It’s been a while…but to paraphrase the great Gloria Gaynor: now I’m back, from outer space, sitting here with a sad look upon my face. Well, not really. I’m actually just bored because Michael (mailman by day, boyfriend extraordinaire by night) is out at Coachella, and I ran out of other things to occupy myself with. I already painted my apartment. Literally.
Anyway, let’s try this again. Hiiiiiiiiiiii. I’ve got a shit ton of pictures and recipes to share so stay tuned for all my recent recipes. Cooking for Michael these past months has been wild inspiration to really experiment and reach new heights. Tons to share. Tons to come. But for now, here are a few of the most amazing sides you will ever experience. Two are amazing veggie methods, and one is an extremely decadent take on pommes puree (fancy mashed potatoes, really). And, put together, these are also an amazing gourmet vegetarian meal.
First: two almost-non-recipes.
For my whole life I have hated cauliflower. Growing up, it was always microwaved and paired with pork and apple sauce. Dipped in enough of the apple sauce, I could stomach it, because microwaved cauliflower loses almost all flavor (except the worst, funky, flatulent aftertaste). That said, I have now fallen madly in love with fried cauliflower.
Not friend in the breaded and fried zucchini sort of way. This is much more basic. You just cut cauliflower into small flowerets, and pop them into some hot frying oil. They should submerge completely. Leave them under for a few minutes until they turn a light caramelized brown, and then scoop them out to drain on a paper towel, and sprinkle with some salt.
That’s all! The frying somehow brings out such an amazing natural umami flavor (which we normally associate with meat, which makes this a great meat substitute). The caramelized cauliflower retains some texture, not just becoming some weird mushy thing, and you can’t beat the rich and surprising flavor.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
Like cauliflower, brussels sprouts get a bad wrap. They’re misunderstood because they too have that weird gassy tendency that, if not handled properly, will make them inedible. Similarly, I grew up on microwaved, frozen brussels sprouts, and I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. Now, as an adult I find them amazing. Again, this method will bring out the umami of the ‘sprouts and make them satisfy that meat-hunger (though they could easily be sautéed with some onion and bacon and I would be totally on board for that).
Trim the stems if they’re discolored or long, then cut the brussels sprouts into quarters (vertically, twice). In a large frying pan, melt 1-2 T. of butter, and 1 T. of oil (not EVOO). Once it is hot, add 1 t. chopped garlic and cook only for about 30 seconds before tossing in the brussels sprouts. Cook for 5-6 minutes, tossing or stirring every minute or so, just until the outsides get a little caramelized and you can sink a fork into the sprouts with relative ease. You don’t want them mushy–you want lots of firm texture, but not the crunch of the raw ones. At this point, add 1 t. of soy sauce, 1 t. of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of pepper and salt (to taste). Done.
And now… the Most Decadent and Delicious Mashed Potatoes EVER.
Whitney once said that children are our future. I hope she got that wrong, because have you seen children? They’re monsters. Whitney was also wrong about the greatest love of all…because that love is actually for mashed potatoes. Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes? Puppy-kickers, Nickelback listeners, and probably Donald Trump.
Mashed potatoes of all kinds are amazing. But these are the most decadent, guilty-pleasure-y (yes, I’m making shit up), and amazing mashed potatoes you’ll ever experience. Here’s what you need:
2 8oz packages of mushrooms, sliced (I just buy the sliced ones to save time)
3.5 lbs of potatoes
1/2 sweet/yellow onion
1 t. chopped garlic
1/2 t. thyme
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 t. butter
First: peel your potatoes and get them on to boil.
Meanwhile: in a large pan or skillet, melt the butter with a small amount of oil–maybe one turn of the pan (this is to keep the butter from burning). Add in the onions and cook just until they get a bit of color, because as Anne Burrell says, “brown food tastes gooood.” Then, add the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. After a minute or two, once the mushrooms start to color slightly, add salt and pepper. The salt will draw out the liquid from the mushrooms and onions, which will give us a great sauce, and stop them from coloring further. Add the wine. Keep sautéing for about fifteen minutes, then stir in the heavy cream and cook for another five minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.
Drain your potatoes once they fall apart easily when poked with a fork. Begin mashing the potatoes, adding a generous amount of salt, and once they are considerably broken up, add the sauce and mash until smooth, being careful to avoid smashing the mushrooms. If the potatoes remain thick, add some milk until you get the consistency of a pommes-puree. That is, you don’t want them to stand up like traditional mashed potatoes, but they also shouldn’t be runny. They should almost be like risotto or oatmeal. Salt to taste, and make sure to be generous–don’t under-season! Salt brings out layers of flavor. Don’t make it too salty, of course, but keep adding a tiny bit at a time until you hit that sweet spot where it sings in your mouth. Salting does take practice.
And there you go. Three amazing sides. Two easy, one a bit more complicated but oh dear lord are they worth it. These make a wonderful vegetarian meal, or could easily go with some nice sautéed fish or seafood, a roast, or a steak!