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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Chicken fat fries, and I don’t care

Roast chicken with parsnips and swiss chard

Sorry for getting "Jimmy Crack Corn" stuck in your head.

Sorry for getting “Jimmy Crack Corn” stuck in your head.

This is one of the “take five” recipes in the November issue with five ingredients.  Our five for this adaptation are:*

  • 1 1/2 lb parsnips, peeled, halved crosswise then lengthwise (big ends quartered lengthwise)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 bone-in, skin on-chicken leg quarters (leg and thigh combo) because they were insanely cheap at the store, and I couldn’t find the bone-in, skin-on breasts the recipe called for.  Cut apart the thigh and the leg
  • 1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, leaves coarsely torn and stalks cut into 1 inch lengths.
  • 1 T white-wine vinegar

Roast those parsnips at 450 in one 1 T of oil, seasoned with salt and pepper.  Push parsnips to the side, add the chicken, and then the fun really starts…  Roast to 165 degrees, about 30-35 minutes.

The fat renders off of the thighs and legs and fries the parsnips in chicken fat making chicken fat fries.  So rich.  So good.  I’ve heard that some cooks are trying to bring back schmaltz.  Hurry up!

Sautee the stalks in the remaining T olive oil until crisp-tender then toss in the leaves.  Toss and turn those leaves, adding more as it cooks down and makes room.  It takes about 5 minutes to get all of the leaves cooked to tender.  Remove it from the heat, stir in vinegar.  Serve it all together.  This chard side reminds me of when D and I were in a community garden and we always had way too much chard.  Our one criterion for a chard recipe was that it use a ton of chard.  Our favorite was chard pie.  This recipe probably would have made the cut because it uses a whole bunch, but it’s no chard pie.

Over all, this was a great meal.  It’s the kind of recipe I would have probably ignored back before I had to make everything.  Plus, chicken fat fries.  Yeah.

*all recipe information adapted from Everyday Food Issue #47 November 2007 p. 148