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
  • 3 large Japanese sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup ghee or clarified butter, melted
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  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?


Honey-Lemon Roast Pheasant

Serves: 2
  • 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
  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

Lemon Chess Dessert

The new theme appears to be working quite well; I’ve gotten most of the bugs worked out – the only one left is a minor issue with my recipe plugin, and I’m just waiting to hear back from the developers on how to solve it.

In the meantime, it’s back to business as usual.

Today’s recipe was one of the indulgences we enjoyed as part of our Thanksgiving dinner – and boy, was it good.   Well, of course it was, since it is merely a reworking of my Lemon Chess Pie recipe.  The original recipe is baked in a crust and is made with refined sugar, milk and butter; this version is baked in individual bruleé dishes and is made with evaporated cane juice, ghee and coconut milk.  Yes, evaporated cane juice is sugar, but it’s not been refined and bleached so it retains what dubious nutritional value sugar cane possesses.  Besides, it is made from sugar cane, not sugar beets, one of the most widely genetically modified crops grown in this country.

A tablespoon of corn meal is also an ingredient, and one that I decided not to omit or change simply because it plays an integral part in the texture of the dessert.  Since I had a small bag of certified organic, gluten-free corn meal (corn meal is often produced in the same facilities as wheat flour, so it may not be gluten-free, even though corn itself is not a gluten-bearing grain), I decided to go ahead and include it.  It was, after all, a treat.  (You might be able to use almond flour instead, but I can’t vouch for how the dish will turn out.)

A treat we enjoyed for days – this is really, really rich and serves 10; each dish contains two servings, so it’s best to share.

Traditional lemon chess pie has a lovely lemon-yellow hue, but because I used evaporated cane juice the dessert was a rich caramel color, and since evaporated cane juice is more reminiscent of brown sugar in flavor, the flavor of this lemon chess dessert is much more complex than the traditional pie.  It is absolutely delicious and decadent, and perfect for the holidays.

If you wish to go truly dairy-free, sub the ghee with coconut oil – I’ve used coconut oil in lemon curd before instead of butter, and it was quite good.  You could also cut down on the amount of sugar and carbs in the dessert by using coconut sugar; it will also be a little less sweet, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.

Lemon Chess Dessert

Lemon Chess Dessert

Serves: 10
  • 2 cups evaporated cane juice
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup ghee, melted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 4 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter or grease 5 individual brulee dishes.
  2. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cornmeal and salt. Add the melted ghee, zest, lemon juice, water and coconut milk; mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between the brulee dishes and bake until the desserts are set, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 218 calories, 7.2g total fat, 86.6mg cholesterol, 89mg sodium, 54.7mg potassium, 36g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 34g sugar, 2.7g protein

Roast Beef with Mushroom-Brandy Sauce

I had been pretty apathetic about Thanksgiving until the last day or two; now I’m beginning to look forward to it, if for no other reason than I get five days off from work.  Yes, I’ll spend two of those days cooking, but I don’t mind – I won’t have to cook Friday, which will be nice.  The Saturday after Thanksgiving is always the day we decorate the house for Christmas, and this year we’re having The G Man over to help.  He’s never seen Meema’s Santa and snowman collection, or our upside-down Christmas tree, and I think he’ll have a good time.  I know I will.

In the meantime, I have a backlog of quite a few recipes to choose from, and had a dickens of a time deciding which one to post today.  In the end, I decided on this one – it’s a really lovely special-occasion type of meal, and while it looks long and involved, it’s really not.  You slow-roast an eye of round roast (or roast of your choice), and make a mushroom-brandy sauce to serve over it.

A delicious mushroom-brandy sauce, if I do say so.

At any rate, I thought it might be a nice option to have for those who prefer a more non-traditional main course for Thanksgiving; it would also make a very nice Christmas Eve or Christmas night dinner, too.   I served this with a puree of purple cauliflower, which was just so pretty, and some glazed carrots – it was a very nice, very tasty dinner, worthy of a holiday table.

Roast Beef with Mushroom-Brandy Sauce
Roast Beef with Mushroom-Brandy Sauce
Roast Beef with Mushroom-Brandy Sauce

Serves: 6
  • 2 1/2 pound eye of round roast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter, divided
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup brandy, divided
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or half and half
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 1 cup beef stock, preferably homemade
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Rub the roast with the olive oil, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic. Place roast on a vented roasting pan and set in the middle of the oven; roast at 400 F for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off and open the door, leaving the roast
  3. in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Place the probe of an oven safe meat thermometer into the center of the roast; take care that it is not touching bone, fat or gristle. Close the door and set the oven to 200 F. Continue roasting until the thermometer reaches 130 F for rare or 140 F for medium rare. Remove the roast from the oven and loosely tent with foil; allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.
  5. While the roast is in the oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat and, taking care not to crowd them, cook the mushrooms until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  6. Add the remaining tablespoon of ghee to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown and beginning to caramelize, 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Increase the heat under the skillet to medium and return the mushrooms to the pan; add 2 tablespoons of brandy and stir for 20 seconds. Add the coconut milk or half and half and cook, stirring constantly, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle the mushroom mixture with the tapioca flour and stir to coat; add the remaining brandy to the pan. Increase the heat to high and stir in the beef stock; bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste, and season as needed with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve the mushroom-brandy sauce over the thinly sliced roast beef.
  10. Nutrition (per serving): 384 calories, 16.5g total fat, 95.1mg cholesterol, 830.6mg sodium, 911.8mg potassium, 5.9g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 1.3g sugar, 45.5g protein


Cranberry-Orange Chutney

It’s November already.  I’m not sure how that happened, but it did.  (Well, okay, I know how it happened, it just sort of came more quickly than I expected.)  And because it’s November, that means that Thanksgiving is only 3 weeks away, at least here in the U.S.  Which also means that I begin my yearly obsessing about what to cook.

Over the last couple of years, the decision of what to cook (and eat) has been more of an issue than in the past.  Before we changed our diet, our Thanksgiving menu was pretty cut and dried – I had a very traditional menu that we all enjoyed.  But when we cut out grains, refined sugars and vegetable oils, that changed.  Oh, the first year I kept a lot of the dishes (my grandmother’s cornbread dressing and pumpkin pie comes immediately to mind) and reworked others to make them fit our new way of eating (green bean casserole).  This year, however, things have changed because wheat and dairy will be completely absent from my table.

Hey, if I’m cooking the darn meal, I want to be able to eat it.

One thing that will unquestionably be part of our Thanksgiving meal, though, is this.  I have an old, tried and true cranberry sauce recipe that I love, but in terms of sugar it’s probably 60% by volume.  The last two years I made a different recipe made with far less sugar (and red wine!), and it’s pretty good, but it just wasn’t quite the same.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to start a couple of ferments.  One was kimchi, and the other was, well, this.

Fermented Cranberry-Orange Chutney.

And it is so, so, so, so, SO good.

I was going to hold this back for the cookbook (which will be finished one day, I promise), but I’ve gotten so many requests to post it, I decided to give in.  And because it takes a little while for ferments to “mature,” I figured the sooner the better, although you could probably start this 3 or 4 days before Thanksgiving and it would be fine.  But if you want the full benefits – and flavor – of the fermentation, start it a week before you serve it.  It makes quite a bit – 2 quarts – so you’ll have plenty leftover, too.  It will keep for at least a month, and perhaps longer.  Just keep in mind it will grow more tart the longer it ages.

(Some sources say you should eat a fruit ferment within 3 weeks, and others say they will last for many months.  Use your best judgement – if it begins to smell bad (a healthy ferment will not) throw it away.)

Note: The recipe calls for whey.  It’s not completely necessary – the chutney will ferment without it – it will just take longer.  You can obtain the whey by tying a cup or so of full-fat yogurt in a cheesecloth and suspending it over a clean glass or jar in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.  The cloudy liquid that drains into the container is the whey.  You can use what is left in the cheesecloth like you would cream cheese.

Edited to add:  I’ve a minor change to the recipe – the addition of filtered water, if needed.  The beneficial bacteria reproduce best in an anaerobic environment, so you want to keep the submerged beneath the liquid.  This is also the purpose of the coconut oil; it will harden and act as a weight or plug, keeping the ferment adequately submerged.   It should be returned to the ferment every time you put it back in the refrigerator; if it breaks into small pieces, simply throw it away and add more melted coconut oil to replace the old.

Cranberry-Orange Chutney
Cranberry-Orange Chutney
Cranberry-Orange Chutney

  • [i]makes 2 quarts[/i]
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
  • 2 tsp of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons whey
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 orange, chopped including peel
  • juice from 1 orange
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of raisins
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until uniformly chopped. Transfer to a large, nonreactive mixing bowl and stir in the raisins. Pack into 2 clean quart jars; add filtered water to cover, if necessary. Top with melted coconut oil and seal tightly.
  2. Leave on the counter, out of the sun, for 2 to 3 days, or until the mixture begins to bubble. Transfer to the refrigerator to store.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 30 calories, 1.3g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 59.6mg sodium, 42.5mg potassium, 5.1g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 3.3g sugar, <1g protein