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.

Turnip the Volume

Does everyone go through a ‘cooking funk’ every now and then? Does everyone wanna come home from work and not stand in the kitchen – chopping veggies, sauteing, cleaning – every now and then? Does everyone who joins a CSA look at the produce they’ve been given and say, “What in the hell am I going to do with this shit?” every now and then?

If not, then I’m totally off my rocker this time. But I have a feeling I’m not standing in this barren, gritty field all alone, am I now?

Don’t get me wrong. I love to cook, 95% of the time. I love to come home and hang my bag on my kitty hook in the hallway, toss my shoes down towards the bedroom, occasionally spin some tunes in the background, and practically meditate in front of stainless steel & granite –  chopping veggies, sauteing, and even cleaning. But the 5% does occur (5% of the time, actually). Being part of a CSA is unfortunate during those times, because the produce glares at me each time I open the pantry or the crisper drawer, and each time I open the freezer to see a plethora of meats, various cuts and types, piled high amidst peas, ‘pickle sickles’, and turkey stock.

Turkey stock. I must have overlooked it dozens of times this year already, since I vaguely recall tossing it in there last Thanksgiving weekend. Seeing turkey stock was all I needed, this time, to ‘knock the funk away’. When the CSA gives you a bag of root veggies and you’ve got a tub of stock in the freezer, it only means one thing: soup. Plus, what else is one to do with three big ol’ turnips anyway?!

I’ll admit I’ve never made turnip soup, nor have I seen many recipes for it elsewhere. And I’m not sure I’d want to eat it solo, but I’ve learned that winter squash makes just about anything taste good, brussel sprouts aside. One of my favorite parts of fall is the abundance of the winter squash crops, and we seem to always have a variation of it lying around, which is perfect when a plan for soup suddenly emerges.

So even though I wasn’t necessarily excited about cooking anything these last couple of weeks, thanks be to the turkey stock, I managed to find a little inspiration to not make those veggies wither away (although truthfully, it would take a lot for the humongous turnips to wither away…). The soup is hearty and definitely has that turnip-y taste, but the squash really provides a nice accent so balance it out, I think. And for spice, I thought a nice kick of chipotle chile powder and smoked paprika might turn the volume up, just a tad. Of course, if you’re like our downstairs neighbors and you like things nice and quiet, you can reduce the spices, but that’s just plain silly, if you ask me.

Roasted Turnip & Squash Chipotle Soup
chiknpastry recipe; serves 8-10

time commitment: 1 hour, 45 minutes (most of which is inactive)
other: freezes well

it doesn’t take much to whip up a comforting soup – honest. veggies, spices, and broth is generally all you need. Here, the squash works well with turnips which to me taste sort of bitter and cabbage-y. the squash adds the sweetness and tames the turnips, i think. you’ll note the recipe here calls for diced squash, but you can certainly halve them and roast them the “lazy way”, which is what I do!

printable version

ingredients
2 delicata squash, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
3 turnips, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
2 T chipotle chili powder
1 T smoked paprika
salt and pepper
evoo
1 onion, large dice
2 firm apples, large dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
36 oz turkey or chicken stock or broth
18 oz water
1 T oregano, chopped
1 T agave nectar

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F.  in a large bowl, toss squash and  turnips with chipotle powder, paprika, salt and pepper and olive oil. turn onto foil-lined baking sheets. roast until tender, about 1 hour. cool slightly.

meanwhile, heat about 1 T of oil in a large heavy pot (dutch oven is perfect) over med-hi heat. add onion, apples, and garlic; saute 5 minutes. add broth, water, oregano, and squash/turnip mixture. bring to boil; reduce heat to med-low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

working in batches (or using immersion blender), puree soup until smooth. return to pot. at this time, if soup is too thick, add more water to thin, being sure to heat through. stir in agave nectar. season to taste with salt and pepper and finish with a splash of half & half, if desired.