The Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet (S.P.U.D.) aka my potato is magical and was taught at Hogwarts

Remember in the first Harry Potter book when the rat’s nest now delicious sex pot Hermione Granger corrected Ron on his pronunciation of the levitation spell?  I sort of roll my eyes and sigh exacerbated at the snobbish attitude of the little Miss Knowitall as she swished and flicks her wand but I found myself doing the same exact thing in the kitchen this past weekend as I was doing meal prep for a Meal Train I participated in.  What is a meal train?  It’s kind of like GoFundMe but with food and my amazing neighborhood of Tower Grove South set one up for a family who had been suffered a great loss the previous week.  On the menu was chicken confit (I’ll do the recipe post at a later time), asparagus seared in duck fat with salt and pepper and potatoes.  But I didn’t want to do just any potato.  Mashed potatoes while delicious and comforting didn’t quite seem right due to the other dishes I was making and I didn’t want to do plain Jane roasted potatoes because again, it just would have seemed boring next to a piece of chicken which was slow cooked in its own fat for 8 hours.  I am sure that whatever I would have sent would have been graciously accepted because it was a heartfelt gift I am a sucker for making sure everything for me goes well and you have different cooking techniques.  Then I remembered an episode of Food Wishes where Chef John made fondant potatoes.  If you don’t know who Chef John is go check out his blog at Food Wishes.  He’s amazing and hilarious and I love his blog and use his recipes a lot.

So back to why I impersonated Hermione Granger.  When I was thinking of a title for this blog a friend of mine Patrick said S.P.U.D: Special Potato Underwater Division and it got me thinking as to where did the slang “spud” come from and of course using my superhero abilities of Google I sought out the answer.  It led me of course to Wikipedia and my journey began.

The name spud for a small potato comes from the digging of soil (or a hole) prior to the planting of potatoes. The word has an unknown origin and was originally (c. 1440) used as a term for a short knife or dagger, probably related to Dutch spyd or the Latin “spad-” a word root meaning “sword”; cf. Spanish “espada”, English “spade” and “spadroon”. The word spud traces back to the 16th century. It subsequently transferred over to a variety of digging tools. Around 1845, the name transferred to the tuber itself.[16] The origin of the word “spud” has erroneously been attributed to a 19th-century activist group dedicated to keeping the potato out of Britain, calling itself The Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet (S.P.U.D.).It was Mario Pei‘s 1949 The Story of Language that can be blamed for the word’s false origin. Pei writes, “the potato, for its part, was in disrepute some centuries ago. Some Englishmen who did not fancy potatoes formed a Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diet. The initials of the main words in this title gave rise to spud.” Like most other pre-20th century acronymic origins, this is false.  Wikipedia

I couldn’t help but kind of laugh to myself at the idea that Hermionne Granger might have been a secret member of this secret society much like her participation in Dumbledore’s Army.  Her hatred for the starchy tuber shown in her contempt for words where the emphasis on the wrong syllable was present.  That and the scientific name for potato is Solanum tuberosum.  hermione-granger-its-leviosa-not-leviosar

So what exactly is a fondant potato.  My only knowledge of the word fondant prior to this recipe was associated with the chalky horrible tasting crap they put on pretentious cakes to make them all fancy and shit.  Horrid chalky crap and if you add too much food coloring it tastes even worse.  Never use the stuff never will, though I do make an awesome version of fondant using marshmallows..Again another post for a later time.  A fondant potato is for all intents and purposes a roasted potato which is cooked in a stock.  It’s a rather old school old world cooking technique and for the more than likely would never have graced the plates of the monthly meetings of S.P.U.D due to the high carbohydrate count (hoity toity bastards).  Also did you know that to differentiate between the “white” and “sweet” potatoes that the white or Irish potatoes were called “bastard potatoes”?  I think now when I need potatoes from the store I’m gonna ask for a bag of bastards .  GIMMIE A 10# of bastards please!

Like most potato dishes it is actually somewhat important to choose a potato that is best appropriate for the job.  There are three classifications of potatoes.  Starchy, Waxy Skin and All purpose.  Your starchy potatoes are going to be your russets and your sweet potatoes which are best for baking and frying because they are super absorbent.  Your waxy skin potatoes are your red skinned and fingerling potatoes and those are best for soups and salads (potato salad..blech) because they hold their shape well when cooking and then you have your AP potatoes.  These are your Yukon golds, blue and purple potatoes and they are great for all sorts of things (mashing, baked, roasted).  They are the quintessential carbohydrate superstar.  But according to Chef John who is pretty much my only resource for this recipe the best potato would be the russet and the reason why is

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Good Job Gold Star

because of its ability to absorb liquids.  Remember these potatoes are roasted in a stock.  which means?  C’mon put 2 and 2 together…Let me give you a minute to figure it out.   YES!!! we want that liquid to become absorbed into the potato and flavor it from the inside!  Good job GOLD STAR.

For the recipe you just need russet potatoes of roughly the same shape and size, neutral oil (canola, grape seed, even vegetable oil), your choice of fresh herbs, butter, salt & pepper and stock.  Pretty much everything someone should already have in their pantry and fridge.  All in all the recipe will take about eeeeh 45 minutes or so and for 3 large potatoes you can get 6 fondant potatoes which is a good serving for 2-3 people.  I would recommend for each person you want to cook for allocate 1 potato to that person because this is a side dish and you will hopefully have other things to go along with it.

Start by washing off your potatoes, why? I have no clue but I personally hate the way potatoes feel in my hands and washing them just makes it less annoying.  You can skip this step if you really want to because it’s an optional step and as we know, Americans are

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Naked taters

lazy bastards and don’t like to have things be too complicated.  You can either choose to use a potato peeler or a knife.  Using the potato peeler has a tendency to give the potato a more uniform spherical shape while the knife allows you to create edges, again your choice I chose the potato peeler.  After your potatoes are peeled you’re going to want to cut off the edges so that it looks again more uniform in shape.  This is help ensure that they all cook at the same rate so you don’t have an Ebenezer Scrooge moment where you start hallucinating about your dead partner due to an undigested fragment of an underdone potato. I’m pretty sure good ole Ebenezer was suffering from mass organ failure due to the fact that potatoes are a member of the nightshade family and he was suffering from a rare and extreme case of toxicity poisoning.  Good riddance, the buggery bastard potatoes did us well……what?!?! good lord, okay fine.

Once you’ve evenly shaped up your potatoes you will want to cut them as close to in half as possible and then place in a bowl of cold water to soak for 5 minutes. This allows the starch that clung to the raw potato during peeling/cutting to get washed away.  Also potatoes release a natural chemical called Acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures with growing concerns that the formation of this chemical could cause health problems.  Simply soaking your potatoes for 30 minutes can help reduce the formation by around img_20170223_18233323%.  While your potatoes are soaking you are going to want to preheat your oven to 425 degrees as well as start to heat your cast-iron skillet over high heat.  Drain your potatoes and completely dry the outside with a paper towel and set to the side.  When your cast iron pan is hot add around 2 tablespoons of your neutral oil and allow the oil a few minutes to heat up.  This is an important step because we don’t want the russet which we’ve already acknowledged is good absorbing liquid sitting in cold oil and soaking that in while it heats up.  We want it to absorb the stock and the butter but not necessarily the oil as well so be patient and wait till the oil starts to shimmer and smoke slightly.     Choose the best side of your spud and place that in the oil to cook first and season liberally with salt and pepper   Why the best side down?   These ultimately will be the side that is presented when dinner is served so why not show the best side.  If using a large 10 inch cast iron skillet you can fit around 12 potatoes without it being too crowded, but you want to make sure that you don’t over crowd the pan if at all possible.  Break it up into two pans that are safe to go into the oven for long periods of time.  Now the time in which to cook the 1 side of potatoes will change depending on how well your cast iron distributes the heat and of course well time.  You want to be able to develop a nice crust of a nice medium brown before flipping over.

After you’ve browned one side of all your potatoes you will want to take a paper towel and with a set of tongs soak up any of the remaining oil.  It only was needed to serve its job as maillard reaction maker (we’ve discussed the maillard reaction before so I’m not repeating

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Oh maillard!  See what I did there?  No? *sighs*

myself.  GOOGLE IT!) and we are going to replace it with butter and whatever fresh herb you chose, salt and pepper.  For this application I only had fresh sage which hey that’s awesome and some garlic.  Take your butter (around 2 tablespoons) and your herb and allow it to melt in with the potatoes.  Go on..It’s okay.  we don’t care what that silly S.P.U.D organizations says.  DO EEEEEET!.  We want the butter to go from foamy white to just the tinge of brown before we add our stock.  Browning the butter adds another layer of flavor and imparts a sort of nutty toasted flavor to whatever it touches.  It’s great for steaks, vegetables, and oddly enough icing in cupcakes.  Yes..That too will be another blog post. C’mon I’ve only got so many free hours and money on the weekend to this people!  When you notice the color of the butter start to take on a light brown color add your stock.  Now we can keep this vegetarian by adding oddly enough vegetable stock or you can use chicken stock.  It’s up to you.  I’m pretty sure you can also make this vegan by using vegan butter as well.  I’ve not cooked with it so I don’t.  If you are a vegan and you do cook with vegan butter please let me know how well it works :).  You will want to add around 1/2 cup of stock before placing the cast iron into img_20170223_193829the oven for 30-45 minutes.  If you notice that your potatoes aren’t finished and are looking a little dry just add a little more stock.  The end result should be a perfectly cooked potato with a crusty crispy exterior but a rich and creamy inside.  Now you understand why we use the russet potato..because it absorbed all that goodness from the pan and took it into itself so we can then take it into us.  The circle of Life!

Kyle absolutely loves these potatoes and is always asking if I am making them when we decide to have potatoes as our starch/carbohydrate for the evening.  Since I enjoy making them so much they’ve become a rather fixed part of our dinner rotation if not having rice (which is rare) or a pasta dish (which is also rare).    Now don’t this ish twisted.  There is nothing wrong with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and fried potatoes but um..this is the best way 🙂

Enjoy!  And like always please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion, tips.  I’m not a professional and I’m always learning so I do enjoy the feedbacks.img_20170223_193713.jpg

 

Fondant Potatoes

Time: 45-60 minutes: Serves 2-3 people

  • 3 large russets of similar shape and size
  • 2 tablespoons butter ( or vegan butter)
  • 3-4 springs of fresh herbs (your choice)
  • salt/pepper
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, grape seed, vegetable)
  • 1/2-3/4 c. stock (vegetable, chicken, etc)
  • Optional addins: Crushed garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 425 and preheat cast-iron skilled on high.  Cut ends off of potatoes and either use a potato peeler to peel away skin or cut off with a knife.  Cut in half and soak in cold water to remove starch build up for 5 minutes.  When pan is hot add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat till shimmering and lightly smoking.  Dry potatoes thoroughly and add to the oil with presentation side down, season liberally with salt and pepper and cook undisturbed for 5-6 minutes or until sides are golden brown.  Once browned, take a paper towel and remove access oil, replacing it with butter and herbs.  Allow butter to melt, spooning it over the potatoes and adding salt and pepper again.  Pour in 1/2 cup of stock of your choice and transfer to hot oven to cook undisturbed for 30-45 minutes.  At the 30 minute mark check for doneness,  if potatoes are still firm and the stock has evaporated add another 1/4 cup and return to cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool for five minutes until serving.

 

 

You know it’s a slow weekend. When the kinkiest thing you did was whip butter.

About a week and a half ago I had the lovely honor of taking this extremely adorable girl out on a date.  Now I know what you’re thinking “Didn’t she say in a post or 2 ago that she just got married to a guy name Kyle?”….Yes, yes I am; however I am of the mindset that you are capable of loving a large number of people and you can essentially go out on dates with individuals you aren’t in a committed relationship with in order to develop something separate and unique. img_20170128_132301 Or ya know you can ask a friend out for a girl’s afternoon out and ham it up a bit.  Though there is nothing wrong with being polyamorous..  A large majority of my friends are polyamorous.  The girl I went on a date is polyamorous and I love her to utter bits. I am not anti poly.  I am pro poly…ALL THE POLY!

I have been taking the necessary actions to be able to spend more quality time with my friends away from group settings to help strengthen my own relationships with them.  This is just because life has a habit of screwing up stuff and making time pass before you realize that you’ve not hung out or seen someone for months.  I’ve asked each of the lovely ladies in my house out on dates and so far I’ve been able to successfully schedule two.  The first being with Krystal who made the suggestion we go get an afternoon tea.  The only place I was familiar with and was within relatively close proximity to where we both lived is The London Tea Room which is nestled in the lovely Morganford business area in South City, St Louis.  I had been wanting to go for a while now but due to life and the little roadblocks she tosses at you, I had not been able to get my foot in the door to enjoy a cuppa so I was eager to say yes and make plans to ensconce myself within the canisters of earl grey and darjeeling.

img_20170128_132354I was immediately in love as I was wrapped up in the aroma of tea, soup, scones, pasties (not nipple covers folks..not those pasties).  The atmosphere was warm and inviting and while rather small for space (at least in the front room) you didn’t feel cramped or crowded.  We mulled over our decisions and I aptly ordered an earl grey with milk and a few tasty treats.  Krystal ordered some sort of sweet matcha latte which I found pleasant and refreshing.  We hid ourselves in the back room, the front of the tea house was crowded which given the fact it was a Friday afternoon at around noon made me wonder how many of the patrons had played hookie that day or were in fact trying to hide their licentious activities behind a blueberry scone with Devon double cream.  What was only to have been an hour tea turned into a two-hour talk with us exchanging war stories about the trials and tribulations of matrimony.  It was a lovely time and will be a reoccurring date place for the two of us in the near future.

As the grey and dreary Friday melted away in the cold I found myself bored and wanting to be creative on Saturday.  Kyle works till 3 in the afternoon so I find myself with a lot of down time if I don’t go to my day job for overtime.  I had spent six hours of my day already stuck behind a desk and was in desperate need of some decompression time.  The thought of the previous afternoon’s date still fresh in my memory and the taste of scones with clotted cream very vivid and alive in my old noodle.  I crossed my fingers on my ride home to hope that I had the necessary ingredients to make scone and even possibly try my hand at making homemade clotted cream.  I quickly scrapped the clotted cream idea due to the fact that when it comes to food I am very much driven by my culinary IDimg_20170128_133534 and I didn’t have 12 hours to wait before I sunk my teeth into a warm scone (not a biscuit dammit!).  So I opted instead to pair it with some butter and jam.  Only problem was I only had enough butter for the recipe.  How in the hell can that happen when you’re as avid of a chef as I am? And then I remembered the popcorn binge from earlier in the week.  Double damn!   But luckily, redemption was hidden behind the milk and the kimchi in the form of a quart of heavy cream (insert hallelujah angelic chords of happiness here!). I shall have my afternoon tea after all and to quote the Mad Hatter “It’s always tea time!”.

I quickly gathered my ingredients to make my scones.  I opted for lemon rosemary given the fact that I had been able to salvage a few twigs from the rosemary plant outside before the frost set it and I had a lemon that was needing to be used for something other than the garbage disposal.  I had everything else I could possibly need.  It’s not an incredibly difficult recipe and if you’ve had any experience with making biscuits than making scones will be a snap.  The only thing different is you are going to be adding an egg.  The addition of the egg is what makes it a scone.  Other then that the technique is going to be the same.  You’re still going to be sifting your dry ingredients and then gently cut the fat into the mixture to form a fine crumb and will mix in enough liquid to bring the dough together.  You can even cut them out like you would biscuits.  For all intensive purposes, scones are just egg biscuits..No they really aren’t but it’s nice to live in that sort of world where it’s easy to just make something into something else isn’t it.

img_20170128_134303Prior to starting you will want to ensure that your butter is very cold. I will cut it into small pieces and then place it in the freezer while I’m gathering the rest of my supplies. I also have a tendency to keep a stick of butter already cut into tablespoon pieces in a ziplock bag in the freezer as a just in case.  Having well chilled butter will ensure that when its cut into the flour that you wont end up with a gloopy mess.  Cutting the butter simply means taking knife, fork, pastry blender, food processor and incorporating the butter into your flour  to make a fine crumb which will help for a flakier, tender end product.  If you have to big of pieces of fat, as they heat and melt they will leave large gaping holes in your pastry.  The only holes I like are in my cheese and um….well other places but that’s another blog and we don’t discuss such lascivious activities here.

Once you’ve gathered the necessary items you will want to start by sifting your flour and then add your leavening agent and sugar.  If using a food processor which let’s face it that is probably the cleanest and easiest way to do this, pour the dry ingredients in and then add the butter, breaking up any pieces that might be stuck together when it was resting in the cold dark freezer of despair.  Give it a few pulses until it takes on the consistency of sand.  Transfer the contents back to your sifting bowl and make a well in the center so that we can pour the milk in to start the mixing of the wet ingredients. If you are going to mix in add in’s now would be your chance (lemon zest and rosemary, chocolate chunks, raisins,  nothing that bleeds too much).   In your milk you’ll want to mix in one beaten egg until thoroughly combined (i.e no globs of albumin *that’s the egg white* left) because you don’t want little globs of clear goo floating around in your milk like so much chicken jism flotsam cast adrift in a bovine secretion ocean *gags*.  Pour the milk into the well and taking a fork start to mix the flour in.  Once it’s roughly combined and if adding things that will bleed (berries) add them here and finish mixing with your fingers until it comes together.  Lightly dust your work surface and quickly but gently bring the dough together.  You need to work quickly because you don’t want the butter to melt. img_20170128_134337 Taking a rolling-pin which has also been dusted, gently roll the dough out till it is roughly 3 cm in height.  Because of the baking powder added they will rise so don’t fret if you think they are too small.  Dip your biscuit cutter into your flour and slowly press into your dough to cut into your scone shape.  If you don’t have a biscuit cutter a glass with a thin edge will work perfectly well.  If for some reason you don’t have a glass and prefer to drink out of an old rusty can that once housed lima beans and you can’t bring to throw it away because you have too much sentimental attachment that um yeah I guess you can use that,  and get a few rounds of “mild” ECT therapy.  Or ya know, um yeah.  You need help.

Cut out your rounds of dough and placed on a baking sheet that has either been lined with parchment paper or has a silicone mat so they don’t stick or burn.  You will more than likely get around 15 scones if using a 2 inch (5 cm) biscuit cutter.  You can gently bring the dough back together to cut more, just keep this floating around in the back of your ECT addled brain that the more you mix and roll out the dough the tougher the scones will be.  I’d recommend only doing this roughly twice and be satisfied with around 20 scones.  You can always make a second batch should it not be enough.   Brush the tops with the second beaten egg and place in a preheated oven at 375 for roughly for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are a lovely golden brown.

Now if you’re an avid tea fan like I am and you love scones like I do than you’re probably a purist and prefer to enjoy your tasty baked goodness with some clotted cream and jam.  The question that is lingering on my lips is how do you eat it?  Are you a Devon or Cornwall scone eater?  Are you a clotted cream then jam or a jam then clotted cream type scone eater?  My opinion about you won’t really change.  I won’t suddenly decide to unfriend you from life and ignore your existence if you prefer to eat it the way those savages in Devon do and that is the spreading of the cream and then the jam.  Bloody uneducated, unrefined savages.  Cornwall does it best because the cream tastes better on top.  TOP IS THE BEST PLACE TO BE!!.    It’s how I eat my toast it’s how I eat my scones and I’ll never change…^.^  Really there isn’t any right or wrong way ( Cornwall is right, Devon is wrong) to eat your scone.  The only wrong thing is calling it a biscuit or not eating them at all.

Sadly I didn’t have any Devon double cream at home on this scone day but I did have an extra quart of heavy whipping cream lying about so instead of using butter which I didn’t have and only enjoying the scone with jam, I pulled out my handy-dandy Kitchenaid mixer and cranked that puppy on high and walked away for about 10 minutes or so.  Probably not the brightest idea I had that day considering when I came back I noticed the fat in the cream had separated from the liquids (which is what makes butter) but at 10 it caused the whey to ejaculate out of the bowl and all over my countertops.  Yeah not a pleasant sight I tell you what.  Damn bovine secretions being all sexual and orgasming EVERYWHERE…. It did however change me emotionally to the point that I will probably not buy butter at the store unless I absolutely have to because the end product was so delicious and such a lovely pale yellow that I am forever changed and altered.

So if any of you get a chance visit St. Louis I strongly recommend you hit up The London Tea Room for either a proper afternoon tea (they require at minimum 24 hour notice) or a quick-lunch with a friend.  It is totally worth it.  The atmosphere is lovely, the staff is lovely, it’s just lovely.  If you can’t make it here then please take an afternoon and have a few of your friends over and have an afternoon tea of your own.  I am having one in April for a group of friends and am excited because it means I get to make scones and butter and little sandwiches and pastry ^.^

English Scones

  • 500g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 2 rounded tsp baking powder
  • 2 heaped tbsp of caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 110g chopped cold unsalted butter
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 2 eggs (beaten in separate bowls)

Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheet with parchment paper or line with a silicone mat.  In a bowl sift flour, baking powder, sugar & salt and add to a food processor (you can use your hands for this if you don’t have a food process0r).  Add cold butter and mix until it resembles fine pastry flour. Transfer back to a bowl, making a well and  add milk & egg mixture and dry add ins *zest, dry herbs* and mix with fork until combined.  Place on a floured surface, rolling out gently to 3 cm in height and cut out scones, bringing the dough back together if you absolutely have to for more scones.  Brush with beaten egg and bake until golden brown 15-20 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack.

Homemade Butter

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream

Place into a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment and mix on high for 10 minutes.  Once finished place in a sieve to drain out any whey and transfer contents needed to small serving dishes.  If storing for later, wrap in plastic and then freezer paper and freeze for up to 3 months.

 

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