Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes w/Browned Butter and Fried Sage

As a child growing up in Texas, I was never really fond of my families version of sweet potatoes. Someone would open a can or two of  "yams" and mash them slightly, pile on the brown sugar and marshmallows and bake it until there was little life left.  Now, there really is nothing wrong with this version of a very popular southern side dish. In fact, one southern Food Network star showcases this dish every year and people rave about it. You either LOVE the dish or you don't. Personally, I will pick salty-savory over sweet-savory every time!
Last year, my pastry chef and I were cooking at a ranch in Wyoming and for Thanksgiving we created this dish ( I am sure it was more of Teresa's idea).  I say we created it, because I have looked for it on the Internet and so far, I have not seen this particular application.

Normally, we just arrange a pile of these beauties in a huge bowl and garnish, garnish, garnish. But for the sake of this post, I had to add a bit of color to make the photo visually stand out. Try to use several different shades of sweet potatoes, it is more interesting and your guests can choose their favorites.


This dish is really simple and it utilizes an ingredient many of you will see over and over again in my cooking; Browned Butter or Beurre noisette. When you are warming the butter and the milk solids drop and begin to brown, you will notice this warm, nutty butter smell slowly emerging from your pan. THAT little bit of toasty goodness is all you need to take an average dish over the top, to completely divine.  I use this trick in sauces, pound cakes, shortbread cookies, soups or over plain sweet potatoes, as we will be doing today.  This is what you are looking for:


Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes w/Browned Butter and Fried Sage Leaves

4-5 lbs. Sweet Potatoes/Yams
1/2-3/4 cup unsalted butter
15-20 sage leaves
Sea or Kosher salt
Fresh Ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Scrub sweet potatoes and pierce each twice (2 x) on the TOP (if you have holes facing down the sugar will seep out onto your oven floor).  Place each potato directly onto your oven racks and keep them at least an inch apart. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until a sharp knife inserts easily. Some of your potatoes will cook more quickly then others, so check the smaller ones first and remove them when they are done.

While the potatoes are in the oven, heat a small saucepan on medium low heat and add butter. Butter will melt, the milk solids will rise to the top, and when they begin to drop back down, there will be some splattering, so be careful.  After 5 minutes or so you will notice the milk solids will begin to brown.  At this time, toss in your sage leaves and "fry" for 1-2 minutes. Remove sage leaves from butter and drain on paper towels.  Reserve for garnish.

Keep on eye on your butter, as it browns it should have a "nutty" smell. Once it begins to darken, carefully transfer the butter to another heat resistant dish. This stops the cooking process and keeps the butter from burning.  You are more then welcome to strain the butter to remove the dark bits, but why make more work for yourself.  You can either skim the clear brown liquid from the top or you can just include those little tasty bits in your dish.  

To Serve: Carefully cut roasted potatoes into quarters, arrange on your serving dish and spoon browned butter over all the pieces, liberally salt and pepper, then scatter whole or crushed sage leaves on top.

**Note: dried sage will not work in this dish, nor will thyme leaves.  I find rosemary is a bit too overpowering as well.  Try to use fresh Sage leaves, you will find it in abundance this time of year and it really makes this dish perfect. Once the sage is fried the flavor becomes really delicate, and nice. 


Chef Deb

P.S.  Thank you Aunt Judy , for reminding me of this dish.  I'd like to know which recipe was more popular in Virginia, this one or the Sweet Potato Apple....

In House Cultured Buttermilk

One of my youngest daughter's favorite weekend morning rituals, is to make buttermilk pancakes.  Like many people, when I do not have time to run to the store and purchase buttermilk, I would do what everyone else does and add lemon juice or vinegar to my milk and call it done. 

In truth, the acid in the lemon juice reacts to the baking soda (baking powder reacts to heat) the way buttermilk is suppose to do, BUT the flavor really misses the mark. A nice fresh buttermilk, is really a thing of beauty, and I wonder why we no longer make or use it. 


 I recently learned how easy it is to make at home, and if you use milk from our very own Longmont Dairy, your fresh buttermilk will last at least 2 weeks before you have to think about using it up.

 Just a quick bit of history before you begin.  There are two types of buttermilk: Traditional or Old Fashioned buttermilk, which is the by product left over from butter production.  My grandmother called this "sweet buttermilk". The second type is called fermented or cultured buttermilk, it is a thicker product and it is produced when good bacteria is introduced and fermentation is allowed.

Cultured buttermilk takes about 12-16 hours to make, but it only takes a minute to assemble, and the rest of the time it just sits on your counter. Yes, it's fine sitting out on your counter. No, you won't die a horrible dairy death. No really, YOU won't be the exception. If you want to know the science behind it all, click on: Cultured Buttermilk.

The site above uses a higher ratio of cultured buttermilk to start his recipe, however I have found you do not need the amount he suggests.

Cultured Buttermilk
1 quart skim milk (I use 1% also)**
3 Tbl store bought cultured buttermilk ( this is your starter, you won't have to buy it again)

Place your milk and buttermilk in a jar with a lid. I use mason jars or the glass jar my milk is delivered in. I then put the jar in a pan with warm water (body temp is fine) to speed up the fermentation  process.  Once the milk has warmed up, I place it on the counter and wait about 12 hours before I check it.  The finished product should coat the class when it is tilted.  You will find the taste mild with a very slight tang.  Once it is thick, store it in the refrigerator.

 Fresh buttermilk can be used in smoothies in place of yogurt or in your favorite buttermilk pancake recipe.  I also use it in mashed sweet and regular potatoes, soups, breads, muffins, cake mixes, etc., etc..

**Every few weeks, remove a few tablespoons of your "old" buttermilk and add it to fresh skim milk, leave it on the counter and you have new cultured buttermilk.  
**If you use heavy whipping cream with the same recipe, you will have a really good version of Creme Fraiche!


Chef Deb

P.S. You still have time to buy storage fruits and vegetables from some of your favorite farms. Help these farmers have a good winter, and support your local producers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hanging Tomatoes and House Made Ketchup Diablo

It was a desperate call......I am new at gardening you see, and every call, is a desperate call..

Phone rings at my friend's farm..


"Teresa! What do I do?  It's raining AND it's going to freeze tonight and I still have tons of tomatoes...Help!"

"Well, you can pull up the plants and hang them in your garage....."


It took a bit more convincing, but I am proud to say I listened.  I won't retell the story of cold rain, no light and my struggle to play tug-of-war with a 30 pound tomato filled plant, whose roots, I can assure you were the size of a tree trunk. Nor will I recount the number of times I pulled so hard, I fell flat on my rear only to find that same darn plant still firmly stationed and obviously mocking me. I will say this, when you are triumphantly hanging said evil tomato plant up in the garage, be certain, CERTAIN to knock off all the dirt from its grotesquely large root ball.  I cannot prove this, but it did not loose a speck of soil until I was hanging it over my head, and I think it did it on purpose....  

I still have tomato plants hanging in my garage, and we are eating ripe tomatoes in November! 

 House Made Ketchup:  This recipe can be made with fresh tomatoes or with canned and unlike other Ketchup recipes, I don't want you to strain it, unless you feel like doing more dishes.

I have chosen to make today's recipe on the spicy side.  It has a kick and goes well with sweet potato fries, or as an ingredient in a nice home style meat loaf.

Just for fun I am calling this:

Ketchup Diablo

3-4 lbs. Tomatoes, peeled, and chopped or 2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoon olive oil
7-8 chipolte peppers, roughly chopped
2 Tbl ground coriander
1 Tbl smoked paprika, hot or sweet
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbl kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar or agave nectar 

In a large pot with a lid (or use a screened splatter guard), saute onions and garlic in olive oil, about 5 minutes over medium heat, the onions need to soften just a bit.

In a blender:  add onion/garlic mixture, tomatoes, chipolte peppers, coriander, paprika, cloves, salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar, and puree until smooth (3-4 minutes on high).  You may have to do it in batches.

Return the puree to your large pot, lower heat, cover pan and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  At this point check thickness.  If more evaporation is needed, off set the pot's lid to allow steam to escape and check ketchup every 15 minutes until the desire thickness is achieved. 

 I like my ketchup to really coat my fries, so I may let my ketchup reduce up to an hour or more.  Once you reach the desire consistency, taste your ketchup and adjust the seasonings to fit your taste. Does is need more salt? Do you prefer sweeter ketchup? Add more brown sugar or agave nectar.  Need more heat? Add the smokey adobo sauce from the chipolte can.
Ketchup can be processed and ladled into cleaned and sterilized mason jars. Once properly processed Ketchup Diablo should keep indefinitely

Chef Deb

**This week I will focus on:
    ~Thanksgiving recipes
    ~Setting up Cheese Class before the holidays begin
    ~Sending out an updated weekly newsletter with better formatting and more information then past emails.