out the stems, then slice the tomatoes in half crosswise, and squeeze the halves gently to removed the seeds and juice. Chop the tomatoes coarsely. (Canned tomatoes need only be thoroughly drained and chopped.)

In a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet, warm the olive oil over moderate heat until a light haze forms above it. Add the chopped onions, celery, and garlic, and, stirring frequently, cook for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft but not brown.

Stir in the tomatoes, onion slices, parsley, basil, bay leaf, red pepper, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer tightly covered for 30 minutes. Add the cod, mix well, and simmer until the fish is heated through. Taste for seasoning and serve at once from a heated bowl or deep platter. Portuguese salt cod is traditionally accompanied by small boiled potatoes.

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Verdict: I was very happy with this recipe exactly as it is. However, I later added some capers to top things off!