How quickly the darkening days descend upon us this time of year. I don’t know what the connection is, but the loss of light seems to slow us down. So, in the spirit of searching for a silver lining, I turn to the kitchen and my most comforting recipes. Being a Newfoundlander, many of those recipes involve the good old spud.
Potato and cabbage hash is a traditional way to use up leftovers deliciously, but this dish is good enough to make from scratch because it is really what you want to serve. Naturally you can add any other leftover — or freshly cooked — vegetables you want, from carrots to broccoli, but I like the pale purity of this mixture. This amount makes about 6 servings.
2 lbs. small new red or yellow potatoes, scrubbed
2 tbsp. butter (divided)
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Mash coarsely with about half the butter and set aside. Add remaining butter and oil to a large pan and fry onion and cabbage until starting to brown. Add broth, cover and cook until cabbage is tender. Remove cover and allow most of the remaining liquid to evaporate. Add pepper, taste and add salt as needed. Don’t add any extra salt before this step because you won’t be able to gauge what effect the broth will have on the mixture. Stir potatoes back into the mixture and heat through. Serve with any meat or fish you like, but the mixture seems to have an affinity for sausages.
Rosemary spuds baked with parmesan
An easy and delicious side dish, this one will go with fried pork chops, roast chicken, poached salmon, or vegetarian casserole. The kids will love these, too. It’s hard to say how many you can serve because people seem to keep eating until they are gone. Dried rosemary will work in this recipe, but the results won’t be anywhere near as tasty.
4 large baking potatoes
1 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1 tsp. hot or sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Scrub potatoes and dry thoroughly. Cut into French fry shapes — not too thick — and toss with vegetable oil. Toss again with paprika and salt and place in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast at 400 F for about 20 minutes, until nearly cooked through and golden brown; stir them around once or twice during this time. Combine Parmesan, rosemary and pepper and spread evenly over potatoes, turning to coat completely. Return to oven for 10 minutes longer—watch carefully to make sure the cheese doesn’t scorch. Serve as a side dish or with ranch dressing for dipping.
Roasted garlic mashed spuds
I know you can throw a couple of cloves of garlic in the cooking water and mash them up with the potatoes for a delicious result, but one more step turns your garlic mash into something very special. You will use only about half of the olive oil used to poach the garlic, but keep the rest in the fridge and use it within a few days to add tremendous flavour to anything you are cooking. This amount should feed a crowd.
8 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1/4 cup olive oil
3 to 4 lbs. peeled yellow-fleshed potatoes (or any variety good for mashing)
2 tbsp. melted butter
Put garlic cloves and olive oil in a small, heavy pot and place over very low heat, covered. Allow the garlic to poach about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. You have to watch the pot carefully because if the heat gets a little too high the garlic starts to sizzle and it will burn quickly. You want the oil barely shimmering. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water until tender; drain well. Add garlic, about half the olive oil, and melted butter to potatoes and mash until mixed but don’t beat up the garlic completely — large pieces won’t be too garlicky because it has mellowed with the poaching. Serve at once.
Yes, you are reading this right. And yes, this is a starch fest. And yes, these are awesome. Imagine if perogies were invented in Mexico and you have the idea. Don’t be tempted to overstuff the quesadillas. If you have more potato filling than you need, form the leftover potato mixture into little cakes, dip in flour or dry bread crumbs and fry until brown to make a fabulous side dish. If you seek out the small corn tortillas, this amount will make 8 quesadillas, enough for a lunch for 4 or finger food for up to 16. Flour-based tortillas are nearly as good, but make sure you fry them long enough to impart decent colour and crunch.
2 large baking potatoes, peeled
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
16 (or more) corn tortillas
2 tbsp. oil (or more) for frying
Boil potatoes until tender; drain, mash and cool enough to handle. Add jalapenos, green onion, egg, cheese, cilantro, and cumin and stir to combine well. Divide among half the tortillas, spreading the mixture just about to the edges. Top each with another tortilla. Fry in a small amount of oil until golden brown and crispy on both sides, adding oil as needed.
Allow to sit for a few seconds then cut into quarters. Serve with salsa and sour cream for dipping. At the risk of being overly eclectic, mango chutney and sour cream are also fabulous with these.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.