Battle Roots & Tubers: Fancy Stuff

Guys! And girls! Everyone in between, too! I was scrolling down my list of pending blog posts and I realized that I absolutely. totally. forgot. to write the post about our 2nd San Francisco Iron Chef competition. Dang.

Maybe I was sad that I didn’t win or something. But I better get used to that – people are FANCY here.

I guess it isn’t all about winning though, is it? Yes, there are some moments of fun, some moments when you just enjoy eating good food and getting to know the other people who are extra-excited about Iron Chef. There is that, too.

There are also the moments of whipping up tasty goodness in your kitchen, and even getting to see your husband cook for a bit, too. Those are both nice things. The things that aren’t nice are the multiple stores you have to go to in order to locate freakin’ taro. That would be 4. And the Asian folk in the store certainly couldn’t help me figure out what taro was purple and what taro was white. As such, I ended up with white, which took away from the visual appeal I had planned, but whatevs.

The result of Battle Roots & Tubers was a whole table full of varying dishes. As expected, there were a few soups. There was a fancy oyster dish straight outta the Alinea cookbook. There was a giant tater tot. There were my taro ice cream samiches. There were mini steak and horseradish samiches. There were spring rolls, and even a lovely ginger beverage. And while it took us twice as long to get our ducks in a row this time around, the food was still warm and by the time we ate, we were ravished for sure. Next time, we’ll have to really follow the rules of Kitchen Stadium, and have a dang countdown for when the food has to be on the table. Ok, maybe not, but we’ll figure something out.

The top three, after all was said and done:

1. Tom’s potato soup (of course, there was a fancy name, but I can’t remember it)
2. Molly’s giant tater tot (and all the fancy pieces on top of it!)
3. My taro ice cream and triple ginger cookie sandwiches (they did have fancy sparkly sugar on top… if that counts)

At least I’m keeping a steady showing in the top three, at least every now and then. Next time, I’ll fancy it up. But I’m damn sure leaving the Alinea cookbook on the shelf. That’s just for prettiness.

As for my recipes, I’d share the recipe for taro ice cream (I mean, it was second loser, after all), but I doubt any of you would really make it. Plus, the cookies that were the best part of the sandwich are found in the archives, so you already have half of the recipe for the ice cream sammys, and any ice cream sandwiched between the cookies would do just fine.

So instead, I’ll share the sweet potato biscuits that I made at the absolute last minute (possibly because the taro rice balls I’d planned to make did not come together as anticipated). Although they didn’t make it into the top 3, they were still really good. And the bowl of cinnamon butter was nothing to forget about, either. I have a thing for sweet potatoes though. Well, and biscuits for that matter. And butter. You can’t go wrong when you mix those together.

Also!! Stay tuned for the next post (or the one after that…depending on how things shake out). I’ll tell you how I managed to get such a big butt. ;).

Sweet Potato-Bacon Biscuits with Cinnamon Butter
biscuits adapted from Emeril Lagasse via The Food Network; makes 12 biscuits

time commitment: 45 minutes (30 which is active)

printable version

ingredients
biscuits
2 c ap flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 c mashed cooked sweet potatoes, cooled (bake a sweet potato at 400 for ~45 minutes)
2 T packed light brown sugar
5 slices cooked bacon, drained and crumbled
3/4 to 1 c buttermilk

cinnamon butter
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
4 t light brown sugar
1 t g cinnamon

instructions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and work in with a pastry blender or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a bowl, whip the sweet potatoes with the brown sugar until very smooth. Add to the flour mixture and mix in lightly but thoroughly with your fingers. Add 3/4 cup of the buttermilk and the bacon and gently work to make a smooth dough, slightly sticky, being careful not to overwork and adding more liquid as needed 1 teaspoon at a time.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat out into a large rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 12 large biscuits and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and risen, 15 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the butter by mixing the three ingredients together. Put in a bowl and place in the refrigerator to solidify a bit.

Remove biscuits from the oven and serve hot with butter.

Cobbled Together

In an effort to avoid the grocery store this weekend, I raided the heck out of our pantry to see what we could eat to get through the week. You see, I already have an issue with letting good food go to waste, and this is only intensified when I’m forced to let things go to waste as a result of being away for a few days. These are the times when I might cobble together a recipe with a ton of random ingredients (panzanella salads are great when there’s lots of produce involved, and this Moroccan shepherd’s pie was a great way to use up mashed ‘taters) or conversely, I might make something uber simple using some standby grains or pasta.

In general, they aren’t meals that really make one salivate, but they get the job done, more or less.

Of course, there are always the exceptions – the dishes you toss together, pulling stray carrots and a forgotten bunch of scallions from the crisper to add up to enough stuff to make a meal come together – that somehow end up tasting like you’d planned it that way all along. It helps when you have a few fresh ingredients hanging around (thanks, Joanne, for the tomatoes!), because those are the ones that provide the inspiration, the kick-start to power you through to the end of the recipe, if you even have a recipe in the first place.

(The fresh ingredients are also the ones that make me feel a little less guilty about tossing leftover bagged shredded cheese into a perfect biscuit dough, knowing full-well that a freshly-grated cup of cheddar would have been tons better, not only in terms of taste, but also quality and texture.)

So, here we are, at the moment where I did something like that and actually get to tell you about it, because I truly feel that this new-found recipe is something you just might want to make yourself. I take that back – it’s something you should make yourself. Rarely is there a time in the year where the produce is this perfect, this satisfying, and this accessible than now – when you get to eat fresh corn and! fresh tomatoes ’til your heart’s content. And I’m telling you this: if you do have access to both ingredients, straight from the market or the store, please do purchase them. I think I already mentioned my stubborn desire to avoid those places this week, and as a result my trusty freezer bag o’ corn came in handy here. And while it was fine, mighty fine indeed, I know it could be that. much. better. with just-shucked morsels of yellow goodness.

If the mixture of tomatoes and corn isn’t enough to get you in a tizzy, have you noticed the biscuits on top? Need I say more?! Even though I’ve moved away, I still read the blogs of many Chicagoans, and I tell ya – Midwesterners get some kinda excited about summer produce. Tim over at Lottie + Doof posted a tomato cobbler recipe from Martha Stewart a couple of weeks ago, and it sounded like the kind of food they’d have in Paradise. I figured I could make it work, or something like it, even if I didn’t have but approximately half as many tomatoes, no regular onions, heavy cream, or Gruyere on hand, not to mention a penchant for never adhering to the regular ol’ all-purpose flour suggested in most recipes.

So yeah, you could say this recipe is a pretty far leap from the original, but that’s what happens from time to time. You may not have scallions on hand, and maybe you have a different cheese, or no cheese at all, and maybe you have neither pancetta nor bacon for the smoky twist I was craving. Maybe the carrots aren’t doing it for you, and understandably so, maybe you don’t have 10 types of flour in your pantry (15-20 if you count the ones used almost solely for gluten-free cooking). You might even be one of those people who are afraid of a little shortening in your life, for reasons I just can’t figure out. I promise you – it’s okay, and ultimately, it might even be better to use this as your inspiration, and run with it (after, or course, you put down your knife…).

I’m sure Martha would understand.

Tomato & Corn Cobbler
Inspired by Lottie + Doof; serves 4-6 as a meal

time commitment: 2 hours (~40 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
filling
2 T evoo
2 oz finely chopped pancetta or bacon (optional)
6 scallions, chopped
2 carrots, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c fresh or frozen corn (2-3 ears if fresh; thawed and drained if frozen)
~1 lb cherry tomatoes
~1 lb heirloom tomatoes, medium dice
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 T white spelt flour (or all-purpose)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

biscuit topping
1 c white spelt flour
1 c whole wheat flour (or use 2 cups all-purpose flour to replace both)
2 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt
4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 T shortening, cut into small pieces
1 c grated cheddar cheese, plus 1 T, for sprinkling atop biscuits
1 1/2 c buttermilk, plus ~2 T more for brushing

instructions
Make the filling. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta, if using, and cook for 2 minutes, then add onions and carrots, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Toss in corn and remove from heat; let cool.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss onion/corn mixture, tomatoes, red-pepper flakes and flour with 1 1/2 t salt and some pepper.

Make the biscuit topping. Whisk together flours, baking powder, and 1 t salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small clumps form. Stir in cheese, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork to combine until dough forms.

Transfer tomato mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Spoon large clumps of biscuit dough (about 1/3 c each) over top in a circle, leaving center open. Bake 30 minutes. Remove, and brush dough with buttermilk, and sprinkle with remaining T cheese. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, another 30 minutes or so. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 20 minutes.