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Spicy Beef Roast & Potato Cakes

A few nights ago, the pelirojo took charge of supper by making his famous blue cheese steaks and mashed potatoes.  The meal was delicious (as usual) and left us with a big tupperware full of leftover mashed potatoes.  Do you know what we do with leftover mashed potatoes in this house?  We make potato cakes!

Knowing what to do with the potatoes was the easy part.  Now came the hard part: finding a new recipe that would produce some sauce or broth to spoon over the cakes.

Enter one of my new cookbooks: 1,001 Best Low-Fat Recipes by Sue Spitler.  I found a delicious recipe for a beef roast that had a really interesting combination of ingredients for the rub.  The apricot preserves combined with the mustard and horseradish made my mouth salivate enough to add the ingredients to the grocery list.  After a quick trip to the store, I had everything I needed to start.

The recipe originally asks you to roast the roast (hehe) in the oven, but I liked the thought of throwing it in the crock pot and forgetting about it until supper time.  After measuring out the first five ingredients into a bowl, I got to bust out my mortar and pestle to crush the caraway seeds and the peppercorns.  I added the crushed spices and the allspice into the bowl, stirred everything well, and then smeared it onto the roast.  The roast went into the crock pot with a bit of beef broth (to assist with the juiciness) for four hours.

During the last hour of the beef’s cooking time, I started working on shaping the mashed potatoes into little cakes.  Once I achieved the desired shape, I dropped each cake into a mixture of corn meal, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.  During this step of the process, the mashed potatoes start warming up in your hands from being handled.  For this reason, after I shaped the cakes and covered them in the meal mix, I put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes.  This helps the cakes to keep their form during the frying process.  While they were chilling in the freezer, I started warming up the olive oil in a frying pan.  I used the wooden spoon trick to see if the oil was ready and then dropped the cakes in one by one.

The hardest part of frying the cakes is trying to flip them over without them falling apart.  I can never get them to look particularly pretty, but this batch turned out just how I wanted them.  The outside of the cakes was a crispy golden color and the texture was perfect to accompany the roast.  The beef turned out juicy and tender, and the broth that was left behind was great for spooning over the cakes.

It’s hard to go wrong with this kind of combination.  Meat and potatoes always go well together, no?  The kick of the beef’s seasoning was unique, bold, and incredibly flavorful.  It’s definitely a ‘keeper’ recipe!



Feature Friday: Mamá’s Spanish Tortilla

The making of a tortilla was always a big deal in our home.  Usually, because it meant that we were having company over, but mostly it was because it was our favorite dish that mama would make.  This statement isn’t to be taken lightly because she is a phenomenal cook, but there was something about her tortilla that excited us.

The tortilla is thought to be a simple dish.  It is one of those recipes that is easy to make, but laborious to perfect.  At any step of the process the final outcome can be altered.  On top of being difficult to perfect, it is a messy process that requires frying and multiple dishes which means more work after you’ve made the tortilla!  So I now understand why it was only made as a special occasion treat in our home.

For mama’s reyes feast last week, she walked me through the process from beginning to end.  I was able to photo document each step as well as her tips and tricks for attaining the perfect tortilla española.

To start, you will need four small yellow potatoes.  She warns against using white potatoes because of the starchy taste it will give the tortilla.  In other words, look for yukon instead of russet potatoes when gathering the ingredients for this dish.  You will also need one large yellow onion for the first part of the process.  Peel both the onion and the potatoes and then thinly slice and sliver them into a bowl.

For the next step you will need to use a deep skillet (she prefers an iron skillet).  Mama also recommends using crisco oil or some similar type of vegetable oil for the frying of the onions and potatoes.  Olive oil (not extra virgin!) is obviously a tastier alternative, but it is a bit expensive to use for frying just to have to discard it after this step is complete.

She poured the oil into the skillet and set the heat to medium high to allow the oil to warm up.  At this point she turned to me and asked, “do you know how to tell the oil is ready?”  She then placed a wooden spoon into the oil and said, “when little bubbles begin to form around the spoon, you’ll know the oil is hot enough.”

(Side note:  have I mentioned how much fun this blogging thing has been?  I’ve been able to learn neat little tricks such as these!  I love it, I love it, I love it 🙂 )

Mama then carefully added the potatoes and onions into the oil.  She stirred them around until the onions were clear and the potatoes were becoming tender.

At this point, you want to add in the garlic.  The rationale behind adding it at this stage is that you don’t want the garlic to become bitter by leaving it in the oil for too long.

As you can see in the picture, mama added the garlic by slicing it directly into the oil.  You don’t want to mince it because you will lose the bold bits of it in the tortilla.  Once you have added it to the mix, stir for one more minute.

While the potatoes, onions, and garlic are finishing cooking, get out a large bowl and your eggs.

Beat the eggs in the bowl.  (I just wanted to add this cool action shot of the eggs being beaten).

With a slotted spoon, remove the mixture from the oil slowly.  Allow the mixture to drain a bit of the oil off before adding it into the bowl with the eggs.

During this step, you want to make sure the heat is off to avoid overcooking of the potatoes, onions, and garlic.  This will also allow you to strain as much of the oil as possible before adding it to the eggs.

As you can see, mama used both a slotted spoon and a frying spoon.  She lifted the mixture with the slotted spoon and placed it in the frying spoon to allow the oil to drip out.

Once you have added all of the potato mix to the eggs, sprinkle a bit of salt into the bowl.  Mama eye balled about an 1/8 tsp of salt into the bowl before giving it a gentle mix.

Next, a non-stick skillet was placed on the stove over medium heat.  She sprayed it with a bit of olive oil to ensure the tortilla would slide easily in the next step.

The contents of the bowl (eggs, potatoes, onions, and garlic) were all added to the skillet.  Once the tortilla began to cook, she took a small spatula and worked the sides, lifting them up gently.  She shook the skillet back and forth to keep the tortilla from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  She checked the bottom by lifting it just a bit to see if the bottom was cooked.  Once it reached the color she wanted, she got out a plate.  Avoid using a plate that has a marked edge for this step.  She pulled the skillet off of the stove and went over to the sink with the skillet and plate in hand.  She looked at me and said, “are you ready?  We only have one shot at this!”  I quickly switched my camera over to the filming feature and captured what is the most difficult part of making a spanish tortilla… THE FLIP!

Notice how the uncooked side of the tortilla was slid back into the skillet?  This is difficult to do without spilling or breaking the tortilla.  Once it is back in the skillet, place it back on the stove and cook the other side.  Also, notice how in the video she runs the spatula around the edges of the tortilla?  This gives it the beautiful shape in the end.  She continued to shake the skillet back and forth to keep the tortilla from sticking to the bottom until she suspected it was done.  I say suspected, because you can’t check.  You can’t lift the edge without risking breaking the tortilla.  Here, again, is why this is an art.  You don’t want to serve an undercooked tortilla but then again, a dry and overcooked tortilla isn’t good.  You want it to cook just long enough for the bottom to be golden and the insides to be juicy.

Once the tortilla is done, slide it off of the skillet onto a plate that has two paper towels.  After a few minutes, flip the tortilla to allow the other side to sit on paper towels as well.  This will absorb any excess oil and give the tortilla a beautiful look (seriously… doesn’t that finished tortilla look awesome?).  You have the option of serving this hot or cold.  For the Epiphany feast mama put together, she served it at room temperature and cut up so that we could each pick at the dish.

This makes me hungry just looking at the picture!  And to top it all off, I have now watched my mama make a tortilla española from beginning to end.  I am armed and have been taught the tricks of the trade!  The pelirojo has been poking at me asking when I’ll attempt my own.  Very soon amor… very soon 🙂

“Southern” Green Beans

I know this may have been common knowledge to everybody but me – but did you know that you can look at Harris Teeter’s website and see the specials?!  It’s amazing!  I saw that green beans were on sale this week so I planned ahead and made the menu accordingly.  I found this awesome green beans recipe and decided I would make enough to last a few days.  The only modification I made was that I used turkey bacon instead of the real stuff, and it came out delicious!

I originally thought that I needed to dice up to potatoes to really small little cubes so that they wouldn’t end up undercooked, but that didn’t happen at all.  In fact, the potatoes cooked more quickly than the green beans did.  Is that normal?  By the time the green beans were finally ready, the potatoes were just beginning to get mushy… I’ll have to fix that next time.  Other than that, the recipe was super easy, delicious, and a total keeper!  Yay for yummy side dishes!

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