Friday, December 17, 2010

Pasta with potatoes

Seems sinful, doesn't it? The utter anti-thesis of the no-white diet that I've observed about 75% of the time for the last decade. But sometimes you just have to indulge.

Most recipes for a pasta with potatoes involves a nice linguine, pesto, some sort of bean or pea and peeled red potatoes. But the inspiration for me was this tidy little package of Tasteful Selections Honey Gold potatoes I picked up at Publix last week. These potatoes have a beautiful yellow center and have a delicate texture. I'm not the biggest fan of pesto (and certainly not of the storebought pesto I keep on hand "just in case"), so I didn't want to overpower these potatoes with that flavor. I wanted to highlight it. I also had some conchiglie from Lazzaroli that I thought would be the perfect accompaniment (inspired by an entree I had at City House that was not as good as it could have been). So I decided to experiment, but keep it simple. And it worked!

Pasta with Roasted Potatoes in Truffle Oil
serves 2

1/2 pound of Tasteful Selections Honey Gold potatoes (or baby Yukon Gold or fingerling potatoes)
1/2 pound shaped pasta (conchiglie or orecchiette or another small but sturdy shape)
~4 tbps truffle oil (to taste)
1 tsp minced garlic (fresh or pre-minced)
~a handful of finely grated parmigiano reggiano
sea salt, pepper and herbs de Provence (optional) to taste

Preheat your oven to 400F. Wash and cut the potatoes (skin on) into small, ~1/2 inch cubes. Transfer to a roasting dish and drizzle with ~1 tablespoon or so of truffle oil. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 40 minutes.

When there's about 20 minutes left for roasting, start to boil the pasta. The pasta for this dish should not be al dente but should instead be soft.

Once the potatoes have roasted, remove the pan from the oven and stir in the garlic (it will cook slightly when it meets the roasting dish). When the pasta has finished cooking, drain it and add to the potatoes in the dish. Stir in the cheese and add more truffle oil, salt, pepper and a dash of herbs de Provence.
I think the truffle oil was the perfect complement to the potatoes and the soft pasta provided just enough of a difference in texture to make it interesting. If you have some on hand, roasted or sauteed oyster or shiitake mushrooms would also taste wonderful mixed in with this dish.

This is simple and easy to make, but packed with flavor (particularly when you use good potatoes and good cheese). If you're in Nashville, Tom over at Lazzaroli doesn't always have conchiglie on hand, but call ahead and he may put some back for you. It's really the perfect pasta for this meal.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Egg Nog Cookies

I'm disappointed that this year, Trader Joe's is not carrying the orange cardamom cookies and the fleur de sel caramels. I'm cycling through the stages of grief, actually. However, they do have some delicious egg nog cookies. I don't love egg nog, but these cookies are fantastic.

So I decided to try to make them. Which is odd since I generally don't make anything that someone else can make better and cheaper than I can. Anyhoo, I searched all over the internet and one recipe kept popping up. It seems it is from the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book.

Fun fact: Debbi Fields is now Debbi Fields Rose and lives in Memphis, Tennessee (my hometown). She's married to Mike Rose, former chairman of the Holiday Inn corporation (also born in Memphis!).

The dough for this cookie actually tastes better than the cookie, so I made a couple of changes to make it a bit noggier after baking. And some additional spices to liven them up.

Eggnog Cookies
adapted from Mrs. Fields

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 heaping tablespoon of chai latte mix*
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup eggnog
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Gosling's black seal rum**
2 egg yolks
additional nutmeg for sprinkling

*if you don't have chai latte mix, add another 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
**or bourbon, depending on what you like. Gosling's has a molasses-y flavor that really worked well for this.

Preheat oven to 300F.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chai spices; mix well with a wire whisk and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer. Add eggnog, vanilla, rum and egg yolks and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined.

Scoop rounded teaspoons and form into balls and place onto ungreased baking sheets, 1″ apart. Press down lightly and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until bottoms turn light brown.
Transfer to cool, flat surface immediately with spatula.

For icing, melt white chocolate chips in one corner of a plastic sandwich bag. Microwave until melted. Cut a tiny part of the corner off the bag and drizzle chocoate onto the cookies in a Christmas tree shape for a festive look.
The cookie is soft and chewy and tastes very much like egg nog. It does not, however taste like the delicious Trader Joe's egg nog cookie. It's a decent cookie and very easy to make (particularly if you don't bother to ice it) but not one that's going to knock your socks off unless you really, really like egg nog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cheese Straws

Recently, I had a challenge. The lovely folks over at Love and Olive Oil hosted a holiday party potluck, so I needed to make a cold finger food dish that would impress. I decided to make some egg nog cookies. And they were just not great. Okay, but not great. So I decided I wanted to make something else, too just to prove I could make something really yummy.
So I made cheese straws! I found a recipe that not only looked easy, but the comments indicated it was easy. Score! Right? Riiiight?

Not so much. Technically, they are easy to make. The dough is so very, very easy to make. Rolling out perfect 1/8 inch thick dough and cutting perfect 1/3-ish inch wide, 5 inch long straws was easy, but tedious. And took quite a while. But the hard part was the clean-up. Getting that soft dough out of all the nooks and crannies of my food processor nearly drove me nuts. Of course, this was after meticulously cutting these sraws for what seemed like hours. Maybe you won't have this experience. Maybe you trust the top rack of your dishwasher more than I trust mine.

But it was worth it. The cheese straws were a hit (all gone!).

Cheese Straws
adapted from Gourmet via

1/4 pound (half a block) coarsely grated extra-sharp Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese (yellow)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 stick cold butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons half and half or milk

Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Pulse cheese, flour, butter, salt, and cayenne in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add half and half/milk and pulse just until dough forms a ball.
Pinch off 1/4 of the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a rectangle (1/8 inch thick) that is at least five inches wide (depth). Cut dough with a lightly floured pizza wheel or lightly floured sharp knife into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Carefully transfer to an ungreased baking sheet, arranging strips 1/4 inch apart. (If strips tear, pinch back together.) Shape into straight straws. Repeat until all the dough has been used. Add scraps back to the dough ball.

Bake 15-18 minutes, starting on the top rack and switching to the bottom rack halfway through. Bake until lightly golden.
**Notes** You must use a good cheddar cheese. I like Cabot--tastes good and contains no animal rennet. Also, your butter must be straight from the refrigerator. The softer it is, the more that gets into your nooks and crannies instead of in your mouth. Some reviewers suggested adding dry mustard to the recipe, which I think would be a great addition. I thought I had some, but it was mustard seed I had. D'oh! But it wasn't necessary. Be sure to store these in a paper bag or tin; storing in an airtight container will cause the straws to lose their snap!