Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ticket Giveaway for a Crafty Weekend

Sabrosa Salt Company

Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out the Surgarloaf Crafts Festival at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset. More than 250 of the nation's most accomplished crafts people selling handmade items will be joined by two dozen gourmet food vendors selling chocolates, speciality salts, soups and more.

Post your favorite recipe passed down from your mother, or favorite family cooking story, for a chance to win free tickets to the event on March 9, 10, and 11. I have six tickets available to give out first come first serve.

I can't wait to hear your stories!

Hungry Amigos Soup

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Ultimate Cooking In Spite Story: Mashed Potatoes

Growing up in a house with a mother who didn't cooked meant never having homemade mashed potatoes.

I always thought mashed potatoes were something complicated, in the same ballpark as soup, that were never made at home.

The mashed potatoes that we ate in our house were made from flakes that came out of a box. My parents served them with one of their favorite meals: roast beef from the deli served with gravy that came from a jar.

As you can only imagine, I was pretty surprised to find out after I moved out of my parents house that people did make soup at home. And they also made mashed potatoes.

After years of teaching myself how to cook, and enrolling in culinary school as a baking and pastry student, I still hadn't tackled mashed potatoes. I registered for a potato masher for our wedding, but it sat on my counter unused for almost two years. For some reason homemade mashed potatoes maintained some mystique that intimated me.

My lonely unused potato masher 

But tonight everything changed. My brother in law gave us an amazing stack of ribs to take home for dinner. And I had two pounds of russet potatoes in the bottom of my pantry.

I pulled out a Thanksgiving mashed potato recipe I had clipped from the Food Network magazine, when I first thought it was time to overcome my mashed potatoes phobia. I compared it against a recipe from "The New Basics Cookbook" by Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins that suggested replacing some of the milk with sour cream. How could I go wrong with that?

I boiled two pounds of mashed potatoes for about 45 minutes. I took the advice of the Food Network magazine and left the skins on for added flavor, and then peeled the potatoes wearing an oven mitt after they were fork tender. I used a cup of warmed milk and ended up using a whole stick of butter even though the recipe said to use half. Then I decided the potatoes needed some zing and followed the New Basics advice to add some sour cream.

In the end my mashed potatoes tasted like all the other decent mashed potatoes I had ever eaten. Considering this was my first try, I felt like that a giant success. I spent our entire dinner telling everyone how easy it was, until I am sure they were sick of hearing it.

Next I will have to try to make soup.

Please share your favorite mashed potato recipe with us! Here's mine:

First Batch Homemade Mashed Potatoes

2 pounds russet potatoes
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk warmed in the microwave
1/2 cup sour cream close to room temperature
salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a large sauce pan of cold salted water and bring to a simmer for about 45 minutes. Once fork tender, remove potatoes from water and hold them in an oven mitt to peel.The skin will be so tender it mostly feel off on its own. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Cut up butter into 1- inch chunks and add it to the bowl with warm milk and sour cream. Mash with a potato masher. Add generous amount of salt and pepper to taste.