Summer Food

A Soft and Billowy Potato Salad

A Soft and Billowy Potato Salad

 

Melissa Clarke’s article,  An Accidentally Creamier Fluffier Potato Salad in the NY Times last month, as always,  captures Melisa’s delightfully playful ways in the kitchen that can turn what might be considered mistakenly over cooked potatoes for a potato salad into a mistake worth repeating.  Her purposely soft cooked starchy potatoes folded together with a mildly rich dressing makes the case for a fluffier potato salad that is truly carving worthy.

Keep in mind the secret to success here is to gently simmer your potatoes until they are as soft as they can possibly be without falling apart.

The recipe that follows differs from Melissa’s but uses the same soft cooked potato method. Once the potatoes are drained and cooled for 10 minutes, they can then be gently folded together with sauteed onions, pancetta, garlic, and celery. The salad is then dressed with a subtly rich mayonnaise and Greek yogurt dressing and served while still warm! This has been a steadfast tried and true method I have followed for years and remains my favorite way to make potato salad not matter what ingredients you are using!

 

A Craving Worthy Soft & Billowy Potato Salad      Serves 6 

  • 2.2 pounds/ 1 kilo gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 oz /57 grams pancetta, thinly sliced and diced
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • ½ cup finely diced young celery
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s)
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt + more to taste
  • 1/3 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder or red chile powder (optional)
  • 1/3 cup finely sliced Italian parsley leaves
  • assortment of salad leaves and greens
  • smoked flaked sea salt (Maldon) for finishing
  • fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Peel the potatoes and cut them into ¾ inch cubes. Place in a large sauce pan and cover with water. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in some salt and simmer the potatoes until they are very soft and tender but still just holding their shape. Test by inserting a knife blade into a potato which should slip easily into the flesh. Once perfectly cooked, drain the potatoes in a colander and set aside to cool briefly. Then transfer potatoes to a large bowl and set aside.

While the potatoes are simmering, heat the olive oil in a medium size saute pan set over medium low heat. When hot add the pancetta and gently cook several minutes without browning. Add the onions, season with some sea salt and pepper , and continue sauteing until the onions are soft without browning. Add the garlic and celery and season with chipotle powder or chile powder if using. Saute 1 minute more and remove the pan from the heat.

Using a silicone spoon, distribute the warm pancetta onion mixture over the potatoes and gently fold the mixture into the potatoes. Then scatter the parsley over the top.

In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and Dijon mustard and stir until well combined and smooth. Then spoon the dressing over the potatoes and fold in until evenly distributed. Taste and season with more salt if needed. You will notice the dressing will cling nicely to the soft starchy potatoes which gives this potato salad its soft billowy texture so do not be tempted to over mix.

Serving:

Arrange a bed of assorted salad leaves and greens  on each individual serving plate and place the potato salad centered into the leaves. Garnish with parsley leaves and scatter some smoked flaked sea salt over the potatoes and serve.

 

Braised Limoncello Chicken

Braised Limoncello Chicken

 

Lemon and chicken have got to be my very favorite pairing. It all started long ago with Marcella Hazan’s classic Lemon Garlic Chicken (see recipe here). That recipe inspired a Lemon Garlic Chicken Panino (see recipe here). Later while living in LA, I fell in love with the Lemon Garlic Chicken…Cuban style fromVersailles restaurant (see recipe here). Then yet another recipe for Lemon Roasted Chicken (see here). My affection for the pairing is obvious enough and yet I somehow overlooked the most obvious pairing of all, Limoncello and Chicken.

Limoncello has been a favorite apertivo for years. Intensely lemony though just sweet enough to tame the sharp bite of lemon juice. Limoncello is synonymous with the sun drenched coasts of Southern Italy that are dotted with lemon orchards from Sardinia to Naples, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and southward to Sicily. Homemade Limoncello is how it all began more than a century ago and easy enough to make with very little effort. There are various recipes available online. Fortunately Limoncello became so popular it is produced commercially and available world wide. Most often served chilled after a meal, although try it for a late afternoon refresher with a splash of sparkling water. And not to be overlooked, bringing Limoncello into the kitchen opens up whole new ways of seasoning with lemon for savory dishes as well as sweets. The slight sweetness is ideal for poultry, pork, or fish.

The recipe that follows is adaptable. Braise the chicken in the oven, on the stove top, or marinate the chicken for grilling and serve with reduced marinade/sauce. For the sake of ease I have used skin on legs, thighs, and breasts, but by all means cut up a whole chicken if you like.

Keep in mind the chicken should be marinated for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours so plan ahead!

 

Braised Limoncello Chicken   Serves 4

Limoncello

Limoncello

 

  • 4 each; skin on chicken legs, boneless thighs, and boneless breasts
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 3 plump garlic cloves, peeled and microplaned
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons flaked sea salt + more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup Limoncello
  • 3 to 4 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock, heated
  • 2 lemons, very thinly sliced across
  • ½ cup sliced fresh basil leaves

Equipment: A non-reactive bowl and a large oven proof skillet or wide braising pan

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Cut the breasts in half across.

In a large non-reactive bowl combine the shallots, garlic, lemon juice, 1 ½ teaspoons flaked sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and ½ cup Limoncello, Stir until the salt has has dissolved into the liquid.
Add the chicken and massage the marinade into the chicken flesh. Press the chicken into the marinade until covered. Seal the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 425f/220c if oven braising.

Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator. Pick the chicken pieces out of the marinade and slide the chicken pieces between your fingers to remove any bits of shallots and excess marinade clinging to the flesh and place on a plate. Then pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel and set aside on another clean plate.

Place the skillet or braising pan over medium high heat and add the 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is nearly smoking add chicken pieces into the pan, skin side down, without crowding, and cook until the skin releases from the bottom of the pan easily and is nicely browned. Turn the chicken over and again cook until nicely browned. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken.

When you have finished browning the chicken, using paper towels, remove any excess oil and burned bits from the pan.

Place the pan back on the stove top over medium heat and add another 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil. When hot add the marinade, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Then arrange the browned chicken snugly into the pan in a single layer. Add 1 cup of heated stock and jiggle the pan to distribute the stock evenly. Layer lemon slices over the entire surface of the chicken.  When the liquid comes back to a full simmer transfer the pan to the preheated oven and braise for 25 to 30 minutes.

If you want to braise the chicken on the stove top simply continue cooking. Be sure to keep an eye on the pan juices and add more stock as needed. Keep in mind the lemon slices will not brown, but otherwise the dish will taste nearly the same as the chicken braised in the oven.

 

Oven Braised Limoncello Chicken

Oven Braised Limoncello Chicken

 

After 25 to 30 minutes, if oven braising, open the oven door, slide the oven rack forward, and add the remaining 1/3 cup Limoncello over the chicken. Add more stock only if the pan juices have reduced and are no longer visible. Taste the pan juice and stir in more salt if needed. Then scatter the basil over all and slide the chicken back into the oven and cook another 15 minutes or until the pan juices are bubbling vigorously and the lemon slices are browned around the edges.

Otherwise, if you are stove top braising, add the Limoncello, basil, and salt if needed and continue braising another 15 minutes, or until the pan juices have reduced slightly.

Remove from the oven, or turn off the heat on the stove top, and set aside for a couple of minutes before serving.

 

Serving Suggestions:

As pictured, I like to serve Limoncello Chicken with plenty of its lemony pan juices along with tender braised cabbage with anise and fluffy couscous with currants.

This is a winning meal that is sure to please again and again!

Root Vegetable Gratin

Root Vegetable Gratin

 

Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but fall is fast approaching and root vegetables are already playing a major roll in meals that will continue well into the cooler months ahead.

Root vegetables need not follow the tired old bland “they are good for you” cooking methods of the past. This root vegetable gratin changes the rules, playing with a medley of colors, flavors, and aromas that transform the humdrum into an enticing centerpiece for flavorsome cooler weather meals. Use the recipe s a guide and make your own variations choosing other seasonal root vegetable combinations that strike your fancy like parsnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, yams, and so on.

Root Veg gratin

Root Veg gratin

Summer Savory

Summer Savory

Seasoning with some restraint is the way to go when cooking with subtly flavored root vegetables. For this recipe I have used fresh green peppercorns and summer savory that compliment the flavor of the vegetables without overpower them. Fresh green peppercorns, native to South Asia, are widely available year around here in Thailand but often found in Asian markets worldwide. They impart a lovely earthy flavor and a fresh moderate heat and well worth seeking out. Summer savory likewise brings a light aromatic peppery tang to the dish.

Fresh Green Peppercorns

Fresh Green Peppercorns

 

 

Root Vegetable Gratin    serves 6 to 8

 

 

 

  • 1 ¼ pounds turnips 
  • 1¼ pounds small gold potatoes
  • 1 pound beets
  • ½ cup minced shallots
  • 3 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter + more for greasing the baking dish
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh summer savory leaves (or dried)
  • ¼ cup fresh green peppercorns (or in brine, well rinsed)
  • 2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup heavy cream

 

For this recipe each vegetable is precooked separately as each has a slightly different cooking time. This insures an even texture for the finished dish. Arranging and layering the vegetables in the baking dish may seem a little tedious but the results are well worth the effort.

Needed: oven proof baking dish

Rub the bottom and sides of the baking dish with the garlic clove. Then lightly butter the baking dish and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375f/ 190c

Peel the turnips and slice into 1/8th inch thin rounds and set aside.

Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/8th inch thin slices and set aside.

Place the beets in a saucepan and cover with water. Place on the stove and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the beets until semi-soft. Set the beets aside to cool and when cool enough to handle slip off the skin and slice the beets into 1/8th inch thin slices and set aside.

Using two large skillets, add half the milk and 1 tablespoon butter to each skillet. Bring both skillets of milk to a simmer. When the butter is melted add ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon summer savory to each skillet and stir to combine. Then add the turnips to one skillet and the potatoes to the other, spreading the contents out evenly. Simmer the turnips for about 10 minutes and the potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until the turnips and potatoes are soft but still holding their shape. Then set aside to cool.

When the turnips and potatoes are cool enough to handle begin placing the slices of turnips, potatoes, and beets alternately, one slice overlapping the next, into the baking dish until the dish is covered with a single layer of vegetables. Scatter a quarter of the shallots and a quarter of the green peppercorns over the vegetables and salt lightly. Then drizzle a quarter of the cream over all and scatter a quarter of the Parmigiano over the top.

Repeat this process until there are four layers filling the baking dish.

Combine the milk mixtures into one skillet and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the milk reduces and thickens a bit. Then pour the hot milk over the top and around the sides of the baking dish.

Transfer the baking dish to the preheated oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the gratin is nicely browned and the milk has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack to rest for a few minutes before serving.

If you are not serving the gratin cool to room temperature before covering with cling film and refrigerating.

For a classic potato gratin (see recipe here)

 

Fresh Cherry Clafouti

Fresh Cherry Clafouti

 

Cherry season has arrived in the northern hemisphere and fortunately some of those gorgeous cherries have even made their way to our supermarkets here in Chiang Mai. Cherry trees require exposure to cold weather to germinate so commercial cherry growing is not possible here in the tropics. There are mountain cherries, a small Himalayan variety, that do grow wild in the mountains in the very north of Thailand and occasionally appear in local markets during the cold season. However they small and sour and nothing like the cherries from further north. So I decided an indulgence was duly justified and came home with a kilo of plump dark red Bing cherries. Delicious just as they are, but I also really had a hankering to make an old favorite French clafouti. A classic clafouti is traditionally always made with cherries when they are in season. However the recipe works beautifully with other seasonal fruits and berries as well. Clafouti is remarkably simple to make and very much in keeping with the idea of easy no fuss good wholesome food. The plump cherries are the star here and sure to please!

 

Fresh Cherry Clafouti

Fresh Cherry Clafouti

 

Fresh Cherry Clafouti       serves 6 to 8

This recipe follows Julia Child’s no-nonsense classic Clafouti recipe with a few minor adaptations. I like really loading up the baking dish with cherries and adding a dash of almond extract to the batter that nicely compliments the flavor of the cherries. In fact the French do not pit the cherries, believing the pits add a slight almond flavor to the baked clafouti. I am not convinced and, with practicality in mind, much prefer the cherries pitted.

  • 4 cups fresh dark red pitted cherries/ about 24 ounces
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
    3 large organic eggs
  • 2 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350f/180c

Lightly butter a baking dish that is about 1 ½ inches deep and set aside.

Pit most of the cherries and set aside, reserving some whole cherries on the stem for garnishing.

Note: Cherry/ olive pitters are available in cooking shops and online and well worth the small investment. If you don’t have one I have read using a sturdy plastic straw works, although I’ve not tried it.

Using a blender, combine the milk, 1/3 cup of sugar, the eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, salt, and flour and blend on medium speed until very smooth, about 1 minute.

Pour about a ¼ inch layer of batter into the buttered baking dish and set the remaining batter aside. Place the baking dish into the preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until the layer of batter is just set. Remove from the oven and place on a work surface.

Arrange the pitted cherries on their sides onto the layer of set batter, following the shape of the baking dish, working from the edge to the center until the cherries fill the baking dish.

Evenly sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar over the cherries. Then pour the remaining batter over the cherries until they are nearly covered, but leaving the tops exposed. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Keep an eye on the clafouti as you want it to be lightly browned and puffed up slightly, but not over baked. The clafouti is done when a thin skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack until the clafouti reaches room temperature.

Serving:

Ideally clafouti should be just slightly warm from the oven. Dust with powdered sugar, slice, and serve along with a few whole reserved cherries.

You might also like Clafouti withFresh Figs ,Blueberries, and chevre ( see recipe here)

Voila…. Bon Appetite.!

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