Fool proof great tasting potato salad

While not a ‘true’ heritage recipe because I switched the mayonnaise with Miracle Whip, I don’t think my grandma would complain.

A few summers back I packed up the car to attend a family reunion on my in-laws side of the family. Being late September, the 18 hour leisurely drive up to Cincinnati Ohio was beautiful. From a marina on the Ohio River near downtown, we all boarded my brother in-laws 80 foot Pluckebaum house boat and motored westward down the river out of Ohio. The reunion was actually being held in Indiana on the Ohio River shoreline near the quaint town of Rising Sun. Across the river is gorgeous Kentucky farmland. What a setting for a 100+ person cookout. The beer flowed as freely as the conversation and snacks ranging from deer jerky to homemade chocolates were plentiful. We had arrived at the property around two in the afternoon and the cookout was set for six that evening.

Everyone had been asked to bring a covered dish. Now, I know of few dishes that will survive a 4 hour boat ride on top of an 18 hour road trip so using our trail cooking / boat skills, we made up our dish on the houseboat.

Now the houseboat has a full sized kitchen in it. I have a hard time calling the kitchen a ‘galley’ as most boats have because a floating house does not in anyway shape or form, resemble a boat. The vessel is not only eighty feet long but eighteen feet wide! That’s longer and much wider than most house trailers. Having stopped at a Kroger’s in Cincinnati, I picked up all the necessary items for the covered dish.

Earlier, I mentioned my boating skills. When I had a restaurant in the Florida Keys, I lived there on my boat. I set up the galley so that even when rough weather was up, I could still cook with ease. Cooking in the houseboat was so calm it was like cooking in my house!

Pulling out a large stainless steel stock pot I began boiling my water. Figuring ten pounds* of Red Potatoes should do about right, I whipped out my Kitchen Aide potato peeler and went to work. *(The recipe below is much smaller but will still feed from 6-8 people.)

After I completed my recipe, I kept the finished product right in the stock pot. To chill it down, I slid the pot inside a beverage refrigerator after removing all its shelves.

By six o’clock, my covered dish was perfectly chilled and waiting to be devoured.

Recipe;

1)      Wash your potatoes and place them in a pot of cold water. Cover the potatoes with at least 1 inch of water. Do not peel at this time. (peeling the potatoes prior to boiling will over saturate them with water and make them too soft.)

2)      Place 4 eggs in a pot of cold water and while uncovered, bring them to a boil.  As soon as the water begins to boil, remove the pot from the burner, cover and let stand for 17 minutes. Then pour out water and replace with ice cold water. Let stand for 1 hour. These will now peel quite easily.

3)      When potatoes are thoroughly boiled, test by piercing them. They should offer little resistance to your fork or bamboo stick.

4)      Place pot of potatoes under faucet and run cold water for 1 minute, leave it partially filled then pour in ice and set aside for 1 hour. After 1 hour your eggs and potatoes should be well chilled.

5)      When potatoes and eggs are well chilled, peel them. Normally just rubbing the skins will remove the potato skins.

6)      Slice 2 eggs into ¼ inch thick slices. Set aside as they are used later on top of the potato salad

7)      Chop into medium pieces the last two eggs and place them into a large bowl.

8)      Add these ingredients into the bowl then mix it all together;

-2 tablespoons of dill pickle juice

-1/4 cup of chopped up red onion

-one fresh celery stalk chopped into 1/8 inch thick pieces (1 tsp of celery salt may be used)

-1 tsp of paprika

-1 tsp of mustard

-1 cup of Miracle Whip

9)      Mix all ingredients together then add your potatoes and re mix it until the potatoes are well coated.

10)   Transfer the coated potatoes into a smaller bowl that you will use to serve the potato salad from

11)   Place egg slices on top covering the salad

12)   Sprinkle paprika lightly over the entire top

13)   Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until served

PHOTO’S

Wash 6-8 Red Potatoes but don’t peel until cooked and chilled.

Place 4 eggs in a pan and bring to a boil uncovered. Once it reaches boiling, remove from burner, cover and let stand for 17 minutes.

Bring spuds to a boil. until done.

To rest doneness. Pierce spud with fork or bamboo stick. I slide mine in on an angle until it reaches past the center. There should be only minor resistance felt.

When eggs have sat for 17 minutes, place pan in sink and fill with cold water. Pour ice in pan top thoroughly chill eggs. When cold, they will easily peel.

Cool spuds down the same way you cooled the eggs

let eggs and spuds cool for an hour then drain and peel both.

Slice spuds to desired size. Mine are bigger than most folks like… I like the taste of potatoes!

Slice all your eggs about 1/4 inch in thickness

Chop two eggs into smaller pieces to mix in with the spuds but leave two in slices for the topping.

In a bowl, add your ingredients including the chopped up eggs but don’t include the potatoes yet.

Mix all ingredients into the eggs and celery.

Add your spuds into the egg mix and fold them into the mix until well coated.

Decorate the top with the reserved egg slices and sprinkle with a fine layer of paprika.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat!

Those darn grey, mushy hash browns!

You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig!

Hash browns can test the sand of any trail cook or home chef. For years I fought with mushy, grey looking hash browns as I tried to get them to look like the greasy spoon would make down the road. It was pretty frustrating to be sure. In fact, I became so adept at trashing my hash browns that I switched to cooking only home fries!

I tried everything. I’d heard of folks pressing raw and cooked spuds through a mechanical ricer, micro waving ‘em before frying, boiling ‘em before shredding, using butter to fry in, drying them in paper towels and oven roasting ‘em before frying. I even found out my neighbor used to run down to the greasy spoon, get a herd of hash browns to go, then place them on his family’s plates alongside their eggs and sausages. He was smart, he admitted the elusive hash brown had defeated him and was now just going with the flow. None of those tricks worked for me and I bet you all found out the same thing too. No matter what I tried, I still ended up with a grey, sticky slop. Does this sound familiar to you? What was worse is that I grew up on an Idaho potato farm in Jerome so I out’a know how to cook them, right? Not necessarily, we grew the famous thick skinned, high glycerin, high starch Idaho russet potato. To make matters worse, by now I owned and was the cook in my own restaurant.

Since my restaurant did not serve breakfast, I was still ignorant of proper hash brown cooking. My break came when I stopped in at the greasy spoon up the road for breakfast one day and got into a conversation about cooking difficult recipes with its owner. I explained my hash brown problem and had to ask, “What in Sam Hill am I doing wrong? I’ve tried cooking them using every trick in the book and they are nothing like yours!”

He said it wasn’t necessarily the way I was frying them  but WHAT  I was frying that was the problem.

I responded, “But I’m frying potatoes, what should I fry instead, shredded watermelon rinds?”

“No! just change your potato, that’s all!”

He told me that what I needed instead of using a starchy russet potato, was to use a potato grown largely in the eastern half of the country. My answer to my problem he vowed was to use the waxy or thin skinned low starch potato.

“But every recipe I’ve read calls for russets and that the waxy potato is no good for frying. Now you’re telling me it is?”

“Yes, but only when it comes to pan and not deep frying. ”

I knew that choosing the right type of potato to cook dinners with can make or break a dish. For instance, making a stew and using a russet and not a waxy potato ends up being a mushy disaster. On the other hand, using a waxy potato to make mashed potatoes is useless. Why???

Potatoes fall into one of two categories — mealy or waxy.

Mealy potatoes (Some of the names you’ll see them under in the supermarket are Idaho’s, Russet,  Burbanks, Russet Arcadia, Norgold Russet, Goldrush, Norkotah and Long White.) have are thick skinned and have a high starch content, but they’re low in moisture and sugar.

Waxy potatoes (red, new) are just the opposite. They’re high in moister, high in sugar but low in starch and have a thin skin. You will find them sold as Round White, Round Red, Yellow Potato, Red skin Potato and Salad Potato).

There is a third type but I don’t use them much. These are an all purpose middle of the road potato. I choose to use the correct potato for the job and achieve great results rather than settle for an all purpose potato and achieve just, OK results. Some of these potatoes are named, Yukon Gold, Peruvian Blue, Superior and Kennebec.

An easy way to tell the difference between the two main types is; Waxy potatoes have a thin skin, Starchy or Mealy potatoes have a thick skin.

Waxy potatoes are an excellent choice for roasting, sautéing and boiling. They make great soups, casseroles, home fries and hash browns because of their tendency to hold their shape. Waxy potatoes are also used in cold potato salad and scalloped or cheddar au gratin potatoes. Their low starch content and cellular makeup helps them maintain their shape long after they’re cooked.

Mealy or starchy potatoes are best for baking and deep-frying. Because they’re low in sugar, they can be deep fried long enough to cook fully in the center without burning the outside with black streaks. They’re also the best choice for mashed potatoes because they fall apart easily when they’re boiled. Because they are a starchier potato with a loose cellular structure, they fluff up much better than a waxy potato.

So now that you have a head full of potato knowledge go ahead and make your perfect hash browns. Just remember, use the correct potato in all your recipes and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Oh, and about internet web sites on cooking hash browns. You will find almost each will start out saying “Shred a Russet potato…”  THEY’RE WRONG!!!

Here’s the recipe I now use for my hash browns. As verified by the photos, you’ll see they are no longer grey, mushy or gooey but just right!

                                         Restaurant quality hash brown potatoes are just below the photo’s

Peel your potatoes. I use red skins.

Shred them using a cheese grater

Put shredded potatoes into a large pot or bowl then fill with water

Aggressively swish potatoes around. Note the starchy water

Drain the potatoes using a colander and repeat process by changing water 3-4 times until water remains clear

After giving a final rinse (pictured above) use your hand to squash the potatoes to remove excess water

If you are adding onions ( I do) dice them up and add them to the colander of potatoes. Season with salt and pepper at this time

Verify that your oil is up to temperature. Place a shred or two near the edge where it is coolest. It should immediately and violently begin to bubble.

Carefully place a handful of shreds in the oil. Once partway cooked, you can add another pile to the other side

Flatten pile using a spatula

When crispy, your hash browns will flip, more or less, in one piece

Each pile is cooking but at different times. This allows more ‘doneness’ control over each

My herd of hash browns are done. I place them in my counter top convection toaster oven to keep warm while I continue to cook the rest of the breakfast. *

* Note on counter top convection ovens.

I purchased this Oster extra large convection toaster oven from Wal-Mart for less than $100. It uses much less electricity than my large oven. I questioned whether or not it could perform any where near as well as my Whirlpool ‘Gold series’ Accu-bake oven does. It does!

I bake prefect bread, muffins, pizza, flat breads and more in it. I rarely give a product endorsement but in this case I will. It is worth every penny I spent.

Ingredients:

3-5 medium potatoes (approximately 3 cups shredded).

1 medium sweet onion.

1/2 tsp. salt then salt further  to taste if desired when eating.

1/4 tsp. pepper then pepper further to taste if desired when eating.

Add at least 1-2 Tbsp. butter or margarine to vegetable oil. (hash browns should be cooked in oil 1/8 – 1/4  inch deep to cook completely all the way through).

Directions:

Wash and peel the waxy (not russets) potatoes.

Use a cheese grater to shred the potatoes then place the shredded potatoes into a large bowl or pot.

Fill the pot or bowl full of water, stir aggressively by hand and empty the water by pouring the potatoes into a colander. Repeat this process until the water remains clear when agitated. (three or four times) This will remove most of the starch which causes hash browns to become gummy, mushy and grey looking.

Rinse the grated potato under cool water one last time in the colander. Press down, shake and press down again to remove excess water. Fluff and repeat . (Too much water will cause to hash browns to stick onto the bottom of the frying pan).

Dice the sweet onion and add to the colander of potatoes, mixing well. Add the salt the pepper and mix again thoroughly.

Bring to temperature the butter and oil combination in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the skillet is hot, (not smoking) add the potato mixture. Once your potatoes are frying, turn the temperature down to medium. (Test your oil first by dropping a few potato sprigs into the pan. The sprigs should immediately and almost violently begin to bubble and boil).

Using a spatula, flatten  the pile of potatoes to desired thickness.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the bottom gets pretty crispy; about 10 minutes.

Flip the hash brown with the spatula, if too big, separate it into equal parts. Allow the other side to cook until very crispy; about 8-10 minutes.

Repeat this cooking process until all the shredded  potatoes are used. Potatoes that are not thoroughly cooked will hold oil, make sure the top and bottoms are nice and crispy.

Remove them from skillet, place the photo perfect potatoes on your plate and enjoy ’em!

Oatmeal cookies from the early 1900’s

In a past blog I mentioned my cousin who still lives on one of the family homesteads in Idaho. Being the family’s unofficial family historian, she is by default the recipient of many of the family keepsakes. Old photo’s, letters and passed down recipes make up just part of this treasure. She was the one who provided, among others I will someday post, the recipe I posted on my grandmothers homemade bread.

Knowing my love of cooking and wishing to help me in my sharing of heritage recipes, she took the time to email me each recipe she thought I would like. One of them was my Grandmothers recipe for oatmeal cookies. It was given to her by her counterpart, my Ohio Grandmother, on my Moms side of the family during a visit to Idaho in 1947.

On the reverse side of the recipe written in her hand was this notation concerning the origin of the recipe. It read;

“When lois and Vern came back to Jerome after they were married, Helen and Jack came back with them to visit us. Helen made these cookies for us during their stay and they were very good tasting. Seeing how much we all enjoyed eating them, she left me this recipe. She told me it is from a cook book that came with a gas oven she had purchase when her home was built. I do not put the table sugar or broken chocolate pieces in because Hamblin thinks the cookies are too sweet and he does not want the children to come down with worms”

(Lois and Vern are my Parents, Jerome was the farm in Idaho I was raised on, Helen and Jack are my Moms parents and Hamblin was my father’s father.)

I figure this recipe is probably from the turn of the century since my Ohio Grandparents house was built in 1917. It makes sense that the house would have been outfitted with a new gas stove as gas for lighting and cooking was available to them back then and the brand of stove was popular.

I have no idea how much ‘table sugar’ or ‘broken chocolate pieces’ she left out but I think I would agree with my grandfather Hamblin that these cookies are sweet enough without the added sugar. If you differ, add a ¼ cup and see what they taste like. I do add ¾ cup of Ghirardelli dark chocolate morsels though. I suggest you adjust it from there and the worms be damned!

I was really surprised to see that no butter was used in her recipe. Instead it calls for oil (remember, the recipe originated in Cleveland Ohio). During WWl, butter and cream became scarce and expensive in the cities and this was probably reflected in the baking recipes of the day. Milk was still available.    Conversely, in the rural countryside, many people still owned a dairy cow and made their own butter, cream and milk and were not as affected as their city living counterparts. I suspect the oil used in the recipe was the popular cotton seed or recently invented corn oil. All this may explain the absence of butter in the recipe since the cookbook was included with the purchase of a Cleveland Ohio stove manufacturer’s product. (American Stove Company, now called Magic Chef).

Ingredients #1; (mix these together well using a mixer)

1 cup of packed brown sugar (to make your own brown sugar, read my earlier post on pancake syrup)

1/4 Cup of granulated cane Sugar to taste  (optional) I would suggest starting with 1/4  of a cup and go from there.

2 large fresh eggs

1/2  cup of milk

3/4  cup of oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Ingredients #2; (combine these in a bowl then add them to the other ingredients then mix well)

3 cups of flour

2  teaspoons of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2  teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

2 1/2 cups of rolled oats (oatmeal)

3/4 cup of chocolate morsels

Directions;

In your mixing bowl combine brown sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Use beaters to mix well. (I use an electric stand mixer) Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir into the batter. Stir in the oats. (Add chocolate morsels and table sugar if desired at this point.)

Let stand for 10 minutes. Drop a heaped tablespoon of cookie mix onto greased baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately to cool. 

Makes about 3 dozen.

It started out as 3 dozen but by the time I took this photo (20 minutes later) I was left with only about half of them!

Delicious Boston style baked beans or… Why the Indians went west.

 A humorous look at the history of bean soup and who’s to blame for it.

Beans were a staple food in the eastern American Indian’s diet. Legend has it that in 1604 the famous Indian chief and primitive culinary chef called Sicaya ecamu  [ translated in the Penoc tongue as] “He whose loin cloth waves on its own” and “I have a serious problem” [in the Lakota Sioux tongue] ) gave his baked bean recipe to nearby tribes in retaliation for not leaving tips.

Factually, the Iroquois, Narragansett, Penobscot and other eastern tribes, wrapped their soaked ‘navy’ beans (many small canoe’s filled with methane) in deerskins with venison, bear fat, and maple syrup, and baked them in pits lined with hot stones.

According to a recent finding by someone somewhere, while at someplace, sometime ago, here is an unknown known fact they discovered that occurred in early American history.

When the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, they invited the local tribes for a blow out three day long pot luck harvest dinner. Previous to this dinner, the Pilgrims had eaten only typically bland English cooking. Since no one has ever heard of such a thing as “Fine English” dining, (then or now), the Indians wisely said they’d bring the beans, turkey, cranberry’s and corn.

Not to be outdone by half naked savages (no, not the French this time) , the Pilgrims brought out their haggis, bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, toad in the hole and spotted Dick. It is believed that it was the spotted Dick that led to the Thanksgiving Massacre soon after the feast was over. The assumed belief is that the Indians misinterpreted the Spotted Dick as a severe case of STD and only meant to quarantine the Pilgrims from their tribes women but things went horribly wrong when the Pilgrims insisted the Indians ‘just try it’.

 Modern excavations have unearthed long wooden tables with haggis and half eaten pork pie still hidden away underneath them. The bones of a dog were found that gave clear evidence that the poor beast had choked to death on a length of ox blood Cumberland sausage. To the great relief of the archeologist no evidence of kidney pie or fish-n-chips was unearthed.     —-Anonymous

By 1830 as expected, after having invented Guinness and Irish Whiskey, the Irish living in Boston soon became major producers of rum. Molasses, the main ingredient for rum, was very plentiful and the Indians recipe for baked beans was soon altered to include molasses in place of maple syrup. At the same time Guinness, Irish whiskey and Rum replaced breast milk in the infant Irish diet. Salt pork was substituted for the bear fat and the famous Boston Baked Beans were born.

Today the Irish / English baked bean recipe still torments us by being commercially manufactured by such companies as, O’Campbell’s, McBush’s and Jones of Arc.

Now… here’s a serious recipe that will surely put a smile on your face (kind of like when a baby has gas).

Ingredients; (I normally double this recipe and freeze the rest in 16oz. containers for future use)

1 pound = 2 cups navy beans (dry)

1/2 pound bacon, chopped up  ( 1-2 Pork flavoring packets can also be used to replace bacon)

1 onion, finely diced

3 tablespoons molasses

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

Add a Dash of liquid smoke or 1/4 cup of  Hickory smoked BBQ sauce.

 

Directions;

 Soak beans overnight in cold water. The next day, simmer the beans in the same water until somewhat tender, approximately ½ hour. Drain and reserve the liquid.

After soaking over night, bring the beans to a boil for 30 minutes

Drain the beans and save the water they were cooked in

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C for you Europeans).

Place the beans in a large enough crock pot or casserole dish by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with bacon and onion.

In a saucepan, combine molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately pour over beans. Pour in just enough of the reserved bean water on top to cover the beans. Cover the pot with a lid or if using a casserole dish, use foil.

Beans are very starchy. It’s this starch that will act as the glue to form a thick sauce

Bake for 3 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, until beans are tender. Do not cook on the stove top as you will end up with a pot full of mush. Remove the lid about halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent the beans from becoming dry. If too watery when finished, just drain off some of the liquid. Save it to make sure you don’t need it when the beans begin to cool.

These beans are delicious. Two pounds of dry beans will make 12-14 cups of finished beans. 🙂

Home made pancake syrup…and more

Home made syrup is delicious and High Fructose free!

Back in the old days we truly ate healthier and much less expensively. With the cost of food prices alone I’m dumbfounded when I go to the grocery store and see how much folks spend on prepared food. In my household (2) we spend less than $200 a month on all of our food needs! And let me tell you, I love food and am a finicky eater! Now, before I go any further let me tell you this. I rarely eat meat anymore. Why? Well first off, the stuff you get at the grocery isn’t worth eating! Second, I have protein issues so my intake has to be watched closely. Even soy in any quantity is a no no for me (thus the use of Almonds for milk instead of soy). But I can take protein in small amounts so I reserve it’s intake to such delicious  things as butter (when Olivio won’t do) and eggs for baking (unless applesauce can replace the egg).

Most everyone knows by now that today, the commercial sweetener industry has been sacrificing our health for their profits. No where else is this in greater evidence than in pancake syrup. Read the first ingredient… High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)!

HFCS has now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is a dangerous replacement for sugar. Back in the 1970’s the corn sweetener  industry wanted approval for HFCS to be used in nearly any food product and with pressure from the corn growers associations, the Govt conceded to their wishes.  Serious concerns were voiced by the cane and beet sugar producers as to the safety of HFCS. The corn sweetener industry responded by supporting and placing phony research info in news articles, TV commercials, Govt health literature, every baby magazine and even movies. The theme was… sugar was bad for you.

The campaign was so effective that the sugar industry was sent financially reeling. By 1980, the corn sweetener industry had convinced the food processors how much cheaper HFCS was over sugar. Everybody jumped on board! But… you can jump off the HFCS  ship right in your own kitchen and save yourself from a myriad of organ problems and save a bunch of money too.

Start with your pancake syrup… by making your own from scratch.

If you’ve been paying any attention to my recipes, you’ll see I use light corn syrup in some of them. This is NOT  store bought I use but my own home made light corn syrup. Karo Syrup (Light corn syrup) is made with HFCS now. It never was before but it is now. Dark corn syrup has the exact same ingredients as my home made simple syrup but unsulphered molasses is added for a stronger taste.

I’m also going to let you in a  dirty secret… you can make your own brown sugar and ‘corn’ syrup for pennies. And yes, it’s the exact same stuff you spend big bucks for at the grocery store. In fact, I added up the cost for making 14 ounces of home made pancake syrup and discovered I spent about 30 cents!

Here’s a list of ingredients for the syrup and at the end I’ll give you the recipe for making real brown sugar* and HFCS free simple (corn) syrup**.

Ingredients for pancake syrup;

1 3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar*
1 c. water

Combine and bring to a boil. ( 230 degrees)Cover and cook 3 minutes. Cool slightly. Add:

1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. maple flavoring

Stir and let cool. Your done!

When still warm pour into bottles or jars. I use glass, just run hot water over them first to prevent expansion shock.

Makes about 14 ounces.

*Brown sugar recipe;

for each cup of sugar use:

1 cup of sugar

1 Tablespoon of Molassas

Blend together using a small bowl and fork and place in plastic container with a tight sealing lid.

You’re done!

** Simple syrup (same thing as light corn syrup but HFCS free)

Ingredients;

2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pinch salt
Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan.Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to liquify sugar.Reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 3 minutes. This will get any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan.

Uncover and simmer, stirring often, until it reaches the soft ball stage (230 degrees).

Cool and store in a glass  container at room temperature.

Makes about 2 cups.