Smitten Saturdays: Baked Potato Crisps with the Works


Well, hello! I meant to get this up last weekend, but it feels more appropriate to post it this week instead, given that I’d planned these as a good Super Bowl appetizer.

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Funny story about these potato crisps (which are delicious, by the way): I made them on Sunday night with the intention of having just a sample before moving on to a more virtuous meal of salmon and steamed broccoli. The best laid plans…

First off, this recipe makes a metric ton of baked potato crisps, and I didn’t even meet the stated yield of 42 pieces (more on that in a minute). My husband was a little overwhelmed when he saw the cookie sheets populated with these babies. And then we started eating them.

And eating them. And eating them. And eating them. Soon, the salmon was being packaged up into portable containers for Monday lunch (more on THAT in a minute!) because we each ate nearly a potato’s worth of crisps in under 20 minutes. (It didn’t help that we were starving. Also, bacon.) Even after our starch-dairy-bacon binge, there were still easily a dozen crisps left, which I also packaged up and put away for later.

Fast forward to noonish on Monday. I’m in my cubicle at the Adjunct Gig (soon to be former!) and I’m ready to eat lunch. I’m preparing myself for the salmon and broccoli I hadn’t eaten the night before, feeling right smug about my choices. Then I open up the tub — it’s the leftover potato crisps! DERP. I picked the bacon off the top of a few of them, but I just can’t bring myself to eat cold potatoes. (I ended up using my faculty discount in the dining hall and indulging in their addictive grilled cheese sandwich + a mountain of veggies from the salad bar.)

And it’s the coldness factor that informs my decision to NOT take these to the Super Bowl party we’re attending tomorrow night. These are absolutely gorge-worthy when they’re hot. But cold? Feh. It’s not the recipe’s fault, it’s the fault of the potato for being disgusting when cold. And you can’t really nuke these unless you want to melt the sour cream. Rest assured that if I were hosting a Super Bowl party, I’d be cranking these out without a second thought. And you should, too, if you’re hosting and are looking for last-minute, ridiculously easy and tasty ideas.

One note: some of your smaller crisps may not like the 25-30 minute baking time:

potatocrispsburnt

Baked Potato Crisps with the Works
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

3 T butter
3 russet potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices (the cookbook says “should yield about 14 slices”; if I had been editor of this cookbook, I would have suggested a clarifying “per potato” to the end of that phrase)
salt
ground black pepper (the cookbook says freshly ground, but whatevs. You do you.)
1/2 cup grated cheddar (I used bagged Mexican blend because that’s what I had on hand)
1 cup sour cream
4-5 slices crispy bacon, chopped
3 T minced fresh chives

Preheat oven to 425. Line two baking sheets with foil (no muss, no fuss!) and butter each sheet. (I used Pam. Again, you do you.) Arrange the potato slices on the sheets and brush with 2 T melted butter. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Roast for 25-30 minutes (keeping an eye on them; see the above image) until the bottom side is golden brown. Flip them over and roast for 10 more minutes.

Sprinkle each slice with a pinch of cheese and bake for 5 more minutes. Top each slice with sour cream, bacon, and chives. Serve and marvel at how quickly they are devoured.

Smitten Saturdays: Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout


This will be a very quick post because I am in the thick of finalizing (read: writing practically from scratch) four course syllabi for the spring semester, which starts on Monday.

(Side note: I am terrified by how much preparation a couple of these courses I’m teaching will require. I will definitely not be getting paid enough for my services this semester.)

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This week’s recipe is the Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout (p. 137). I didn’t make the spaghetti squash and black bean tacos as anticipated because I just couldn’t do that to my family. But I loved this recipe (beans in a slow cooker? What’s not to love?). The spices were perfectly balanced and the beans tender and not at all mushy. Maybe an entire large onion was unnecessary; I’d probably go with a smaller one next time.

I served these beans with taco fixings, even though my husband and I were the only ones who ate them (when the Big Kid complained about the beans having onions, my husband said, “well, I don’t even like beans,” which was news to me). This means that I’ve got several servings of black bean ragout for my lunches this upcoming week (I’ll freeze them and space them out over the next few weeks for everyone’s sake), and that’s totally okay. I’ve got a heap of corn tortillas (and a neglected spaghetti squash) and a busy schedule ripe for a grab-and-go lunch. Some lettuce, a little dab of guac and sour cream, plus some sliced olives and jalapenos added to the beans make for a healthed-up (read: no fried, edible bowl) taco salad. Or you can just heat up the beans and eat them with a hunk of multigrain bread for a wholesome peasant’s meal. Black bean ragout: Versatile!

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Next time: Baked Potato Crisps with the Works (p. 296), which will a dry run for a potential contribution to Sally and Chad’s annual Super Bowl commercial-watching potluck!

Smitten Saturdays: Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake


I have always loved grapefruit, although I’ve never cooked with it. For me, grapefruit is relegated to breakfast, halved and sectioned and sprinkled with a scant half-teaspoon of sugar. This is a practice cultivated in me by my paternal grandmother, Margaret, who would serve me grapefruit in this way during my visits to her home in Florida. In many ways, most of my memories of Meme are mediated through food: grapefruit, her delicious Christmastime almond tarts, egg salad with real mayo (which I did not care for as a child, but have since seen the error of my ways). Running through these food memories also unlocks scenes of hours of swimming in the pool in her subdivision, marveling at the magnificent (and kind of terrifying) thunderstorms that would rattle her carport, and developing my own sardonic sense of humor at her knee.

grapefruit

Even though I mostly visited Meme (and ate grapefruit for breakfast) in the summer, as I’ve grown into adulthood and seasonal eating, I associate grapefruit with wintertime. A Ruby Red goes nicely halved and served with a warm bowl of oatmeal, or cut into supremes and tossed with spinach, balsamic vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds, and pecans for a nutritious salad. But when we realized we were going to be homebound for the holidays, our travel plans to Arizona kiboshed by flu, we formulated a Plan B: the BK and I would spend Christmas Eve down the road at my folks’ place, while the ill LK would stay at home with my husband. I decided to make this pound cake to take with me to Christmas Eve dinner at my dad’s house as a gesture to Meme and how important spending time together — parents, grandparents, and children — is during the holiday season.

This cake (p. 241) was incredibly easy to make and is, to my mind, the most gorgeous of any of the Smitten Kitchen recipes I’ve made, ever.

grapefruit olive oil cake

You’ll notice that I let some pulp sneak into the glaze; I thought it added a kind of visceral authenticity to the cake, but such a choice might not be for everyone. I liked how the juice from the Ruby Red grapefruit gave the glaze a pinkish tinge, and the syrup gave the crumb a nice sweet-tart kick (I suppose if you wanted to go crazy, you could add a little rum to the syrup and turn this into a grapefruit olive oil rum cake). The cake itself isn’t terribly sweet, but the glaze should help satisfy even the most aggressive sweet tooth.

Next time: Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout (p. 137) with a bonus that will surely have my children howling for my head on a platter, Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos with queso fresco (p. 143).

Smitten Saturdays: Rosemary Gruyere Sea Salt crisps


You guys, these crackers are RIDIC. And by “ridic,” I mean, “STOP ME BEFORE I CRAM ANOTHER 50 OF THESE IN MY MOUTH ALREADY!”

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One of the things I really love about this cookbook are the little easter eggs of wit scattered throughout. In this recipe, a note in the sidebar says “Dough can be made a day in advance. It will keep longer in the freezer. Baked crisps keep for up to 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container, and up to a month in the freezer. They will not last 5 minutes at a party.” This is some serious truth. I popped two of these puppies in my mouth without thinking before they’d even had time to cool on the baking sheet. The crackers are light and airy and super-flavorful and waaaay too easy to eat like popcorn.

This is, hands down, my favorite recipe from the cookbook so far. I chose them for this week’s entry because I thought they’d be perfect to serve at a party  or take to a potluck, but it also occurred to me while making them that they would also make a nice foodie gift. This recipe is super-simple (unless you do what I do and use a tiny star-shaped cookie cutter instead of just slicing up the dough; tiny cookie cutters, in my experience, generally add an unnecessary layer of complication to any foodstuff), and in the right packaging, these crackers would serve as a very sophisticated alternative to traditional Christmas cheese straws. (I have grand plans to convert some frozen berries into gift jams, make gift loaves of cranberry tea bread, and already have several dozen cookies stashed in the freezer to pop into tins next week and give as teacher gifts, so why not add these to the list?)

One tiny note on the recipe: the instructions say to combine all the ingredients in a food processor and “pulse until the mixture resembles coarse, craggy crumbs.” Perelman does not specify which blade to use in the food processor; I used my dough blade because I’ve found that the big, supersharp standard one turns any sort of dough into sawdust. Also, I pulsed past the “coarse, craggy crumbs” stage because I thought it looked too dry and pushed on through to the Dippin’ Dots stage because it seemed like the mixture would hold together much better when it came time to roll it out.

I only baked off about a third of the dough this morning because we had a long to-do list, and I am very glad that I still have enough dough left for about another 60 crackers, which would make one generous holiday gift and one generous snack!

Smitten Saturdays: Wild Mushroom Tart


This week’s Smitten Saturday recipe is the Wild Mushroom Tart, chosen because I’ve only ever made one tart before and why not try a savory one this time? I knew that, at the very least, my husband and I would eat it, even though it’s pretty much guaranteed that the children will cry if I attempt to feed it to them.

I worry about crust. So much so that I was well into my 30s before I attempted to make a pie crust from scratch. I don’t know why I’m so intimidated by it, even when by now I have made some very delicious crusts (my favorite is Martha Stewart’s pate brisee). So, naturally, I worried about this crust. I worried that it wasn’t coming together right in the food processor. I worried about whether it was going to roll out successfully (rolling is my bete noir of crustmaking).

Not bad.

Not bad.

And when I followed the instructions about transferring the crust (with a sheet of plastic wrap underneath; I highly recommend the use of a bench scraper to aid in this maneuver), I kind of stopped breathing because this is one fragile crust, y’all. It WANTS to fall apart on you. And once you wriggle the plastic wrap out from underneath the crust after you’ve centered it in the tart pan (I really couldn’t see a way to follow the placement instructions as written without sprouting a third arm), a technique mastered by shy girls everywhere who remove their bathing suits in the locker room while fully clothed, you are good to go. The rest is gravy. Unless, of course, you get so busy with PTA stuff while you are parbaking the crust that you forget about it and quite possibly overcook it in the process.

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My version of the tart isn’t as pretty as the one in the book, but it is quite tasty. I realized as I was eating a small wedge of it (beats the Honey Nut Cheerios I had for breakfast!) that I forgot to add the salt and pepper, but it absolutely is not missing the salt. Mushroom is the dominant flavor here (obv), rounded out nicely by the thyme and shallots. I would prefer a bit more garlic, and next time I won’t forget the pepper. I can’t wait to hear what my husband thinks of it! This would make for a really lovely vegetarian dinner with some roasted beets or some lovely balsamic braised green beans on the side. Or even a simple green salad.

Be sure to check out my writeup of Deb Perelman’s appearance at BookPeople last night! It was kind of an ideal night for me: I listened to Perelman answer questions (she is quite funny and dry), sit in a comfy chair reading a compelling book, then got to meet Perelman and talk to her about picky eaters (i.e., our small children).

Smitten Saturdays: Wild Mushroom Tart (Leave your link!)


Are y’all ready for some umami + creamy goodness? If you’re cooking and blogging along, please be sure to leave your link here! I’ll be posting about the Wild Mushroom Tart (p. 95) tomorrow. (And seeing The Smitten herself at BookPeople tonight!)

Smitten Saturdays: Big Breakfast Latkes


Photo by the amazing, talented, and very youthful Christian Remde.

I’ve never made a latke before today. I was raised Southern Baptist, a religious tradition that looks askance at anything less New Testament than Bisquick. But when the Smitten Kitchen cookbook came out a few weeks ago, Ms. Perelman did an interview on NPR that my husband happened to hear during drive time. That night, he came home, saw me perusing the cookbook, and said, “That Smitten lady was on the radio today. She was making latkes with an egg on top.” And then he kind of smacked his lips in a “wow, I sure wish someone who loved me would make some of those” sort of way, and who am I to deny my man a homemade potato pancake?

And, I will admit that these latkes are a bit of emotional blackmail, as I am leaving him alone tonight with the Big and Little Kids while some girlfriends and I go see BREAKING DAWN PART 2: THE BREAKENING. I figure, ply him with a hearty breakfast he can really get excited about and I can go indulge my guilty pleasure without feeling additional guilt for abandoning my family.

Fortunately for me, these latkes are quite tasty, although I’m not sure why in the cookbook Perelman makes the yield four latkes when on the blog the same recipe yields 12. Because I had invited our friends the Remdes and Laura over to help us eat them (because the kids wouldn’t touch them, no way no how), I doubled the recipe and got 7 latkes out of it. Next time I make these, I will go smaller because I prefer a crispier pancake and these large ones could have been crispier. I also have to call foul on the instruction to cook the latkes over “moderate heat.” I interpret “moderate heat” as “medium,” but the latkes I cooked at that temp were less crispy and starchier than I would have preferred. But when I replenished the oil and cranked up the heat a notch, they crisped up beautifully.

I served the latkes with fried eggs (that Christian cooked because I am not confident with fried eggs; I can poach and boil and scramble eggs, but fried eggs are not in my wheelhouse), some freshly cut pineapple, and some bacon-and-cheddar biscuits I’d made on Friday night. Literally not kosher, but no one seemed to mind.

“You make good latkes for a goy,” said Laura. Not perfect, but I’ll keep trying. Shalom, y’all.

Smitten Saturdays: Big Breakfast Latkes! Leave your link.


Tomorrow is the second installment of Smitten Saturdays; we’ll be making Big Breakfast Latkes (p. 31)! I am rather excited to be making latkes for the first time and have invited a few friends over to share in the carby joy, so I’d better not mess it up. If you’re playing along, leave your link in the comments section of this post and I’ll do a roundup of posts on Sunday/Monday!

(Check the calendar here for upcoming Smitten Saturdays posts!)

Smitten Saturdays calendar!


I’ve planned out the Smitten Saturday’s schedule through the end of February. Please let me know if there’s something from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook you’d like to see on there!

Smitten Saturdays: Mom’s Apple Cake


I get so frustrated when my students don’t follow instructions. They get failing grades on their essays and assignments because they didn’t read the assignment description all the way through, or were confused and didn’t ask for help or clarification. I know it’s part of learning how to be a grownup, falling on your face and learning from your mistakes, but I want them to succeed just as much as they do, so it bums me out when that first, most important step is overlooked.

And really, so much in life depends on following instructions. Assembling an IKEA dresser. Inserting a central line in the ER. Filing a brief in federal court. Preventing pregnancy.

Read the directions. That information is on the syllabus. The key to success often starts with following instructions.

So it really chaps my royal hiney when I don’t follow (or in this case, misread and misinterpret) instructions, as I did for this first installment of Smitten Saturdays. I ran headlong into making Mom’s Apple Cake (p. 239 in the cookbook) without contemplating the difference between a tube pan and a bundt pan. (You know where this is going, right?)

You see, when you use a tube pan as the recipe indicates, the cook time as written will probably work for you. And when it comes time to remove the cake from the pan, you get something gorgeous. When you use a bundt pan, the cook time is a lot longer, your cake cooks unevenly, and it looks like this after you try to wrestle it from the pan:

Beautiful, no? No. But it’s tasty and my house smelled incroyable while it was baking, like crunching leaves and crisp fall wind and apple cider (never mind that it was nearly 90 degrees here yesterday). I’ve already had a generous hunk of it for breakfast, and every time my husband walks past the wreckage of the cake, he pinches off a bite and makes yummy noises.

How did your first Smitten Saturday go?

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