Archive for the ‘Holidays and Entertaining’ Category

Looking for different and delicious side dishes? Potato knishes might be the answer for the holidays

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

This post should begin with a picture of the finished product but I forgot to take a picture when they came out of the oven and I really wanted to get this information in your hands before it was too late…so…try and envision these little bundles baked to a beautiful golden color.

I’ll tell you why I love these knishes.  First of all they can be made ahead of time and I’m all about doing everything I can to simplify cooking the day of an event.  So that’s number one.  Secondly I love the concept of using them as a side dish for a holiday menu (they would be awesome with a rib roast or a beef tenderloin) plus they double beautifully as a hot hors d’oeuvre.  And lastly they are delicious, absolutely wonderful.  This is one recipe I had to share and actually I can’t take credit for it.  I discovered it by doing some work for the Idaho Potato Commission and they are constantly “commissioning/challenging” chefs around the country and the world to come up with their best potato recipes.  This is definitely one of them.

The first picture is of knishes in appetizer size and the one right above depicts the knishes in a larger, dinner portion suitable for an adult.  Basically these knishes are two part:  there’s the outside pastry (which is store-bought puff pastry..easy) and then there’s the filling that is made with Yukon gold potatoes, sauteed onions, cheddar cheese, blue cheese, parmesan and even a little goat cheese.  They are assembled ahead of time, brushed with a little egg wash and then baked to golden perfection.

Here are the little guys under construction and below is the sheet of puff pastry rolled out and ready to cut.

I’ve eaten these right out of the oven (of course they were heavenly) and I’ve even reheated them the next day in the oven and they were just as wonderful.  What I’m trying to say is you can’t go wrong.

Recipe developed by Sherry Yard, Executive Pastry Chef, Spago Beverly Hills

1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (simmered, peeled and coarsely mashed)

4 ounces minced onion sautéed in 1 tablespoon butter

2 ounces cheddar cheese

2 ounces blue cheese

1 ounce grated parmesan cheese

1 ounce goat cheese

2 ounces heavy cream

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

egg wash (one beaten egg)

1 package frozen puff pastry sheets

In medium bowl combine all ingredients for potatoes and combine well with rubber spatula or wooden spoon trying to keep potatoes somewhat coarse. Mixture can be made one or two days ahead.

To assemble: take one sheet of pastry and roll out slightly until it measures an 8×12 rectangle. Cut sheet into 6 (4×4 inch) squares. Place a generous 1/3 cup of filling in each square. Bring corners of each square to the center of the potatoes and pinch and twist to secure.

Place on parchment lined baking sheet allowing enough room for knishes to puff a little while they bake. Then brush with egg wash and let chill in fridge for 30 minutes. If covered well, knishes can be prepared to this point and held a day ahead. Preheat oven to 400. Bake until puffed and quite golden (about 20 minutes).

You can also make appetizer sizes by cutting the pastry in smaller squares and spooning less filling onto each square.

Wood-fired pizzas (or the next best thing)

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I think it would be awesome to have a wood-fired pizza oven but the reality is…I will never have one.  But here’s a technique that will get you close.  It involves a pizza stone, a paddle, fresh dough and toppings.

Purchase the largest stone you can find or maybe it’s a combination of two stones. 

Place the stone(s) in the oven on one of the center racks and remove the other racks so you have room to maneuver with the paddle.  Turn the oven on to its highest “bake” setting, usually around 550 degrees.  HOWEVER, I noticed in the directions that came with my stone that it recommended that the temperature be introduced gradually.  So what you can do is set it to 350, let it preheat…take it to 400, let it catch up and then finally take it to 550.  The whole warming time might be close to 20 or 25 minutes.

Have some freshly made dough…

that has been rolled out and docked (poked with a fork throughout).  Set that on top of the paddle but make sure there is plenty of cornmeal sprinkled on the paddle to keep the dough free and loose once it is set on the paddle.  The size of the pizza round should not exceed the width of the paddle or the width of the stone.  You might need to experiment a bit so you get just the right amount of dough to match your equipment.  The crust should be very thin for best results. 

Once the dough is on the paddle, add your toppings and then take to your super-heated oven. 

With quick jerking motions transfer the pizza to the stone.  This will take a little practice but will come in time.

Set your timer for 10 minutes and allow pizza to bake. 

Check it after that and if the edges are brown and crusty and the cheese is bubbly, your pizza is ready and can be removed from the oven with the paddle.  If you are going to be eating right away you can cut and serve from the paddle but if you are holding it for any length of time transfer the pizza to a baking rack to prevent the crust from sweating and losing it’s crispiness.

AND….if you have a barbeque you can duplicate this entire process by putting a stone in there, cranking it up to it’s maximum heat and then baking inside with the lid down.  The BBQ gives it a nice flavor but generally does not accomodate a very large pizza.  Very fun to try, though.  Give it a try, fine tune as you need and you will have added a wonderful item to your cooking repetoire!

Indoor Smoker

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

I have an indoor smoker.  Everytime I use, which isn’t terribly often, I ask myself why I don’t use it more frequently.  It really is a great innovation and simplifies and streamlines the whole outdoor smoking process. Here’s how it works.

Chips can be purchsed with the smoker and come in two sizes, some very fine and some a little larger.  Fruitwoods are especially nice. 

They are placed in the bottom of the smoking pan and your heat is turned on to high. 

While they are warming set the item you intend to smoke on the rack.  You can smoke meats and vegetables, not cheese with this method.

Once the chips begin to smoke, set the rack in the pan, on top of the chips and close the lid. 

In a few minutes more chips will ignite and a little stream of smoke will emerge from a corner.  Reduce the heat to medium and turn on the kitchen fan to minimize the smell.

You are free to check the doneness of what you are cooking simply by sliding the lid open and looking and poking inside.  When the food is done, remove from the smoker and serve. 

In this case I shredded the chicken to use as part of a smoked chicken salad.  Once the pan has cooled down, throw out any leftover chips and wash the smoker.  It’s fun to experiment with.  Most cooks could find many uses for this tool and they are easily found on line.

Working with fresh coconut, making milk and grating the meat

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I love coconut.  In fact my first childhood memories center around coconut.  I was four years old, my family had just moved to Brazil, living in an apartment in Porto Alegre.  The highlight of my week was when the ice cream man came around.  I could hear his car from the top stories.  He sold all kinds of ice cream but once I tried the coconut I couldn’t think of anything else.  So even now I’m a succor for anything with coconut.  Since then I have mastered the art of cracking into one which takes no brains, just a little guts, time and muscle.

You can do this one of two ways:  Take the coconut outside (which is what I usually do) and set it on the concrete walk.  Hit it with a hammer a few times until it breaks open.  You can also set the entire coconut on a baking sheet and take it to a 350 oven and let it sit in there for 15 or 20 minutes until deep cracks develop but you still need to take a hammer or meat mallet to it to break it open.

A clear liquid will spill out but it is of no use to us so let it go.  It doesn’t even stain the concrete.  This picture was taken on a rainy day so the wet on the concrete is not from the coconut but from the sky.

Break it open and head indoors.

Break it into several smaller, manageable pieces (once again using a hammer or a meat mallet).  Using a butter knife, pry the meat away from the hard shell.  This does take a little effort and aim but it does get easier after a few pieces.  It’s just a little unnerving the first time.

Then, with a vegetable peeler peel away the dark skin from the white meat.

Rinse all the pieces and throw them into a blender cup with 2 cups of boiling water.

Put the lid on the cup and blend until quite fine.  This could take a bit of time depending on the strength of your motor.

Pour contents through a sieve that is set atop a bowl.  The sieve will stop the grated meat and the coconut “milk” will pass through to the bowl.

Squeeze all the grated coconut and squeeze as hard as you can to remove any extra milk.  If the coconut is too hot to handle let it sit for a few minutes before squeezing.  After you have squeezed each handful take that amount and drop it onto an ungreased baking sheet.

What you have left is the coconut milk, which is in the bowl and then the grated, unsweetened coconut.  Spread the coconut evenly over the baking sheet and cover it with a clean towel or paper towels.  Let it sit out on the counter for a day or two to dry.  After it’s dry transfer it to an airtight container and use in any recipe.  Because it is so fine you may want to reduce the amount a recipe calls for by 1/4 or 1/3.

The milk can be used in curries, soups, puddings, custards and following is a link to a recipe for fresh coconut ice cream which has to be the best flavor in the world.

Search The Chef Within Blog