Monday, November 12, 2012

Fingerlings and Sprouts

It's been quite a couple of weeks for many of us in the Northeast. Hurricane Sandy swept through and left a path of heartbreaking destruction to millions. Many friends and family close to us were affected as we watched helplessly from afar. Most have had their power restored, but the clean-up continues. I send warm vibes from my kitchen for a speedy recovery to all.

Just before the hurricane hit I took a run down to the Larchmont Farmers Market to pick up my CSA Basket from Gaia's Breath Farm. At the Newgate Farms table I picked up a very cool Brussels sprout branch and fingerlings from Gaia's Breath. The hurricane hit Westchester around dinner time on the 29th and at just about 5:30 our lights flickered a few times and went out. Not to come back for many days. I literally was just about to start up some dinner for us, so I switched gears quickly pulling out my camp stove. I lovingly call it my "Barbie Doll Camp Stove" used exclusively for my Farmers Market demos. As luck would have it, several days before JL and her husband Dave came for dinner and she brought me 3 butane canisters. (Golden!) I had a little leftover rotisserie chicken and salad, so we were good to go.

Before I get into the recipe, lets talk about the sprouts. When speaking of them to people I find their reaction similar to beets. People either love them, or hate them. There are plenty of recipes in books and on-line, but typically you see them roasted or sauteed in some kind of fat: extra virgin or pork; then tossed with a vinegar like balsamic or citrus. I've even seen them tossed in a dijon marinade and roasted. The goal is to get them deliciously golden brown and crisped, or caramelized.  I decided to go simple that night since I was working by candlelight and lantern!

I also had a bag of fingerling potatoes that I need to get cooked up as well, so I thought "why not combine them?"  Fingerling potatoes are beautiful little spuds that look like stubby fingers, hence the name! Since they are small the cook quickly and have a lovely creamy center. They tend to be a little more expensive that other potatoes, so generally you don't see these ones pureed into soups. They are just too pretty to not eat in their natural state.

I had a combo of colors on my fingerlings: white, pink and purple. Since we were eating in semi-darkness I decided to save the pretty  colored ones for later and just used the whites.

With time not on my side that night I wanted to get everything cooked up quickly. (I needed to be judicious in my butane use!) So I decided to blanch the potatoes and sprouts first, then sauté to finish cooking and add a beautiful golden color.

I really have no real recipe for this other than I cut the potatoes into 2" slices. The sprouts were small enough to just clean and keep whole. I blanched them separately in boiling salted water for 2 minutes each and drained. I sautéed a shallot in a little olive oil until it became soft and then added the potatoes and sprouts.

I'm going to share one of my little secrets with you. I keep a package of pre-cooked bacon in the freezer. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cooking up bacon and pancetta for all sorts of dishes, but every now and then Larry and I have a hankering for a BLT sandwich and the last thing I'm interested in doing is cooking 6 slices of bacon for a sandwich. The pre-cooked variety is fast and easy!

While I was sautéing the potatoes and sprouts Larry asked me if I was sautéing them with pancetta (his favorite) and when I said "no" I got the sad-puppy-dog eyes, so I reached for the pre-cooked bacon. I chopped and tossed in a few slices and they crisped up beautifully!

This super simple dish literally came together in just under 20 minutes - maybe 30 minutes tops. While the sauté was happening I made a salad and sliced up a little chicken. A perfect storm meal!

After the power was restored I celebrated by cranking up the oven and roasting a few things. The rest of my fingerings included! This is just about the easiest way to prepare them: slice them in half lengthwise and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and an assortment of fresh herbs.

I happened to have a little sage, thyme and rosemary handy, but you can use whatever you have. You can even use dry herbs too. I decided to toss in some sliced shallot and garlic, just because I had them - but you can go straightforward with just the spuds. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees and lay all the potatoes cut-side down on the tray. That way you will get the cut side crisped!

Once they are done toss with a little fresh parsley, a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of oil. Simple and delicious!

This month I'm devoting my posts mainly to potatoes and showing you some simple and easy side dishes for the holidays. I hope you will give these two tasty veggies above a try, and look for sweet potatoes next week!

Buon Appetito

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh Herbs
Serves 4 - 6

1/2 cup sliced shallot
3-6 whole garlic cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper
2 tablespoons of finely minced fresh herbs: sage, rosemary and or thyme, or 1 tablespoon of Herbs de Provence
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, garnish
2 lbs of fingerling potatoes, cleaned and sliced lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and lightly oil a heavy, rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl toss the potatoes, shallot and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and the fresh herbs. (Reserve the parsley for later.) Lay the potatoes out on the sheet, cut side down and spread the onion and garlic around.

Reduce the heat to 425 degrees and bake the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, or until they are tender and the cut side is golden and crisp. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and parsley and serve.

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