Sunday, November 22, 2009

NY Times "Fiery Sweet Potatoes" & What do do with leftover turkey

Thanksgiving is coming. Really soon. If you are going to cook any part of the meal you ought to be shopping today or very very soon. Two things to add to your list: red curry paste for Fiery Sweet Potatoes (adapted recipe below) for Thanksgiving Day, and tomato paste for Mom's Chicken (or Turkey) Creole when you have lots of leftover turkey and not the slightest interest in turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce sandwiches.

Lucky me. I read "Show-Off Sides to Rival the Pull of a Drumstick" (NY Times, 11/11/09) which included Fiery Sweet Potatoes, which I have made twice -- just to be sure that they are good enough for my friends on Thursday.

Lucky you. This is ridiculously easy. It spices up or down. It requires three tools: a knife to poke the sweet potatoes; a can opener for the coconut milk (light will do), and a potato masher.

For my taste, I increased the curry paste, added molasses and cayenne, and omitted the added butter and sugar crust at the final baking. For for some milder Minnesota tastes on Thursday, I will back off of the cayenne.

FIERY SWEET POTATOES (adapted from the NY Times)

5 # sweet potatoes
1 c coconut milk (light will do)
1 T red curry paste (Buy a new jar, please. The one in the back of the fridge from an unknown time period won't do.)
1/2 c dark brown sugar (divided)
4 T unsalted butter (divided)
1 t salt
Optional: 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 T molasses, up to 1 T additional curry paste)

1. Poke the potatoes with a knife to prevent explosions in your clean oven, and then bake for an hour in a 375 degree oven until they are soft. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and mash in an oven safe casserole dish.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk, curry paste, 1/4 c sugar, 2 T butter, salt, optional cayenne and molasses. Add this liquid to the potatoes in the casserole dish. Mash.
3. Three choices at this point: (a) mash, microwave for a minute to re-heat and serve; (b) cover and refrigerate up to two days; (c) create a sweet and crusty topping -- see #4.
4. For a sweet & crusty topping: At least 30 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and top with the remaining 2T butter and 1/4 c brown sugar. Broil until brown and crusty. Check every two minutes so that it doesn't burn.

Leftovers: Heat some butter in a small non-stick pan and make a potato cake. Be patient and cook this on medium heat to create a crust. Flip. More patience = yummy crust.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Tomato, Potato, Carrot Soup - for winter

I have loved this thick-without-dairy tomato soup since 1972 when a colleague introduced it to me as the sophisticated Tomato Soup Parmentier from The Gourmet Cookbook, Volume 1 (Gourmet Distributing Corporation, NY, 1965, p. 123). My Useful Kitchen Tool Collection began when when I bought a food mill to make it correctly.

Busy people need recipes that are based on pantry items, and with potatoes and carrots on hand, you are ready to go. The technique is simple: saute some aromatics and vegetables for the caramelization that deepens flavor, add liquid, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer until you (and the soup) are ready.

Like so many of my favorite recipes, after the three main ingredients, the ingredient list is infinitely flexible. Mushrooms? Chili? Fresh or canned tomato? Your choice. If you loathe thick and smooth soups, serve this as broth-with-vegetables. Although tarragon has a particular affinity for the three main ingredients, You Are The Boss of Your Pantry, and you may omit it. This is, by the way, virtually fat-free.

Although I have owned the cookbook since the early 1970s and the recipe is imprinted on my brain, I had forgotten its name. In the lexicon of my friends and family, it is "Tomato, Potato, Carrot Soup."

Tomato, Potato, Carrot Soup, adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, Volume 1.

2 T butter or oil (to be dairy-free)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 oz button (or other) mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 to 1 t crushed red peppers (or to taste)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1# baking potatoes, coarsely chopped (I like Yukon Gold)
1# carrots, coarsely chopped
1/2 t salt
1 t fresh ground pepper
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1 t dried tarragon
1 t dried basil
1T sugar
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Heat the butter or oil in a large soup pot with a lid. On medium heat, saute the onions, mushrooms and crushed red peppers for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are golden. Add the garlic, and saute until you can smell it (1-2 minutes). Do not let it burn.
  2. Add the potatoes, carrots, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, for about 5 minutes. The goal is to get some caramelization onto the vegetables.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juice, tarragon, basil and sugar. Add enough additional water to barely cover the vegetables.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 25-35 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft enough to go through the coarse disk of a food mill. Add additional water if you prefer a thin soup. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.


  1. For broth-with-vegetables, decide when the vegetables are soft enough for you, add salt and pepper and serve.
  2. If your original vegetable cuts are small, your soup will cook faster.
  3. In the summer, use two pounds of peeled, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes instead of canned.
  4. Combine the leftovers with Split Pea Soup to make an interesting version of Puree Mongole, J. Edgar Hoover's favorite.
  5. Make fish or vegetable cakes with the leftovers.
  6. If your soup is particularly thick, use it as topping for Shepperd's Pie. Although I love Shepperd's Pie, I have never made it. A quick check of the web shows a dizzying array of versions that make me long for an Irish Grandmother to set the record straight. The pies' bases range from complex mutton, lamb or beef and vegetable stews to ground beef and canned vegetable soup. The one consistent characteristic is that they are all topped with mashed potatoes.
  7. The 1965 edition of The Gourmet Cookbook Volume 1 is very old-fashioned in that it has a lot of text and few photographs. Most of the recipes have fewer than three paragraphs, but they are densely packed with directions. I can't wait to try Brandied Dates, Tipsy Pudding (each serving is topped with 2 tablespoons of rum and some shaved coconut), and most of the 22 sandwich fillings look that they should be rolled into phyllo and baked into tasty appetizers.