Smashed Potatoes

I’ve been bored, and I’ve found myself making the same stuff over and over again. I needed a new recipe. Thankfully, I found one that seems to be a huge crowd pleaser.

This recipe started off as a way to get rid of some ingredients I had lying around: potatoes that were getting old, a package of bacon I’d only used once and was about to go bad, etc. So the first time, I didn’t measure anything, I just sort of threw it all together.

After he went home, my brother-in-law asked for the recipe for the smashed potatoes, which is where I got the name for today’s post (thanks, Jon!). Of course, I didn’t have one. I picked the easiest way to solve this problem: I decided to throw another dinner party and attempted to recreate it. I think it worked out well, and decided I’d share the recipe. Whether you decided to call this smashed potatoes, loaded mashed potatoes, baked potato casserole, or something else, it’s definitely a new party favorite that I’m sure I’ll make again.

I dedicate this post to Jon, for being such a big fan of the smashed potatoes and for giving it a great name.

Smashed Potatoes

Ingredients:
5 pounds russet potatoes
8 slices bacon
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces heavy cream
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Scrub the potatoes and individually wrap in foil.
3. Bake the potatoes until soft (about an hour).
4. Rinse the shrimp, and mix with the pepper, basil, salt and garlic. Set aside.
5. In a large pan, cook all the bacon until crispy. Set aside.
6. Sauté the shrimp in the bacon grease until they are pink (about 5 minutes).
7. Remove the potatoes from the oven.
8. Remove the foil, and scoop out the insides of the potatoes into a large mixing bowl.
9. Add in all ingredients except the cheese and mix well.*
10. Place mashed potatoes in a large pan, and top with shredded cheese.
11. Bake for 15 minutes.

*TIP: I used an electric mixer and I did this in batches.

Staples

Although it’s been a while since I’ve posted, you’ll be happy to know I have still been cooking. I’m finally all settled in my new place and making good use of my kitchen. It’s smaller than I would like, but I’ve still managed to find a way to make everything fit.

One of the things I’ve had to readjust to since moving back to NY is the longer commute times. This means weekly dinner needs to be as quick and painless as possible given the short time frames. This recipe, start to finish, takes about 25 minutes. Since most of the time, Haitian food is neither quick or easy to make, so this isn’t strictly Haitian. It does involve rice, though, so hopefully that will be enough to please all the Haitians out there.

This recipe was in large part based on items that I essentially always have on hand: rice and peas. I do also usually have frozen shrimp as well; it’s a good protein source but doesn’t take as long to prepare as most other meat (and no defrost time required).

If you’ll recall from my first rice and beans post, you can substitute just about any bean you’d like. The problem is that most beans take a long time to cook, and I don’t personally like the flavor of canned beans. Thankfully, frozen peas work just as well, and they don’t take very long to cook.

The recipe can also be made without the shrimp if you’d like to keep it vegetarian. I personally love both ways.

What are some of your staples?

P.S. I’ve portioned this out to my smallest sized recipe yet! Since I made this just for me, I didn’t want to go overboard. It makes about 2-4 servings.

Rice & Peas & Shrimp

Ingredients:
1/4 cup frozen petite peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cups jasmine rice
1 habanero pepper
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon chicken base
1/2 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1/4 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon basil
12 frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions:
1. Rinse the shrimp, and mix with basil, black pepper, salt, chicken base, adobo seasoning, Creole Seasoning, garlic, and basil. Set aside.
2. In a medium pot, heat the olive oil  and cook shrimp until they are pink (about 3 minutes).
3. Add water, peas, and habanero and bring to boil.
4. While the water boils, clean the rice (remove any bad rice, rinse with cold water, and drain). Set aside.*
5. Add the rice and stir so that the peas and shrimp are well mixed with the rice. Be careful not to pop the habanero!
6. Boil until water is mostly evaporated (about 2-3 minutes).
7. Turn the heat to low and cover the rice. Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

The Potential for Disaster

There’s something scary about roasting a whole turkey. It’s big, it’s kind of pricey, and it isn’t something that gets made all the time. No one wants to eat dry, flavorless, or undercooked turkey. So when I finally decided that I was going to make one, I will admit to being extremely nervous. I had no experience with making something this large, and if it didn’t come out right, I wouldn’t know until I decided to serve it.

It was something I really wanted to try though, just to see if I could. So I did what I do best and I decided to research. I talked to those I knew personally who I knew had made turkey before and I learned their secrets; I looked up dozens of turkey recipes and took the parts that I liked. Armed with ideas and information, I took on this huge task, seasoned my turkey and stuck it in the oven. And then I prayed that it would work out as it was for a decent sized group of people, and my parents were in town.

The good news is it worked! The turkey was delicious and everybody had nothing but good things to say about it. The bad news is that it was pre-blog, so I didn’t write anything down and couldn’t quite recall what I had done with it. Given that turkeys are really only available during a specific time of year and that it’s too big to make on a regular basis, it would be a whole year before I tried it again. The second time was okay, but it wasn’t quite the same. In the meantime, I started the blog, and really wanted to share the recipe, so I decided to try a third time so I would have the recipe, and I’m happy to say the third time definitely was worth writing down.

In the end, the spice list was a little long, but it tasted good, so I’m sticking with it. I also used a meat thermometer that took care of the timing for me, a turkey bag so I didn’t have to worry about it drying out, and a set of turkey forks to lift they turkey out of the bag. I realize there’s a lot of different ways to do this, and I’d love to hear about your favorites. In the meantime, here’s my take on roast turkey.

Roast Turkey

Ingredients:
1 (18 pound) turkey
1 lime
3 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 tablespoons dried sage
2 tablespoons dried thyme
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chicken base
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions:
1. Clean the turkey by rubbing it with the lime, including the cavity. Rinse and pat dry.
2. Poke several small holes in to the turkey (you can use a fork or a knife)
3. Rub the turkey with the chicken base, including inside the cavity.
4. In a small bowl, mix the bail, rosemary, pepper, salt, sage, thyme, and garlic and set aside.
5. In a small pot, melt the butter on medium high heat.
6. Pour the melted butter in to the seasoning mix and stir well.
7. Rub the butter mixture all over the turkey, including inside the cavity.
8. Place 1/4 of the onion, 2 celery stalks, and 1 carrot inside the cavity of the turkey.
9. Sprinkle the bottom of a turkey size oven bag with flour.
10.
Place the turkey and the remaining vegetables inside of the oven bag. Refrigerate overnight.
11. Preheat oven to 350° F.
12. Place the turkey bag in a roasting pan, poke several holes in the bag to let out steam, and bake the turkey for four hours, or until the internal temperature is 180° F.
13. Once the turkey is cooked, carefully remove from the bag and place on a serving platter. Save the juice for gravy!

Secrets of Mom’s Kitchen

The good news about sharing a kitchen with my mother is that I get to ask her questions. Don’t ask me why I never noticed some of these things before, but a few of her answers  have made me realize I may need to go back and edit some of the recipes I’ve posted.

Thankfully, I hadn’t yet posted this week’s recipe for green pea sauce. When I asked my mother what she puts in it, she told me that she uses two kinds of peas (regular green peas and petite peas) and that she adds onions. I had no idea! These simple additions may explain why my version never quite tasted the same. She did mention that she doesn’t always use two kinds of peas and that if she can’t get both, she prefers petite peas. For this recipe, I’m going to go with just petite peas since that’s what I had when I was making it.

There are a lot of different versions of this sauce, and you can try it out with almost any bean. This one is my favorite, and as a child, it was the only one I enjoyed (something about this always felt like a treat, which was not the case with the other versions). It generally gets served with white rice, and my mom also likes to serve it with fowl (in sauce).

I struggled with what to call this. In Creole, the name of this recipe (Sos Pwa Frans) doesn’t seem nearly as silly. My sister says I should call it pea soup since they are essentially the same thing, but I think soup generally has more ingredients and still contend that this is a sauce and not a soup, and the name in Creole actually literally translates to Green Pea Sauce. I’m also having fun calling it pea sauce, though, so I’m going to go with it.

I’ll probably come back and tweak this recipe as well, but here’s take one for now.

Green Pea Sauce

Ingredients:
1 (16 ounce) package frozen petite peas
3 cups of water
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 yellow onion, minced
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon chicken base
1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Directions:
1. In a large pot, add the olive oil, garlic, and onions and stir on high heat for one minute.
2. Add the water and the frozen peas and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add the remaining spices and stir well. Continue to cook until the peas are well softened, about 15 minutes.
4. Take half the contents of the pot and blend until smooth. Leave the other half cooking.*
5. Add the blended peas back to the pot and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Be careful that it doesn’t get too thick!

*You can take more than half out. I just like half because I like having some of the peas not blended. If you prefer, you could probably blend all of it.

Time for Change

Summer is officially over next week, which may be why a good number of people are clinging to it. This time of year seems to be filled with last-minute picnics, requests to eat outside, and reminders to soak up the sun while it’s still here. I guess I’m not really ready to let it go, either.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fall (and fall foods) as well, but there is just something about summer that’s hard to let go. I know it’s a little late, and if you’re a traditionalist, you may have to wait another year to try this one. However, if you’re like me, this could become the endnote on a beautiful season.

I can’t quite recall where this recipe started, and it’s been through many changes throughout the years. I do remember it being one of the first dishes I brought with me to a potluck. When I was younger, my mom had always been the one to bring a dish if a dish was required. At this particular event, it was one of the first times I was being asked to bring something, and I wanted to impress.

Why did I choose potato salad? How could I land on the right combination? Would be people enjoy it? All of these questions sent me to cookbooks and websites looking for a recipe that looked good, but would allow me the opportunity to get creative.

The thing about potato salad is that it generally has mustard. I’ve tried to like mustard, but I’m honestly just not a fan. The other thing about it is that the potatoes are often cut too large, and especially when they’re cold, it makes the whole mess harder to eat. So perhaps that was where I started, with a notion of a potato salad that was more like mashed potatoes.

However it started, I ended up with a long-standing tradition of bringing this dish to events; it even sort of became a family joke that this was the only thing I knew how to make. Given the nature of this dish, and the time between seasons, you may be inclined to think of this as potato salad or as mashed potatoes. Whatever you call it, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Mashed Potato Salad

Ingredients:
5 pounds of potatoes (almost everything except for red works)
30 ounces of mayonnaise
16 ounces froze mixed vegetables
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Boil the potatoes until tender (about one hour). Peel them before or after they are cooked; I tend to go with after.
2. In a medium pot, add the water and the mixed vegetables. Bring to a boil and drain the water.
3. Hand mash the potatoes to desired size (this is meant to be lumpy) and mix in the rest of the ingredients.