"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Making Time

Again, with the silence on this little blog.  I can now happily say that those things that have recently stood in my blogging-way...packing, moving house, waiting for internet to be hooked up...those things have been dealt with, and I'm back with some food for you.

It's been a bit of a challenge these days, making time for a homemade meal, I must say.  Lacking the time, the kitchen tools awaiting unpacking, and the energy, it's been kind of slapdash eating around here.  Night before last though, I got it together, enough to make a simple sort of supper, inspired by Nigel Slater's Tender.  May I interject here, and say that this book is divine.  I'm quite sure I've said it already, but seriously folks, divine.  Especially for all you gardeners out there.  Which I aspire to be.  And eaters of good food.  Which I definitely like to think I am.

Anyway, a cold night called for a warming supper, and as I flipped through the beautiful pages of the book, looking for a recipe for ingredients that were present in my kitchen, I felt myself drawn to the Potato section.  (Mr. Slater divides his book into gardening and recipes for individual vegetables, it's genius, I tell you.)  I dig a potato.  No pun intended.  Especially as I have not yet ever actually dug a potato.  But I love them, in all their humble, transmutable glory.  And as I had just unearthed my potato ricer from the mountain of kitchen boxes, I knew a nice mash was just the thing for this sort of evening.

In Tender, Slater often simply gives a hint at a recipe.  A gist, if you will.  Suggesting a few ingredients that marry well, and leaving the amounts up to the cook.  I love this.  It works so well, given that you may be feeding only a few, or many.  Given that you may have a certain kind of cheese, but not another.  And especially given that some foods are just so flexible, and it's a good thing to get creative in the kitchen, really, isn't it?

Let's do this thing.

Leek and Gruyere Mash - adapted from Tender
-serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

Ingredients - I'm giving you rough amounts here, use whatever you've got, you really can't go wrong

About 1 1/2 to 2 lbs of russet potatoes, peeled and boiled in salted water until fork-tender
Milk or cream and a large nob of butter, for the mash
One or two large leeks, rinsed well, and sliced into rounds
Butter for sweating the leeks
Gruyére, grated, about 1/2 to 3/4 a cup
A bit more butter, for dotting on the top of the mash before baking, about a Tbs

While your potatoes are boiling, sweat off the leeks in about a tablespoon of butter, in a saucepan, over rather low heat.  Season, and cover with a lid, so they cook nice and slow.  Stir from time to time, cooking until they're silken, and practically falling apart.  No browning here, so keep the heat nice and low.  Once they're done, spread in the bottom of a baking dish.

Once your potatoes are just fork-tender, drain them and using a potato ricer (my favorite way to make a mash), rice them back into the cooking pot.  Or place them in the pot, and mash them.  Throw in some butter, a tablespoon or two, season with sea salt and pepper, and enough milk or cream to bring your mash together nicely.  I used a mixture of milk and cream, since I had some cream that needed finishing, and well, cream is darn tasty.  Add a bit at a time, don't make your mash too wet and gloppy, you want it to still be nice and thick, but smooth.  Spread the mash over the leeks, taking care not to press down tightly.

Dot the bits of remaining butter over the mash, then cover with the grated cheese, and bake in a 400 deg F oven, until the cheese begins to bubble and the top has touches of golden-brown going on.  This took me about half an hour.  Just keep an eye on it, and you'll be good to go.

And there you have it.  An incredibly simple, and hugely satisfying dish.  One you can easily make time for in a busy schedule.  Serve it up with a salad, or some steamed veggies.  As you can see...

...it went down a treat.  The Girl came back for thirds, after being excused from the table.  Thirds.  It's that good.

Have a lovely day!

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