tuscan sweet potato fries

tuscan sweet potato fries

I blame Nigella for this recipe, and many apologies to all of you who make these sweet potato fries – they are worse than a bag full of peanut M & M’s – no way is it possible to eat just one. If you’re ready, then go all in. Fair warning. But just so you know where I stand on this topic – GO ALL IN.

Last week I was teased into indulging in olive oil, cream and buttery Italian liqueur thanks to Nigella’s new book, and now I couldn’t help myself from trying her method for making Tuscan Fries.

She credits Cesare Casella, a chef originally from Lucca, for inventing Tuscan Fries; potatoes deep-fried with aromatic herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) and whole garlic cloves. Sounds delicious, no? But what really got me interested in the recipe was the method Nigella adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, a “revolutionary” fuss-free way to deep-fry, which involves starting with the potatoes in cold oil, heating to a rapid boil and frying to perfection in about 25 minutes.

tuscan sweet potato fries

I don’t like messing with deep-frying usually, but I became very curious and decided to give it a go. I didn’t have any of the waxy potatoes called for in Nigella’s recipe, so I forged ahead with a few sweet potatoes instead.

I also decided not to use corn oil. For both health and flavor reasons, I don’t cook with ultra-processed vegetable oils. It’s olive oil or nothing for the most part (well, except for really good butter and the occasional fling with duck fat, which also makes killer fries).

However, I saved the extra-virgin oil for another day and used a “light” olive oil, which I’m afraid after reading the excellent book Extra Virginity is just as scandalously corrupted and impure as a tanker full of cheap soybean oil. But what the hell. At some point you have to just move on and start frying.

tuscan sweet potato fries

Which I did, and I’m pleased to report that the recipe worked like a charm. The sweet potatoes emerged dark and crisp and were perfectly tender on the inside. The crunchy bits of fried herbs shatter into tiny shards that coat the potatoes, giving every mouthful a taste of them. The garlic slips out of the skin, golden and soft; just right for squeezing out onto the sweet potatoes for even more flavor.

I had some smoked salt and sprinkled some of it over everything, which kind of took it over the top into sweet potato fantastic-ness.

One more great thing – save the oil; it’s aromatic with herbs and garlic. I measured the oil after cooking as Nigella says she did in the recipe introduction, and recovered almost exactly all of it. So cold-start deep frying might not be such an indulgence after all.

tuscan sweet potato fries

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

A deep fry thermometer is highly recommended here.

Ingredients

  1. 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 ¾ pounds)
  2. 1 ½ quarts “light” olive oil
  3. 1 head of garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
  4. Handful each rosemary, sage and thyme sprigs
  5. Smoked sea salt, kosher or sea salt

Instructions

  1. Trim off the ends of the sweet potatoes (no need to peel them), stand them on end and slice down vertically into ½-wide planks, then into ½-inch wide fries. If the potatoes are longer than 4 inches, cut the slices in half.
  2. Put the sweet potatoes in a wide, heavy pot (I used a 4-quart casserole pot 10 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep); cover with the oil, place over high heat and bring to a boil. It should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Once the oil is bubbling vigorously, set a timer for 15 minutes. Use a deep-fry thermometer to adjust the heat if needed, keeping the oil somewhere between 275 and 300 degrees.
  4. After 15 minutes, carefully move the sweet potatoes around with a pair of long tongs to mix them around a little. Add the garlic cloves and continue frying for another 5 or 10 minutes, keeping your eye peeled that neither the potatoes or garlic gets too dark.
  5. Test a fry – carefully- for doneness. If they are golden and crisp and tender on the inside, toss in the herbs (stand back while you do this in case of splatters) and fry for another minute or so.
  6. Use a slotted skimmer to transfer everything to a towel-lined baking sheet. Blot briefly and sprinkle with salt; serve right away.

Notes

Recipe inspired by Tuscan Fries in Nigellissima

http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/tuscan-sweet-potato-fries/

Trout Roasted in Salt

img_37731

I recently read Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe, and it kind of rocked my seafood-lovin’ world. Grescoe writes in an entertaining, slightly curmudgeonly style, and what he presents very convincingly is that the end of the world is coming – our oceanic world stocked with a diverse abundance of fish and seafood, that is.

He reports that because over the past fifty years or so the premium, top of the chain predator fish like tuna, cod and swordfish have been fished out of existence, the world’s oceans will have nothing left to offer us but bottomfeeders and plenty of algae. That could means lots of jellyfish on the menu by the year 2025. Jellyfish fingers anyone?

How depressing! Just think that if more sustainable fishing practices are not put in place soon, our children’s children will never know the pleasure of eating fresh, wild seafood.

Mark Bittman wrote about the sad state of seafood in the New York Times the other day, too. Besides the fact that some people are of the opinion that Bittman might be verging on going vegan, I think it shows that the situation has reached a tipping point, and attention must be paid.

If you head over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website, you can print out a cute and handy pocket guide to help in the search for sustainable seafood. And now there’s a new guide for sushi, too!

Farm raised trout is one of the best, sustainable choices out there. Roasting the whole fish in a bed of salt couldn’t be easier, and because the salt helps the fish retain moisture as it cooks, the flesh remains tender and juicy. And no, it’s doesn’t taste at all salty.

Trout Roasted in Salt, Italian Fisherman Style

4 servings

4 whole trout, about 1 pound each
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 lemon, thinly sliced
4 sprigs each fresh basil, thyme or rosemary or a combination
Fresh ground black pepper
2 (3-pound) boxes kosher salt

•    Arrange rack in center of oven and heat to 400 degrees.
•    Pour the contents of one box of salt in a roasting pan large enough to hold the fish side by side. Pour the other box of salt into an ovenproof pan or baking dish. Put both pans in the oven to heat for 20 minutes.
•    In a small bowl, stir together the garlic and olive oil. Open trout like a book and drizzle the oil over the flesh, using your fingers to distribute it evenly. Arrange 2 lemon slices on one half of each trout and sprinkle with pepper; scatter with the herb sprigs and close.
•    Nestle the trout into the hot salt in the roasting pan and pour the remaining pan of salt over to cover, patting it down gently.
•    Roast 20 minutes; remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before scooping off the top layer of salt. Carefully lift the fish out of the pan with a spatula and transfer to a serving platter.
•    To serve, present each trout whole, or use a spatula to gently lift each fillet away from the skin, discarding the backbone.

Capellini Pasta with Goat Cheese and Thyme

California-Style Pasta with Thyme and Goat Cheese

Way back in the ‘80’s my favorite meal was a roast beef sandwich on a toasted “bulky” roll, which in parts of the world other than Rhode Island would be known as a Kaiser, smothered with mushrooms, piled high with salty meat and so juicy the bulky would be saturated and falling to pieces after just two bites. I’d get them at Chelo’s, a chain of local restaurants.

I’m dating myself here, but that was a quarter of a century ago. I was in high school, my hair was big, and if you’d offered me a pizza with goat cheese on it I know I would’ve looked at you funny.

At the same time, Wolfgang Puck was in Hollywood creating California cuisine – pulling pizzas out of wood-burning ovens and serving salads as entrees at his legendary restaurant Spago.

Look how we’ve grown up! I now love goat cheese, Wolfgang Puck has become as much a brand name as Chef Boyardee, and you can walk into your local mini-mart, grab a frozen Wolfgang Puck pizza, microwave it and eat it in the car (I’m not saying that’s a good thing).

The August issue of Food & Wine has a feature story about Puck, which got me interested in this recipe. Apparently, this was the first pasta dish on the menu at Spago and put goat cheese on America’s culinary map.

I haven’t had a roast beef sandwich in years, but I did have a look at the 2007 Chelo’s menu – the sandwich is still there – along with Asian grilled salmon on California mesclun greens.

Capellini with Goat Cheese, Thyme and Toasted Pine Nuts

Inspired by Wolfgang Puck

12 ounces dried capellini pasta
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Cook the capellini in a large pot of boiling salted water.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the thyme and simmer until reduced by half. Lower heat, stir in the butter and goat cheese until melted and smooth.

Drain the capellini and add to the skillet, tossing to coat with sauce.

Twirl the capellini into portions with a large serving fork or tongs and place on individual plates. Sprinkle with pine nuts and garnish with thyme, if you like.

Serves 4-6.

Save This Page on Del.icio.us

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food