Pommes Anna

I was watching No Reservations recently when Anthony Bourdain said something about cooking not being so much a calling as an affliction.  I’m afraid this is especially true when you’re a food blogger.

I almost didn’t post this recipe, which was part of our lovely Christmas dinner, simply because I’m not thrilled with the photos.  Surely I’m not the only blogger – who isn’t also a professional photographer, that is – who, when faced with a particularly tasty dish, but less less than inspiring photograph, who says, “I wonder if I’ve got a recipe somewhere with a better picture I can post instead?”

Such was my dilemma with this recipe, which is absolutely delicious and just as stunning, visually, when properly executed and photographed.  Unfortunately, in this case, the photography portion rather fell short – partly because the cake came out in two sections when I turned it out of the pan (a hazard with the particular dish), and I had to reassemble it, and because my choice of serving vehicles were a little…monotone.  Ah, well; from what I understand, even professionals have their bad days, so I’m going to suck it up, realize that both Tastespotting and Foodgawker will probably turn this down – it certainly wouldn’t be the first time – and post what is probably Beloved’s favorite potato dish.

Pommes Anna is a rustic but classic French preparation of potatoes, reputedly named after the most loved and respected courtesan in 16th-century Paris. Traditionally it is cooked in a special copper pan designed especially for the dish, but since I share Alton Brown’s disdain for single purpose kitchen utensils (to say nothing of the fact that copper cookware is obscenely expensive; the Pommes Anna pan on the Williams Sonoma website is $400), I cook mine in my well-seasoned, 12″ cast iron skillet.

Like many French dishes, Pommes Anna is not difficult to make, but it is exacting:  skip a step or take a shortcut, and the finished product will suffer.  In this case it won’t be the taste – potatoes and butter are pretty much going to taste good no matter what you do to it – but in the presentation.  If you don’t press down on the potatoes, it will fall apart when you turn it out of the dish.  If you don’t shake the pan occasionally, the potatoes on the bottom will stick when you turn it out of the dish.  If you don’t start it on the stovetop, the potatoes won’t brown properly.

Now, having said all of that, this is going to taste absolutely marvelous even if it doesn’t come out in one golden, crisp-yet-tender disc.  I make mine with Japanese sweet potatoes, although you can use regular sweet potatoes or white potatoes, if you’re so inclined, but no matter the type of spud you use, it is simply a rich, delicious dish.

The best thing?  If you use sweet potatoes, either regular orange or Japanese, it’s a rich, delicious dish that’s Whole30 complaint.

Pommes Anna

Pommes Anna

Pommes Anna

Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 large Japanese sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup ghee or clarified butter, melted
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Liberally brush the inside of a 12″ saute pan or cast iron skillet with some of the melted ghee. Arrange the potato slices in concentric rings emanating from the center of the pan, forming layers until all of the potato slices have been used.. Carefully brush each layer with clarified butter and lightly season each layer with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the pan on the stove and cook, undisturbed, over medium heat until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to the oven and cook until browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes, pressing the potatoes occasionally to compress and shaking the pan to prevent the potatoes sticking to the pan.
  4. Drain any excess butter from the pan and carefully flip the potato cake out onto a cutting board. Slice into wedges and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 146 calories, 10.3g total fat, 27.1mg cholesterol, 37.1mg sodium, 222.1mg potassium, 13.1g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 2.7g sugar, 1.1g protein

Honey-Lemon Roast Pheasant

Hello, everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas or not.  We had a lovely time, and I received a new toy for the kitchen I’ll be using very, very soon – an 8-quart Fagor pressure cooker.  I’m thrilled with it; technically, you can cook with our pressure canner, but it’s so large that it’s not really practical.

Fair warning:  be on the lookout for recipes using a pressure cooker in the (very near) future.

Our Christmas dinner was small – just me and Beloved – but suitably celebratory.  The centerpiece of the meal was this dish.

I’d never had pheasant before, much less cooked it, but it’s no more difficult than roasting a chicken and the flavor is just out of this world – far richer than even a good pasture-raised chicken.  Brined for several hours and glazed with a mixture of fresh lemon juice, local honey and fresh thyme, it is simply outstanding.

This recipe is based on the excellent Glazed Roast Pheasant recipe from Hank Shaw of Hunter, Anger, Gardner, Cook.  If you don’t have a roasting pan with a rack, he gives instructions on how to build one with vegetables that can be eaten as a side dish.

Note:  Pheasants are not large birds, and the original recipe says it will serve 2.  While this recipe also serves 2, we did not eat all of it – there’s at least one more serving left.  Pheasant stir-fry, maybe?

http://honest-food.net/wild-game/pheasant-quail-partridge-chukar-recipes/roast-pheasant-with-prickly-pear-glaze/

Honey-Lemon Roast Pheasant

Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 pheasant
  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 lemon, halved and juiced
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1 large sprig thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the salt and water in a small stock pot or other large, non-reactive container until the salt is dissolved. Place the pheasant in the brine and cover; refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Whisk together the lemon juice, honey and thyme in a small bowl until well-combined.
  3. Remove the pheasant from the brine and pat it dry. Allow it to rest on a cutting board while the oven heats, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the reserved lemon rinds and the sprig of thyme; sprinkle with the cayenne pepper. Place the bird breast side down on a rack in a roasting pan.
  5. Roast the pheasant for 15 minutes at 450 F, then decrease the heat to 375 F and roast for another 20 minutes. Turn the pheasant breast side up and baste with the honey/lemon mixture. Roast for another 30 to 40 minutes,
  6. basting the bird every 10 minutes, and taking care not to allow the glaze to burn.
  7. When the thigh of the pheasant reaches an internal temperature of 160 F, remove to a cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Allow it to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving and serving.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 412 calories, 17.5g total fat, 131.7mg cholesterol, 1030.1mg sodium, 532.1mg potassium, 20.5g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 18.1g sugar, 42.5g protein

Nothing To See Here…Move Along

Well, okay then.

No one I’ve asked can seem to agree on what time today the world is supposed to end.

Some say at the time the winter solstice begins, in which case the afterlife looks suspiciously like the earthly one, because that happened at 6:12 a.m. EST, and it didn’t even wake the dog up.

Others say it’s the exact moment the Mayan Calendar ends, something else no one can seem to agree on, but the most common theory is 11:11 UTC.  Since this writing took place at 12:44 UTC, well…see the above.  Again, the dog didn’t even wake up.

I guess I’ll be 50 after all.

Now back to your regularly scheduled holiday mayhem.

Menus, Milestones and Mayans

Well.

I just hit the ground running this morning and have not had a moment to breathe up until now, so I’m a tad late posting.  (We’ll ignore the fact that I might just have been slightly at a loss as to what to blog about.  That works for me, how about you?)  At any rate, since I’ve used up my self-imposed quota of recipes for the week, I thought I’d bore regale you with some end-of-the-year minutia.

As I’d mentioned a time or three, we are hosting our annual company holiday party this Saturday in our home.  You may think we’re bonkers for doing so – okay, we are, but that’s not the point.  The point is, our house would never truly get cleaned if we didn’t.  Why do we never truly look at our homes until we realize that others will be looking at it too?  I mean, it’s not as if we’re living hip deep in trash and clutter or anything, but we may have eventually been slowly suffocated under a blanket of ever-increasing dust and Scooter hair.  To say nothing of what we’d be walking on if we didn’t have our cream-colored carpets shampooed every year.

At any rate, every year I find myself stressing over what to serve at our party, and this year is no different.  We don’t serve a meal, but rather a bunch of nibbles and tidbits that our guests can pile on a plate and walk around with, while the dog sits on their feet and stares at them pitifully.  The last few years this has been even more difficult because of the wildly divergent diets we all eat – one of us is very low carb (out of necessity), a couple of us eat no grains or dairy, the spouse of one of our employees eats very little meat, and there’s a few that wonder where all the cookies and Chex Mix are.  It takes some planning, but I’ve managed to come up with something that I think will suit everyone.

Mixed Nuts

Shrimp Cocktail Platter

Meat and Cheese Platter.  I order this from the Honey Baked Ham people and buy small rolls/sandwich buns for the bread-eaters to make sandwiches out of.  I’ll put out an assortment of pickles I’ve canned myself – bread and butter, garlic dill, pickled beets and watermelon pickles – as well as condiments (mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup)

Crudité Platter with Dairy Free Ranch Dressing for dipping

Fruit Platter with Creamy Poppyseed Dressing for dipping

Cocktail Meatballs – these are just my Barbecue Glazed Meatballs, only smaller

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms.  If these are any good, I’ll post the recipe next week.

Strawberry Cheese Ring.  This is a hold over from “the old days” but is always wildly popular.  As a concession – mostly to myself – I will serve these with gluten-free crackers.

Bacon-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes.  These are good.  So good there are never any left at the end of the party.  I’m going to make two batches – one with cheese, and one without for us non-dairy folk.  If I tweak them a lot, I’ll repost the recipe.

Apple Pie.  I cannot have the party and not make this.  Our head programmer adores apple pie – MY apple pie.  So I make it every year, and he takes whatever is left home and eats it for breakfast every day, then returns my pie plate.  It’s become one of those holiday tradition things.

Chocolate Cupcakes.  Yes, the grain-free ones.  I may go buy one of those mini-muffin pans and make  them bite-sized, and add some peppermint extract to the buttercream.  Again, if I tweak the recipe much, I’ll repost the recipe.

And that’s what I’m serving.  If it seems like a lot of food for a dozen people, well…it is.  But, like Thanksgiving, means I won’t have to cook the next day, because I’m not above eating leftover cocktail nibbles for dinner if that’s what it takes to get rid of them.

As for the milestones, there will be two this year:  Saturday I turn 50, and Sunday marks the 5th anniversary of the day I quit smoking.  My mother, a lifelong heavy smoker and committed yo-yo dieter who loved junk food and carried all of her extra weight in her upper body, developed an aeortal aneurysm at 46 that went undiagnosed.  It burst and she had emergency surgery to repair it before she died of internal bleeding.  Five years later she died of a massive heart attack, just 2 months after her 51st birthday.

For the last 16 years, every doctor I’ve told that to has had an apoplectic fit.  And really, by the time I was 45 I could see myself heading down that same path.  It scared the bejesus out of me, and it should have.  So I quit smoking.  Two years later, I changed our diet.  Am I still overweight?  Yeah, I am.  But there have been no aeortal aneurysms, and I’m feeling fairly confident that I will live to see 52.  And hopefull 62, 72 and 82, and that I’ll remain in reasonably good health, unmedicated and with my wits intact, to the end of it all.

Which may very well be tomorrow, if you believe the nutjobs and fruitcakes picketing in downtown Podunk today, waving their signs declaring things like “The End Is Nigh” and “Prepare to Meet Your Maker.”

Oh, Mayans, you’ve given us so much amusement this year.

But, just in case I’m wrong and the end IS nigh, this is for everyone who hasn’t seen it yet:

The Chandelier Tree

The tree in our dining room.

That hangs from the ceiling.

Pistachio-Crusted Halibut with Blood Orange Sauce

I think I mentioned yesterday that my cooking has been rather uninspired as of late.  We’ve just been so busy lately that I can hardly tell whether I’m coming or going, much less cook something awesome, photograph it, write the recipe and then put it all in a blog post.  This week isn’t going to any different – we have our annual office holiday party to prep for (although I may have a couple of awesome hors d’oeuvres/appetizer recipes for you once that’s done), and we have The G Man this week while his mommy is out of town on a business trip.

Fun times but, coupled with work, leaves very little in the way of time for extracurricular activities.

Fortunately, I have a backlog of unpublished recipes.  Some turned out just kind of “meh” and the rest are going into, yes, the Great Fabled Cookbook.  This recipe is one of the latter.  I’ve decided to post it because 1) it’s delicious B) it’s seasonal and iii) it gives me a reason to come up with another seafood recipe for the book (I have conch in my freezer!).

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time at all, you know that when it comes to fish I’m quite fond of simple preparations served with sauces or salsas.  This is a good one, and fortunately blood oranges have just come into season.

I love blood oranges, which are so named because of their deeply colored, reddish interior.  Gory name aside, this is one of the tastiest members of the orange family, and are considered to be among the finest dessert oranges in the world.

Although they are best eaten fresh, blood oranges do lend themselves well to cooking and, like most citrus fruits, are marvelous with fish and seafood.  Here I’ve paired them with halibut, pistachios and Szechuan peppercorns for a light and quick dish that is slightly exotic and simply outstanding.

A note about Szechuan peppercorns:  Szechuan peppercorns belong to the rue, or citrus, family and are not closely related botanically to black pepper or chili peppers, despite name.  They are not hot or pungent, but instead have slight lemony overtones and create a tingly numbness in the mouth; they are quite interesting in citrus-based sauces or dishes.  The peppercorns are easily found in Asian markets and online, but if you can’t find them, don’t worry – the sauce will still be quite good without them.

You will likely not use all of the blood orange sauce, so the calorie and carb counts of the recipe are somewhat overstated.

Pistachio Crusted Halibut

Pistachio-Crusted Halibut with Blood Orange Sauce

Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 halibut filets
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 medium blood oranges, juiced
  • 1 pinch kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon whole Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place the halibut filets in a lightly oiled glass baking dish; sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Press the top of each with the chopped pistachios and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  3. While the fish is baking, bring the blood orange juice to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and add the salt, honey and peppercorns. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture has reduced by half and becomes slightly syrupy. Stir in the butter until melted; remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Pour about 1/4 cup of the blood orange sauce in the bottom of two wide, shallow plates (reserve any remaining sauce for another use). Top with the pistachio crusted fish and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 363 calories, 14.4g total fat, 67.3mg cholesterol, 280.4mg sodium, 959.8mg potassium, 37.1g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 9.8g sugar, 25.1g protein