Salute to sides

Minted pea mash

Perhaps the green plate wasn't the best choice for photographing peas.

Perhaps the green plate wasn’t the best choice for photographing peas.

Apple-parsnip mash

This photo was taken in our living room while watching the Olympics.  USA!

This photo was taken in our living room while watching the Olympics. USA!

I feel like a latecomer to side dishes.  I always kind of thought of them as something for a special occasion.  Perhaps not necessarily Thanksgiving, but probably at least dinner with company.  When I cook for just me and D, it’s usually just an entree.  Oftentimes, we’ll eat the kind of entrees that kind of have a built in side dish like something served on noodles.  But side dishes in the sense of a supporting player for an entree really aren’t part of my regular repertoire.  If the most difficult thing about this project is getting the writing done on time, then the second most difficult thing has to be making all of the sides.  So this project has forced me to consider side dishes as a part of a normal meal.  Sometimes I wish I hadn’t bothered.  These are two side dishes where I was glad that I bothered.  They added a lot to the meal.  They also showed me how side dishes can add more veggies to an otherwise carb and/or protein heavy meal.  This probably should have been obvious.  I’m learning, OK!!

The minted pea mash tastes lovely and couldn’t be easier.  You thaw some frozen peas, sautee them with butter, buzz them in the food processor with some mint leaves.  Hey, if you’re looking for a side for your Easter lamb, this has got to be it.  The recipe said it was good with roasted chicken, and we took that very literally.  D and I made a dish that has been a classic of our relationship since before we were married: Jamie Oliver’s Perfect Roast Chicken.  I cannot find an officially sanctioned recipe online, but some Epicurious user put this out there.  It’s an excellent recipe.  I will add that you can substitute a teaspoon of dried thyme for the fresh thyme and bacon for the prosciutto.  The minted pea mash was a nice burst of green and freshness on a plate that was otherwise full of chicken fat and potatoes.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The apple-parsnip mash played a similar supporting role.  I needed to make side from the January/February issue, but was all out of entrees in that issue.  That happens to us…a lot.  I made the Mexican Cod and Potato Stew from the April 2006 issue of Everyday Food.  Yes, even when faced with the possibility to make anything I like, I still make something from Everyday Food.  That was pretty tasty.  It had a good amount of spice to it.  So the apple-parsnip mash served to settle all that down.  It did a good job of that.  The stew already had potatoes in it, so maybe it was a bit of a starch fest, but I enjoyed it.  The mash itself is interesting.  It is almost eerily balanced between apples and parsnips.  Just when you’re getting ready to say “this just tastes like apples!” the parsnip flavor sneaks in.  It’s quite tasty.  I recommend it as a good side dish for when the entree is bold and doesn’t need anything that will compete.

Side dishes are good on the side.  Who knew?!

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A Couple of Seriously Delicious Sides…

Mushroom and Leek Gratin

Celery Root and Apple Remoulade

Now, you may notice from the titles of these dishes that one recipe is truly decadent sounding and one is fairly healthy sounding.  Those impressions would be correct.  The Mushroom and Leek Gratin was so rich I struggled to eat all I had put on my plate despite how delicious it was.  The Celery Root and Apple Gratin was also super delicious but was light enough that I was able to keep going back for seconds.

Here’s the Gratin:

I may have gotten lazy and gone with pre-sliced cremini mushrooms instead of portabella…

I may have gotten lazy and gone with pre-sliced cremini mushrooms instead of portabella…

The cream and parmesan worked so well with the leek and mushrooms.  I also have yet to meet a dish that feature leeks that I don’t love.  They are just so good.  Mmm… now I’m remembering those braised leeks…  This is definitely a special occasion dish and not an every-night-of-the-week dish.

The Celery Root Remoulade, however:

It may not be the most photogenic dish...

It may not be the most photogenic dish…

This is seriously, seriously good.  I was picking at it all evening.  I’ve also made the executive decision to try to incorporate celery root into cole slaw in the future.  Don’t bother with the celery seed, go for the celery root.  Seriously.

Pumpkin cake and the Brussels sprouts reprised

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

lovely cake on a lovely table

lovely cake on a lovely table

D, J, and I spent Thanksgiving with my family.  Because they host Thanksgiving, I often just cook whatever is needed to fill in the gaps in the menu.  This year, that meant two cranberry sauces: the one from the Ocean Spray bag and a cranberry chutney.  The chutney was good and made an obscene amount of food.  Seriously.  Watch out everyone I know, you’re getting a jar of chutney for Christmas.

I was also in charge of bringing a non-starchy vegetable.  I made the Brussels sprouts salad again.  It scaled up pretty well, and, wouldn’t you know it, there were make-ahead instructions on another page!  I wrongly maligned that recipe.  You blanch the brussels sprouts and toast the pine nuts the day before.  That leaves only the dressing and slicing the apples the day of.

Another beautiful dish in a beautiful dish

Another beautiful dish in a beautiful dish

Pumpkin layer cake (recipe after the jump)

The real star of the show was the pumpkin cake.  Now, we had desserts more than covered.  We had a maple walnut pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, red velvet cake, pumpkin truffles, and a cheesecake.  But…when else was I going to make a giant layer cake?  My sister already rejected the idea of having it for her birthday next Sunday, so I piled on yet another dessert.  Nobody was mad.  This was a popular cake.  It’s very easy to bake and keeps wonderfully overnight.  I think the pumpkin pie spice in the cream cheese frosting (yeah, you read that right) really did add something.  I wouldn’t call it optional.  The cake was very moist.  I guess it reminded me a lot of pumpkin pancakes!  Giant pumpkin pancakes with cream cheese frosting.  You’re gonna want that.  Oh, one tip: the recipe says to use an electric mixer to make the batter and the frosting.  Incorrect.  Bust out the Kitchen Aid and the paddle attachment.  You’ll want the firepower of a stand mixer to get through all that butter and cream cheese.  Also, it’s a lot of batter.  Your arms will be glad you used ol’ Kitchy.

It just looks moist, doesn't it?  Gotta love pumpkin

It just looks moist, doesn’t it? Gotta love pumpkin

Oh, and check out the cheese from my trip to see B!

Cabot aged cheddar, buffalo wing sauce cheddar, everything bagel cheddar.

Cabot aged cheddar, buffalo wing sauce cheddar, everything bagel cheddar.

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever and whoever you are.

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Rye-Crusted Pork Medallions and Red Cabbage with Apple

Rye-Crusted Pork Medallions

Red Cabbage with Apple

October 2003, pgs. 79 & 91

IMG_0758

Coming from a German background, this kind of dish is very familiar to me.  My mom has made red cabbage since I was a kid.  She always wings it (this is true of most things she makes but somehow they usually taste pretty darn good), but this recipe tastes a lot like hers.

There is just enough bacon to make the dish taste rich and meaty and there is just enough vinegar to cut the richness and round out the flavor profile.  You hardly notice the apple to be perfectly honest, but I like the idea of having some extra nutrients in there.

The other thing I really like about the cabbage is the color.  It’s so pretty.  And everyone knows you are supposed to eat all the colors of the rainbow!  How many opportunities do you have to eat burgundy!? (I said eat, not drink!).  If you have never given red cabbage a shot, you should really consider this recipe.  It is very simple and it really is delicious!

On to the pork! The pork was good.  I liked the flavor added by the rye bread rather than just plain bread crumbs.  I did not like the fact that the breading refused to stay on my pork.  Maybe I should have dried the crumbs out a bit.  I think they might have held on to the egg better if they weren’t still so moist on their own.  Every time I would flip one over, the just-browned crust stayed in the pan without the pork.  Luckily, I was able to scrape it up in one piece in most instances and place it back onto the pork so the idea of the crust was still there even though it was more of a blanket by the time we ate it.  But like I said, the flavor was good.  Really good when in conjunction with the red cabbage.  Definitely make them both, just perhaps let your bread crumbs sit out for an hour or so before you start cooking.