Sauteed Curried Sweet Potato

from: Daniel Larkin
to: Jamey Bennett

This is really easy, and I think you need to know.  I stumbled across the greatest method of making potatoes ever.  You can use regular potatoes with any savory spices you want, but I’ll used curried sweet potatoes as my example.

Cut two large sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch cubes — approximately.

Mix (and these are guesses on the measurements)

  •     1tbs red curry powder
  •     1/2 tsp cinnamon
  •     1tbs brown sugar
  •     Salt and pepper to taste

Toss the potato cubes in a bowl with oil (safflower is a good option) and all of the dry spices.  Bake in oven at 400º until almost done — maybe about 15 or 20 minutes.

Pull these suckers out the oven and sauté in butter until golden brown.

The baking cooks the potatoes and melds the flavors, but the sautéing really gives each cube a solid outside that you don’t get any other way.  Use them as a side, or add them to other dishes.

These go GREAT in stir-fry, or you can use Mexican themed spices and put them in tacos!  Or use this method with regular potatoes, but sub in some garlic and rosemary!  Just do it!  Whatever you do!

That is all.

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Shit just got out of hand! “Italian” Mac-n-Cheese

from Daniel Larkin
to Jamey

I know I had mentioned to you about a week ago that I was planning on making some Southern Mac ‘n Cheese. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask) things got a little out of hand, and my simple comfort food spiraled into a whole different genre of dairy-and-pasta. Here’s how it all started.

I’ve made good Mac ‘n Cheese in the past, so good in fact that Jenny and my mother in-law both requested it for their birthday meals. Personally, I like my recipe, but I’ve never been a fan of fact that it’s kind of bullshit in that it’s just pasta, a roux with milk, and Velveeta. It tastes good. Obviously it should, Velveeta is engineered to hit every one of my fat-man sensors, but it’s too processed to warrant any real pride.

Well I recently found a squash “souffle” recipe that caught my eye, and its gooey consistency was perfect for what I wanted. So that’s where this all began. I say “began” because things really did get out of hand; I ran out of things, let time lapse on a few occasions, and ended up generally winging it.

Now before I lay this all out, I want to express my disgust for food companies that think adding a tiny bit of olive oil and a smidgen of shitty parmesan cheese to an already substandard product makes it “Italian” and therefore “gourmet.” Bullshit!  Italian food starts from the beginning concept, and is always about freshness! That’s why I refuse to call this Italian Mac ‘n Cheese.  This was all a happy accident that ended up using a few “Italian” components. But it’s kind of Italian Mac ‘n Cheese.

Here’s the ingredient list:

  •     12 Ounces whole wheat pasta spirals – cooked al dente, cooled
  •     3/4 pint cherry tomatoes – halved
  •     Bunch fresh basil
  •     Extra virgin olive oil
  •     Good shaved parmesan
  •     Handful fresh parsley
  •     2 Eggs — separated

For the sauce:

  •     2 tbs Butter
  •     2 tbs All purpose flour
  •     8 oz. block of good cheddar – shredded
  •     One cup whole cottage cheese.  None of that low fat bullshit.
  •     1-1/2 cups whole milk
  •     1-1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste
  •     3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  •     Red pepper flakes to taste. (Late thought.  I didn’t try it, but it would certainly work wonders)

Toss your sliced grape tomatoes and chopped garlic in olive oil and roast them in the oven at 400º for 10 to 15 minutes — until they become fragrant.

Now, make the darkest roux you can with the butter and flour.  (Melt the butter over low heat, add the flour, and cook on LOW stirring often, until you get the color of cardboard.  If it smells like burning cardboard, you went too hot and need to start again.)

Add the milk to the roux and stir while you continue to simmer.  This will turn into a velvety rich cream.

Adding the cheese will cause the sauce to cool a bit.  That’s fine, because we want it a bit cool before we add the egg yolks.  After you’ve added the cheese and egg yolks, take the egg whites and whip them until they’re nice and frothy.

The rest is simple.  Just toss everything together in an oven safe dish; pasta, cheese sauce, roasted tomatoes and garlic, parsley and egg whites.  Top it all off with a sparse, but noticeable layer of parmesan and cover it.  Place the covered dish in an oven that has been preheated to 350º and bake for 30 minutes.

NOW!  Like I said, some of my personal timing was off.  Like an idiot, I tried to work out while this was cooking, and I let it go for close to an hour.  While that made for good burnt cheese sides (yumm!) it also dried everything out a bit.  I rolled with the punches and tried to moisten it up with late addition of cold, clean olive oil, which really breathed a breath of freshness that elevated everything to the next level.

So serve, scoop out a good portion, top with some chopped fresh basil and a good drizzle of fresh olive oil.

There you go, dude.  It may sound like a bit much for Mac ‘n Cheese, but it turned out wonderful.  Jenny and her mother both said it was better than the Velveeta version.  And that’s something I can actually be proud of.

from Jamey W. Bennett
to me

YUM! I do not believe one can go too far with mac n cheese. I always tell people when raving about Stone Brewing Company to drop the $18 on their mac n cheese, because it’s worth every penny. Sounds like you have $18-grade mac n cheese!

As far as the roux and burnt cardboard…I think that’s where I went wrong on my mac n cheese back at Easter. I knew immediately what you meant when you said that.

Easy Jamaican Cornish Game Hens

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Hey Daniel,

I wasn’t going to make a post about this, since I didn’t do much except throw a few things together, but the result was so outstanding, and the ingredients are readily available at many grocery stores, that I thought it was worth sharing. I got all my ingredients at Whole Foods, except for the game hens (though I did seek out cage-free hens).

  • 2 Hens
  • 1 Bottle Jamaican Jerk sauce (like this)
  • 1 Bottle Carribbean-style hot sauce (this one is awesome)
  • 1 8.5 oz package of Seeds of Change Carribbean-style rice and red beans (or similar – SOC is organic, and it only needs to be heated)
  • A small amount of bell pepper, onion, and mushroom slices (or whatever you’d like)
  • Butter

The night before, I brushed the jerk sauce all over the hens, covered them and put them in the fridge.

When I was ready to eat, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. While that was heating, I sauteed the veggies in butter. When they were about done, I added the rice mix and stirred for about 60 more seconds. I took that mix, and stuffed the birds silly. It was just about the perfect amount of stuffing. Next, I brushed melted butter all over the outside of the birds, put them in a covered dish in the oven. After 30 minutes, I removed the cover and stuck a meat thermometer in the breast. (I think most say you’re supposed to do the thigh, but their thighs are so tiny.) About every 10 to 15 minutes, I got in the oven and re-brushed the butter and jerk sauce (that was in the bottom of the pan) over the birds. I think it was about 40 minutes later that they were ready. Doesn’t really matter, though, if you watch the thermometer, and brushing is the perfect opportunity. (165 degrees.)

Once I pulled them out, I carefully put them each on a plate, and drizzled the jerk sauce – now a gravy – over the tops of the birds. I served with a bowl of the hot sauce as a dipping sauce. That fruity spicy sauce was a delight! We both devoured our own hens, even after a salad. There were leftover rice and beans and veggies, but I’m going to let them soak up the gravy goodness and have it as leftovers.

Now the little carcasses are on the stove making broth! Easy, delicious, and effective.

jamey

Jive Turkey

Daniel Larkin 11/23/10
to me 

So I’m in charge of the turkey and stuffing for this year’s Knoxville Thanksgiving.  Believe it or not, with as much cooking as I’ve done, I’ve never roasted a bird.  But you have, during the turkey sandwich challenge.  Do you have anytips/suggestions?  The only twist I plan on implementing is rubbing chopped herbs between the skin and meat of the breast and thighs.  (that sounded dirty)

I don’t own a real roasting pan with a rack, so I’m planning on doing this in a disposable aluminum one.  How did you go about this?

Jamey W. Bennett 11/23/10
to Daniel 

Easy. Here’s what I did after consulting my friend Sarah.

Disposable aluminum.
Thawed the turkey in cold water (this takes like 8 hours)
Pulled out all the junk and set it aside
Separated, carefully, the skin from the breast
Rubbed a shitload of butter in there between the skin and breast
Rubbed thyme and rosemary in the same place
Lightly sprinkled the skin with salt and pepper

Dropped that beast into the oven at 475 for 20 minutes to sear the outside and lock the juices in (or at least that’s the theory)

Reduced to 250 (leaving the bird in), and calculated 20 minutes per pound

I didn’t have a thermometer, but I had one of those little pop-out indicators and I did fine. But EVERYBODY says you should use a meat thermometer. Either way, stab that beast when you think it’s ready, and it should be juicy, but clear

I did not do stuffing. I know lots of people do, but there are also a lot of critics about the stuffing in the bird. Dowhachalike.

My grandma uses a rack, and she flips the bird upside down so all of the fat and juices cook into the breast. My mom swears by it.

And for your enjoyment from Facebook:

Saying prayers for the 45 million turkeys whose lives will be taken in the US this year, and hoping for the truth about the origins of Thanksgiving to make it into the minds, hearts and bellies of humans everywhere!

May the truth set the birds free…….Say NO to genocide for all species!!!!