Sunday, February 7, 2010

Regrouping and Potato Souping

I'm pleased to announce that I think I may be back in the saddle again. Ridin' along, cooking and and breaking/fixing things, and sharing my adventures with The Internets.

For a while there, between morning sickness and the general lethargy that ensued, things were looking dire for the dear old Impractical Guide. But I'm back! Mostly...

I still experience severe stomach-lurchery at the very whiff of garlic. Back in the fall I bought a bag of garlic at the local farmer's market, which I kept in a pretty little (well, medium sized) olive-wood bowl on my kitchen island. I never really noticed the smell of it until duh duh DUH the baby hangin' out in my womb made it abundantly clear that good ol' allium sativum is not a welcome part of its gestastion process. Initially, bowl and all were banished to the far recesses of the hall closet (the catch-all for kitchen miscellany), but even that wasn't enough. I put it up for adoption, and C very lovingly took all 9 heads home to live with her.

So here I am, cooking up a storm with NO GARLIC. It's very strange, I agree.

Side note, I've also developed a serious sweet tooth for the first time in my life.

Last night my twin-law and his son, B, were over for dinner. Both have extremely conservative stomachs, so it's sort of a fun challenge to come up with food that is both fun and interesting and that they will readily eat. Mostly B, with the not-eating. B is extremely thin and as any good Southern woman would, I feel the need to shove food at him every 5 seconds.

Finally able to cope with the combination of standing in front of the stove and smelling the food bubbling away there, I went all out. We had Baked Potato Soup (new recipe, totally delish), steamed brussel sprouts, grilled Baja-citrus style shrimp, and NY strip steak from White Flower Farms. Plus we had a wonderful smoked gouda cheese, fresh french bread, crudites and a green salad.

I'm only just getting the hang of cooking steaks, but by all accounts (and by accounts I mean empty plates) the steak last night was very good. I can officially now plan to have steak for dinner without hyperventillating, which is significant progress from a year ago. I didn't grow up in a frequently steak-eating family, and my memories of steak dinners consist of my Dad (not the usual cook in the house, although quite good when he wants to be) taking himself very seriously at the stove AND oven, executing some very complicated kind of beef ballet between the two which involved filling the kitchen, dining room and living room with dense smoke.

Rather intimidating, you might say. And you would be right.

However, I've faced that fear head on and discovered that if you have a good raw steak (ie, a good cut of meat to begin with) it's pretty hard to mess it up too much. The 200lbs of grass-fed beef that we've been working our way through this winter is amazing. AMAZING.

Just grill those suckers up on a hot grill pan, and plop a little thing of butter on them while you keep'um hot in the oven. In this particular case I used some Habenero flavored compound butter I got at the Garlic Festival, but don't tell the baby.

Here's the recipe for the Baked Potato Soup, adapted by me from Playing House.

Yeild: about 8 cups

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups 2% milk

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2-3 shakes of Lawry's Seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

3/4 cup chopped green onions, with some extra for garnishing

1. First, poke holes in the potatoes and bake them in the oven for an hour. You could probably cut time by using the microwave for this step, I'm not really sure.

2. Put the flour in a large, thick bottomed pot, and slowly add the milk to it, whisking at first to prevent lumps. Heat the milk until bubbly and stir frequently to avoid a buildup of film on the bottom of the pan.

3. Put on some oven mits and take the potatoes out of the oven. (Game of Hot Potato optional here.) On a cutting board, chop them up into smallish pieces. The baked potato skins can be kind of tough, so if the idea of having them in your soup bothers you, they're pretty easy to pick off: cut the potatoes into quarters and peel the skin off to discard. I personally like potato skin, so I left about half of mine in, and just made sure it was cut up into small enough pieces that it would get softened by the soup itself.

4. Dump the potato into the milk. Add everything else, too. Stir until the cheese is melted and to further break down the potato pieces. Let it cook for about 10 or 15 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it gets thick. Taste it, and season to your taste. I think I may have put more salt in mine (I didn't measure) but I'll leave that to you.

To serve, I actually put mine in some stemless wine glasses that we have because I don't have enough smaller bowls to serve 6 people. Garnish with some extra green onions or grated cheese. Or bacon.

Bacon makes everything better. Or is that butter?

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