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Hearty dish incorporates 'mashed' potatoes

March 21, 2009|By LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER / Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Lynne: My meat-and-potatoes family is working at easing away from the meat and getting nonwhite vegetables onto our dinner plates. A narrowing budget is the reason, but it's tough changing old habits. We've got big appetites and we love our mashed potatoes. Do you have a recipe that could steer us in this direction? -- Robin in Syracuse

Dear Robin: Those mashed potatoes are a good starting point because they accept almost any other dish, and half the battle's won since your family likes them. You are on track with your idea of easing away instead of banishing meat all at once. The recipe below is one way to begin. Yams, sweet yellow turnips or kohlrabi could replace the white potatoes, and any green vegetable could sub for the cabbage. For the meat, try anything with big flavors (this could be lean cuts marinated or basted with interesting seasonings).

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Now how do I sell you on a dish called "stoemp"? Melodic and alluring-sounding, this is not. (Pronunciations include "stomp" and "stump.")But it is ideal for cold nights and hungry people. And it is a model for nudging meat out of the main-event category and into being a supporting player.

If the Belgians had laid claim to the shamrock and St. Patrick before the Irish, this is what everyone would be eating on March 17. The reality is, this is how farmhouse cooks created good eating from the last of the stored winter vegetables as they waited, with fingers crossed, for good weather and the first new greens of spring.

In our world today, this is how you make a great supper with what is cheap, plentiful and usually overlooked as not interesting. Yet no one can turn down good mashed potatoes. Add meltingly good cabbage, up the ante with a little smoky bacon and garlicky sausage (kielbasa comes close to what you'd eat in Belgium) and you have what Flemish farmhouse cooks call "stoemp." Make the stoemp ahead and reheat it in the oven.




A BELGIAN FARMHOUSE SUPPER OF STOEMP WITH SAUSAGES



4 thick bacon slices
2 medium onions, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1-1/3 to 1-1/2 pounds green cabbage, cored and chopped into 1-inch cubes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
3 tablespoons cider or wine vinegar
3 cups water
3 pounds red skin potatoes, unpeeled
Water
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk, or as needed
3/4 pound kielbasa, or other cooked beef and garlic sausage, sliced into thin rounds

In a 12-inch straight-sided saute pan, cook the bacon over medium-high until crisp. Remove it and spread the pieces on paper towels to get rid of the fat. Once they are cool, break them up into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from pan (you could discard all the bacon fat and then film the pan with extra-virgin olive oil to cook the onions).

Have heat at medium high and add the onions with some salt and pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes and then add cabbage. Cook, stirring often, until onions are browning and cabbage is picking up color. Take care not to burn the brown glaze in bottom of pan (this is where the deep, rich flavors are developing).

Stir in garlic and cook a few seconds. Add the broth and vinegar and simmer over medium-high (stirring to pick up all that glaze from the pan and blend it in) until there's just a thin film of liquid in bottom of pan. Now add the 3 cups water, bring to a bubble, cover the pan and cook the cabbage about 10 minutes, or until it is tender. Uncover and boil off all the liquid. Taste for seasoning and set aside.

Boil the potatoes until tender. Place the butter and milk in bottom of large bowl. Peel the hot potatoes and add them to the bowl. Crush them as you blend in the milk and butter. They should be crushed, not completely mashed. Season to taste. Fold in the onion/cabbage saute and the reserved bacon.

Turn into a buttered shallow casserole, top the potato mixture with the sausage slices, then cover the casserole with foil. About 30 minutes before dining, heat up the casserole in a 375-degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Uncover during the last 5 minutes so potatoes can brown. Serve hot.

Serves 6 to 8

Note: To turn this into a meatless supper, skip the bacon, instead using 2 or 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Olive oil could stand in for the butter as well, and the sausages would not be used.




Dear Lynne: Can you make risotto with the regular long-grain rice in the supermarket? Italian rice like the recipes call for is only sold in one store here and it's over $10 a pound. -- Skinflint in Smallville

Dear Skinflint: Is the rice gold-plated? At $10 a pound, I'd bet that rice has been a wallflower on the shelves for a long time, which means it's not for you anyway.

Ideally, you want a medium-grain rice (that's what the Italian rices like arborio are) because its starch is different from the starch in long-grain rices. They cook up into separate grains, while the starches in medium-grain rice give you a creamy consistency. A lot of supermarkets carry American-grown medium-grain rices at very reasonable prices. If it's not to be had, go for the long-grain. The Italian food police don't patrol in Smallville.

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